This is a reflection on 2019, following on from the previous entry, How do you finish a map?, which concerns the early months of the year – drawing the cartouche, finishing the map, and getting the piece scanned. This moves deeper into a year that had constant twists and turns... from Tokyo to Tacoma, natural science illustrators to The Washington Post.
So by April, the artwork was finished and digitized. All that was left was to determine how to print and sell a huge oversize hand-drawn map of North America, while based in Australia, having never done anything like it. The way forward was not immediately clear.
Contract work for The Washington Post
So I had plenty to do. But life goes on, and other opportunities came knocking mid-year.
In April, I was contracted by The Washington Post to draw a series of maps and illustrations. They had an upcoming piece about scientific locations across the Lower 48, and figured my style would be a good fit. I first engaged with WaPo in October 2018, when I gave a presentation to their maps and graphics team while visiting DC. My good friend from the carto world, the extraordinarily talented Lauren Tierney, invited me to visit the Post and I was honoured to share my map with their team. I love the work they do, and the piece sounded great, so contracting for them was an easy decision.
Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, Brisbane
While it's a US-based organisation, the conference drew many Australian illustrators. Those of us in Aussie were so grateful the GNSI made the trek across the Pacific. It was fun, inspiring, educational and delightfully quirky. The GNSI folks are amazing. It was one of my favourite weeks of the year and I was honoured to be able to speak about my work with this talented and welcoming crowd. I very much plan to go again.
A trip to Japan for the ICC
No sooner had I returned to Melbourne than I was boarding a plane to Tokyo. I was off to attend and speak at the 29th ICC (International Cartographic Conference, of the ICA). Partly this was for the conference, but mainly it was because… Japan.
Coming next is a blog about the final months of the year, in which I got much closer to the goal of releasing prints, took a trip to the USA for NACIS Tacoma, and got thrashed in the rugged backcountry of New Zealand.
Perhaps it's never finished, you just... stop.
What a year it has been!
It began with the completion of the map, and now it closes with prints on the brink of a presale release. That's right, you did read that correctly - it's finally happening! At long last, the prints are going on presale in about three weeks time, around the second week of January 2020. The preorder period will run for two months, before printing and shipping begins in March with a wider release.
I’m communicating about prints most with my email list, so if you’re not on the list and want to know as soon as prints are available, be sure to sign up here.
So with the map almost on sale and the year winding up, I've been reflecting on 2019 a lot. I wrote a reflection on the year but it's too long for a single blog. Instead, I think I'll release it in chunks. So here's the first part.
This entry goes back to the early part of the year, with the final completion of the map, its very detailed cartouche, what it actually felt like to sign off in that final moment, and the all-important final scan.
Placed in the Bermuda triangle, it took 150 hours to draw. Given the scale and detail of the map, I felt the cartouche had to do it justice. I wanted it to be emblematic of the project. Plus, I needed a place for the title, and somewhere to sign and date it. But it's very hard to sum up a project that dominated your life for years. If you've been lost wandering its trees for that long, how do you now describe the forest?
North America: Portrait of a Continent sits across the top, with a colour grade of Earth tones. The design of the cartouche is exactly that: a portrait of North America. A mini map, same projection, is surrounded by a frame of dense detail. Unlike the endless content of the map proper, the mini map allows North America to simply be. Just coastlines, land cover, faint urban sprawls and bathymetry.
Completing the map, once and for all
Luckily I didn't have to return to Sydney, an amazing photographer in Melbourne, Justin Cooper, came to the rescue. We created a mount for the map, attaching it to the wall to keep it flat and parallel to the lens. Justin’s camera was on a stand that he slid down and across to capture the map in 25 separate frames. We timed every exposure to have the same intervals, to keep the flash refresh rate consistent. Justin is amazing!
Using Photomerge on Photoshop the frames were stitched together. The result was almost seamless and so finally, after years of work, I was presented with an enormous and beautiful capture of the map.
Having that file is amazing, and gives me so much peace of mind, but it has also opened up new possibilities for procrastination…
I'll leave it there for now! I'll be posting the next segment of my year reflection soon, and the print news will keep coming to those on the email list.
Until then, I'll leave you with the following video. I gave this talk at the NACIS conference in Tacoma in October, and I'm really excited to share it. It's my most personal talk yet, and I open up about the completion of the map, the journey to releasing prints, creativity and obsession, and the psychological experience of drawing one map for 5 years. I hope you enjoy:
Also, are you following on social media? My most regular day-to-day updates happen there! Stay in touch with the wild world of hand-drawn maps: