Growing Wild FM – talking on the radio about maps.

If you live in Brighton, you’ll know that appearing on Radio Reverb is a total rite of passage and my own time came a few weeks ago when I was interviewed about maps by Charlotte Petts for her award winning show Growing Wild FM.

It was a slightly nerve-wracking experience, especially as I’d just come back from holiday and had to get my head very quickly in gear to talk coherently about maps.  The last time I was interviewed for radio (a local BBC radio station, I think), I was so nervous that all my words came out in the wrong order…

Anyhow Charlotte made me feel very comfortable, allowing me to wax extensively about maps and map history for a full 40 minutes in my front room and negotiating my cat in the background at the same time. Luckily the extensive waxing was edited down, the words (mostly) came out in the right order and despite saying the word ‘fascinating’ way more than necessary, here is the result.  Have a listen – it’s a really interesting programme including interviews with several inspirational map makers, all female, whose take on maps is very similar to my own.

Advertisements

Here be Whales

It’s with great pleasure to announce that ‘We Dream of Blue Whales’, the triptych charting my journey on the Sea Dragon from Iceland to Sweden, is to be shown in a new exhibition ‘Here be Whales’ at Left Bank Leeds in association with Hull Maritime Museum and the universities of Leeds and York.

IMG_1352

The show has been curated by Martha Cattell, Hondartza Fraga and Sophia Nicolov. I cannot justly paraphrase the aim, written beautifully succinctly in the exhibition publicity, so have copied it and pasted below:

‘Here Be Whales is an exhibition bringing together a number of artists who explore and question the authenticity of whale representations. It reflects, in ethical terms, material and cultural methods and how these are challenged, not only by whales’ damaged past, but also by their threatened present and speculative future. As the author Boria Sax states ‘every animal is a tradition… when we contemplate the inner life of animals, myth is finally our only truth’. Considering the past and current ‘traditions’ and multiplicity of whale depictions, this exhibition seeks to offer alternative ways to interrogate the process of myth-making and animal.’

Work ranges from drawings to textiles, scuplture, collage, photography, video and installation. Inspiration comes from a variety of sources –  from historical whaling and 20th century whale strandings to the lashing white tail of the fictional Moby Dick. The all female line-up of artists have taken their experiences from afar afield as the icy rock of Husavik in Iceland to the damp metallic grey of the British North Sea and the rusting shells of old whaling units in Canada.

More about the show and the artists can be found here.

cihelen cann we dream of blue whales

Exhibition: Here Be Whales

Artists: Helen Cann; Martha Cattell; Angela Cockayne; Filippa Dobson; Hondartza Fraga; Caroline Hack; Sophia Nicolov; Marina Rees; Kathy Prendergast

Gallery: Left Bank Leeds

Address: Cardigan Rd, Leeds LS6 1LJ
Website: leftbankleeds.org.uk

Dates: 4th Feb – 29th March
Visiting hours: Mondays and Wednesdays 10-4pm

Opening Night: Wednesday 6th February, 6-8pm
Curators Talk: Wednesday 27th March at 6pm, followed by a screening of the movie Whale Rider (2002)
Free entry to the exhibition, costs may apply to related events.

 

Everybody loves Eastbourne

In the Summer of 2018, Towner Art Gallery ran a project called ‘I Love Eastbourne’, encouraging Eastbourne inhabitants to think about what they loved about where they lived and, may be, even encouraging them to fall in love with the place again…

Using a researcher, they gathered positive data and collected conversations which were eventually turned into a mass of bar charts and lists.  I was commissioned to create this map of Eastbourne to turn the data into something warm and beautifully visual.

Eastbourne colour72

The map needed to show all the distinct civic areas in the town, (the ‘wards’), notable features in the town such as the station or the theatres, include some of the information collated as bar charts and some quotes taken from the gallery visitors.

It wasn’t an easy task. There was so much information additional to the usual map information I needed to consider. I had to find the best way to represent it clearly.

I took a leaf from the artist map makers Adam Dant who is contemporary and Macdonald Gill who worked mainly in the first half of the 20th century. They both use the written word frequently in their maps and often present it within a banner form. I kind of like the way banners give maps some movement and highlight the text as part of, but apart from, the map itself. For my map, the quote banners, feature banners and banners naming wards were delineated using distinct shapes, colours and lettering style.

Lettering was also important for the cartouche – an extended title banner proclaiming an elegant ‘Eastbourne’. The typeface had been specially designed by Kate Whiteman for Towner,  purposefully reflecting the font of an old map of Eastbourne in the gallery collection. A steady hand was needed to replicate the parallel lines of the engraved look but I think it was worth it.

Eastbourne colour sample2100

As you can see from the above, there was also a decorative border to the map. I decided that the best way to incorporate the information from the bar charts was to convert them to pie charts. These could then be presented as decorative discs for each ward and appear regularly as visual stop points around the frame which was inspired by high Victorian pattern.

The map was painted and hand lettered in watercolour, gouache and ink and came in at just over A3 in size. The original was bought by Towner and prints are planned to be sold in the gallery shop.

0E2CB844-624D-419E-B96A-E25F6DAF0BBA

From a visitor’s viewpoint, Eastbourne is a beautiful place. It still retains its elegant facades and pretty curlicued street lamps. Metal railings are painted a bright glossy blue and the pier stands grand with its golden domes. The beach is clean and the green and white of Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters can be seen hazily in the distance. There is so much to like about the town; so many parks, so much culture, so many active opportunities… I hope the work done in the ‘I Love Eastbourne’ project has helped to highlight all of those good things and that the people of Eastbourne can look at the map, showing all of that positive data, and be extremely proud of their town.

 

The Spy Who Dumped me: my maps hit Hollywood…

It’s been a frustrating year of waiting for projects to be finally released so that I can talk about them.  My work for ‘The Spy who Dumped me’ is no different. In the June of 2017, I was commissioned to create an A2 hand painted ‘map mash-up’ of the city of Prague and Prague zoo (Zoopraha) as a prop for the film, screening this August (2018). It stars Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon and Gillian Anderson and is a Lionsgate production.  Proper Hollywood.

3DB27365-FFD4-4649-A7CF-027FF5135D0E.jpeg

The film involves two girls, one of whom has recently been dumped by her boyfriend. She discovers that, in reality, he was a spy and so they take on his badass work, of course chased by dark forces across a variety of European countries. My illustrations were turned into a tourist map the girls take with them to navigate Prague.

The map is based on the real life city but famous buildings are randomly attributed zoo animals and transformed into their associated animal houses. For example, the palace becomes the lion house, the station becomes the aviary and the Charles Bridge becomes the penguinarium: penguins taking the place of the iconic saintly statues standing over the river. Painting the animals was a particular pleasure of mine, reminding me of my background in children’s books. I was especially pleased with the cheeky giraffe on the map cover…

Zoopraha cover

The animals were all labelled so although I love lettering by hand, there was pressure to make sure the Czech words were correct. The internet’s not always reliable so I had no idea if they were right and wondered if angry letters complaining about Czech spelling would start pouring in…

0F24FD2E-BADA-411B-BA91-F0E1B251AB43

I’ve been commissioned several times before to create illustrations for tv/film props but have never made the final cut. Believe me, there have been fruitless hours sitting through costume dramas, sometimes scene by scene, straining to see my work…But this time it was different. The map actually appears as a key prop – a set up for a joke: (The Spy who Dumped Me is a comedy thriller).  It’s glimpsed for seconds but there nevertheless.

I hit the (very metaphorical) red carpet last night at the ‘glamorous’ Brighton Odeon multiplex. Regardless, I still drank a glass of slightly warm fizzy wine to my little map, glowing in the yellows of Prague, and the first illustration of mine that has actually made it to the screen.

Czech spelling mistakes or not, I knew I’d make it to Hollywood one day….

zoopraha compass

A Map of The Silver Screen Heritage of Brighton and Hove

I live in the seaside city of Brighton and Hove on the South Coast of England which has, for centuries, had a name for it’s creativity. So it really should be no surprise that it was once a centre for English film making in those black and white days of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. My latest map was commissioned by Carousel, an arts charity, as a special edition publication to promote ‘Modern Marvels’, a festival celebrating this cinematic heritage and new work by students with learning disabilities.

Early filmmakers, George Albert Smith and James Williamson lived in Hove, working on film between 1897 and 1905, a period when it developed as a new technology and a new form of entertainment. They both made important contributions to the art of editing and narrative.

Was sleepy Hove, the Hollywood of it’s day? – I don’t know(!?), but one of the first major film studios in Britain was based in St Anne’s Well Gardens there, a sedate park with tennis courts and a bowling green today. George Smith, a former stage hypnotist and psychic, created his ‘film factory’ in a glass house in the Gardens in 1897. Films were inspired by his experience of contemporary music hall, mesmerism and the magic lantern. They tell stories of steam trains, hapless housemaids and the wonders of X-rays using clever editing trickery.

George Smith at work.

One of James Williamson’s first films was a short, made on location at Brighton’s West Pier in the hot summer of the late 1890’s showing bustling crowds enjoying the holiday atmosphere. He then developed Smith’s techniques into longer multi-shot narratives. Action films and comedy capers followed, all shot around the city or in his own studio in Cambridge Grove, also in Hove.

James Williamson.

The handpainted map shows the sites of both studios but also the film locations with tiny vintage camera icons. I gave the lettering, compass rose and border a hint of Art Nouveau, the predominant style at the time, and the negative space (the space between the details) became a cinema-velvet-curtain red.

Carousel’s film festival, Modern Marvels, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, runs until November 2018. A travelling film booth shows the original black and white films alongside films made by students with learning disabilities, autism and additional needs. The project gave them an insight into film-making and visual story-telling, using green screen, making music and sound effects, working alongside experienced film-makers.

 

New hand drawn map workshop dates.

A short post to let you know I’m running two hand drawn mapping workshops at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, Sussex. Both workshops will have the same format so if you can’t make the August date, perhaps the September date might be better for you.

carousel compass rose

As part of the workshop, students will learn:

– how to research the territory with notes and sketches. (NB: there will be a short walk around Eastbourne).
– simple gridding up techniques.
– how to use negative space effectively with pattern, illustration or stories.
– how to create decorative compass roses and cartouches.
– how to design personalised feature icons and keys.
– easy to draw but simply elegant hand lettering.

Camp No-mans Land compass rose

These workshops are running in association with the Towner’s current Arts Council Collection National Partner exhibition, ‘At Altitude’, which is a ‘ selective look at the historical impact and the continuing appeal of the aerial image.’ I’ve been and it really is worth seeing.

river don compass

 

Inspired by sources ranging from the first air balloons to Google Earth, the show features work by luminaries such as Jananne Al–Ani, Michael Andrews, Ken Baird, Tacita Dean, Charles and Ray Eames, Simon Faithfull, Mishka Henner, Dan Holdsworth, Kabir Hussain, Peter Lanyon, Christopher R. W. Nevinson, Cornelia Parker, Carol Rhodes and Wolfgang Tillman. There’s also a new installation created by Timothy Prus of the Archive of Modern Conflict and a site-specific commission for Towners Collection by Annabel Howland.

zoopraha compass

 

Workshop dates:

Sunday 12th August. 10.30am – 4pm.

Saturday 15th September. 10.30am – 4pm.

Pay what you can. Suggested donation – £45.00 although no-one will be excluded on ability to pay. Book for one session only.

The workshop is for all creative abilities.  Please be aware that, weather dependent, there will be a short walk as part of the workshop so wear appropriate clothing and footwear.

Book here.

19BBE97F-D118-4621-A077-0A48CACF9529

 

 

 

 

 

Illustrating ‘The Marauders’ Guide to Hogwarts’: a Harry Potter baptism of fire.

Back at the end of last year, I was commissioned to provide some illustrations for a film tie-in book for Warner Brother’s ‘Harry Potter’ franchise. I’d read only a few of the novels by JK Rowling and seen a few of the early films so this project – ‘The Marauders’ Guide to Hogwarts’ – became a complete Potter baptism of fire. In case you don’t know (where have you been?!), the original Marauders’ Map shows the secret passageways of Hogwarts, the school for witches and wizards that Harry Potter attends. The iconic map was created as an prop, first appearing in the third of the films (and shown on the front cover of ‘The Marauders’ Guide to Hogwarts’.). The map’s a total tour-de-force and was drawn by Miraphora Mina of graphic design duo Mina.Lima. I guess my own connection with maps was the thinking behind the commission. Using the map as a base, ‘The Marauders’ Guide to Hogwarts’ takes you around the floorplan of the school with information, photographs, and drawings for each room. I provided the little drawn icons.

Flick through it and you’ll see some images which are looser and in pencil. These aren’t mine and come from the films’ ‘look book’ – a visual guide used by anyone involved in the films’ design to maintain consistency throughout.  It was interesting to work for a licensed film franchise for the first time and see how different it is to straight publishing. Obviously accuracy of the characters and icon elements was all important as there’s an established ‘world’ based on work created already. The internet was certainly an amazing tool because scene and character information was so easy to get hold of – I spent a long time browsing film and fan websites for accurate images.

And so within some fairly strict boundaries, I created the illustrations – tiny dragons, broomsticks, potion bottles and magical beasts- reflecting the style of the original artwork in tightly hatched ink. I certainly know a lot more about Harry Potter now than I did at the start.

All of the images were checked by Warner Brothers’ People and JK’s People. I can honestly say that I’ve never worked for people with ‘People’ before. It goes to show how large an enterprise it is and also how protective they are of everything involving Harry.

‘The Marauders’ Guide to Hogwarts’ is a fun and informative little book to bring some Potter magic to your world – it even comes with its own wand. If you have a burgeoning witch or wizard in your life and they know the right words, get them to wave the wand across the pages and watch the secret images appear.

I too had fun dipping into such an established creation that seems to have a life of its own and is still steadily evolving. It really is a great honour to be connected to this British icon of children’s literature.

‘The Marauders’ Guide to Hogwarts’ is written by Errin Pascal published by Scholastic/Warner Brothers and available across whichever universe (magical or otherwise) you currently occupy!

A map to find your way through Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s day comes but once a year, and love it or loathe it, you cannot avoid the commercial juggernaut that is the Valentine’s card, in the UK and US at least. Valentine’s cards have really only been around for a few hundred years but the sentiment of describing romantic love visually has been around for much longer… And sometimes through the (usually tongue in cheek) format of the map.

Our urge to understand the world through maps has been subverted to the concept of mapping emotional territory, skipping away from physical geography and heading, map in hand to the undulating but sometimes terrifying Lands of Love.

A_Map_of_Womans_Heart

This first map of ‘the Open Country of a Woman’s Heart’ was created in the USA some time in the 19th century by a ‘lady’. I have a suspicion though, that this was by a man with no high opinion of women. Clues lie in the geography of a place, ‘exhibiting … the dangers to travellers therein’.  Journeys need to be navigated through the frightening regions of Fickleness, Coquetry and Sentimentality. Oh – and there’s a steamboat that will take you from the Sea of Wealth to the Land of Selfishness.

John_Douw_Map_of_Matrimony_1827_Cornell_CUL_PJM_1043_01

The anonymous artist who created the next Map of Matrimony seems to have a more balanced view of relationships. Created in 1825, it looks like a genuine cartographical map at first sight but come closer, and you’ll see a land detailed with regions called The Vale of Gladness, the Region of Rejoicing and the Land of Promise. Don’t get too comfortable on your journey though, because you might also meet the Quicksands of Censure, the Coast of Desperation and the Mountains of Delay, inhabited by lawyers, apparently.

There are several other beautiful examples of these kind of maps and they were all inspiration for my own map of a heart. Mine is pure Romance with a heady dose of idealism. There is no cold cynicism here, despite an image based on a scientific diagram rather than the traditional icon. Yes, dear readers, that’s really what a map of my heart looks like. Even if I get grumpy when I’m hungry, I sure need a lot of sleep and I’ve got a thing about overhead lighting, the interior geography of my heart is still gentle. Perhaps a swim in the River of Realism might be refreshing as inhabiting those lands is never that easy.

a map of my heart200 cleaned up

So to all of the lovers out there, who cheerfully wander the ‘Meadows of Can’t Wait for the Next Time to Hold You’, I wish you safe travels.

But although my map may be idealistic, it was at least made with kindness so I send it as a Valentine’s card to those whose journey is harder. To those unrequited lovers who get caught in the ‘Rapids of Pining for the Unavailable’, to those with loves who are lost across metaphorical mountains, to those who have lost all hope and those who are simply working out if it’s OK to journey on their own. I wish you a very happy Valentine’s and an easy route to navigate whichever Land of Love you find yourself in.

A map of the stars – an early Christmas present.

Winter is upon us.  There’s frost in the morning, the light is a soft blue in the daytime. In the evening, the moon shines hard and white.  If you are lucky (and live somewhere in the wilds), on a clear night you can see the stars.  One of the highlights of my year so far was to see the Milky Way. I was lying on a sunlounger at midnight in the middle of the Dorset countryside looking up at the constellations and trying to remember their names. It really got me thinking about a map of the stars.

Man has documented the stars since the stone age but the age of the enlightenment saw a boom in astronomy maps.  I love how the traditional constellation forms were described through illustration  – no cold Scientific digital maps here.

 

V0025744 Astronomy: a star map of the night sky in the northern hemis

This historical astronomical map comes from the Wellcome Library.


My most recent map honours the historic tradition of charting the constellations and how they all fit together in the skies using not only notes as usual but images as well.

A Map of the Winter Constellations in the Northern Hemisphere (or Winter Star Map for short) is a circular map on midnight blue mount board.  It’s drawn in white ink and the original has been handfinished with genuine silver leaf to pick out the stars themselves (NB : the prints available are simple blue and white).  The notes tell some of the legends behind the constellations which vary from culture to culture.  What we see as the Great Bear can be understood as a wagon, a skunk, a canoe, a camel, a shark and even a coffin by other peoples for example.  Other notations include folk beliefs associated with the constellations and interesting facts about the history of astronomy and contemporary astronomical thinking.  Belief and the idea of the ‘fact’ is constantly changing as time gallops forward.

Giclee prints can be bought exclusively from ONCA Gallery in Brighton in person or online for £65.00.  They’re printed in archival ink on heavyweight paper and measure 40x40cms unframed, meaning they can fit into a standard off the shelf frame easily.

I’m pretty sure they’d make a great wintery Christmas present for someone forever wondering about the stars and the legends behind them.

TEDx, a Map of Brighton and more about Babies and Colour Science.

When I’m looking for some intellectual stimulation or inspiration, I often listen to TED Talks online, delving into subjects like Creativity or Motivation for example. TED was originally set up as a design and technology conference in 1984 but has now grown into an online media giant, freely flowing with talks on science, culture and any academic subject you can think of under the banner of ‘Ideas worth Spreading’. So it was with great honour to find one of my maps has made it to a TEDx talk.  TEDx helps independent organizers to create a TED-like event in their own community in order to ‘spread the ideas’ too. Smaller in scale but in an age of sharing, size doesn’t matter so much anymore.

This particular TEDx talk was held at the ISM University of Management and Economics in Vilnius, Lithuania this October.  The theme was “Question The Expected” and asked the 500 strong audience to be curious about their choices, beliefs and perceptions of the world.

IMG_3330

You may remember my involvement in September with the Baby Lab at the University of Sussex. In connection with that, the talk was given by Doctoral Researcher, Alice Skelton, who works there. Her research is particularly about colour perception in babies and how humans develop the use of language to talk about colour.
One of the largest projects Alice has taken part in is the Categories project, which looks at how infants below 6 months categorise colour. And by categories, I mean grouping colours into ‘red’, ‘blue’, ‘green’, ‘yellow’, ‘brown’ or ‘pink’ etc. There is a huge difference between a rich dark wine red and a bright perky pillar box red but in our culture we still group them together or categorise them, as ‘red’. In the study, babies were tested to see if they could tell the difference between colours without having the words for them, if they were categorising them and how they did it. The results will ultimately tell us how we talk about colour as adults.

It turns out that pre-language babies in the study could naturally distinguish 5 different colour categories. The suggestion is that distinguishing any further subtleties or disregarding some subtleties must come after language is learnt. Different languages divide up the spectrum differently- so some languages only have 5 main categories they group colours in but others use 6 or 7 or 8… English has 11 and Greek and Russian for example both have 12 categories.  The environment you are born into (and therefore what your community labels as important) teaches you names for colours, in which groups they are categorised and the subtleties in colours you are most able to distinguish.

The ability to see in colour is a skill that humans enjoy very much. It’s what allows us to appreciate great art.  But it’s a practical tool in our box too. We can find things at a distance more easily;  distinguish between objects (are you about to eat a carrot or a parsnip?); or highlight important features in a simple way.  And this is where my map popped up as an example on the TEDx presentation screen…

This map of Brighton (from Hand Drawn Maps) is designed as a sensory map. Instead of focussing on physical features in the town, I have mapped the smells you might encounter using simple coloured icons. Brown for the beer smell wafting heavily outside the many bars, pale yellow-green for the lemongrass smell lingering outside the Thai Restaurants and a dirty lilac for the smell hovering over the rubbish bins in the less brightly lit corners. The intensity of the smell is shown by the intensity of the colour. Sometimes the smells combine, shown by the colours lapping over each other.

Without being able to distinguish the subtleties of the colours I’ve used and categorise them, (as a red or a brown, for example), the map would be much harder to understand. Being able to distinguish those subtleties relies on your language and culture. So although it’s a fairly decorative art-map, leaning more on illustrative aesthetics than pinpoint accurate geography, you can only read it easily if you have the right words and your culture has taught you how to.

And that, my friends, is not art but science.