The Summer of Maps: the process + adventures behind my newest illustrated ecology map
Back in the winter, I got an exciting email from Allegheny National Forestasking if I'd be interested in working with them to create one of my illustrated ecology maps for their Centennial in September 2023.In this vlog-style video, I talk about my personal connection to Allegheny National Forest and my week-long trip in May (which my dad came along for!) to get to know the forest better before I began working on the artwork. I also share time-lapse clips of the sketching, inking and painting process. The map print was gifted to all ANF employees (I love that everyone gets one!) andis available on my shop here.
My work life this summer can be summed up in one word: MAPS!When I turned in the first draft of my new book's manuscript in May, I thought that most of the painting was done. But my editing team felt like the book would be stronger and more dynamic with the addition of 10-12 maps (!!!), and although I was reluctant to add a whole summer's worth of additional work onto a project when I thought I was nearing the finish line, I knew that they were right. While map illustrating has lots of enjoyable elements, it's also a painstaking, research-heavy process and because they're so exhausting, I've previously only made one or two per year.
The mantra that's propelled me forward through all this additional work has been“Merely do the work”, a quote from Seth Godin's book,The Practice.The sentiment here is that instead ofthinkingabout the work,catastrophizingthe work, andanticipatingthe way the work will be received, there are periods of time where you just need to show up and do the work. That quote sits on my desk every day while I work (see below). I have to trust that if I show up and jump straight into action each day, my deadlines will get met and the work will unfold as it needs to.
There have been some cool outcomes to all this map-making, too.Because I'm making them back-to-back, I've become less precious with each one, feeling freer to experiment with different layouts and styles. While I'd normally overthink every little detail, I simply don't have the time to right now. And I'm sure some of these new methods will be invaluable as I make maps into the future!
Another perk to making these maps for my book is that I get to discover new aspects to the various parks & forests that I traveled to last year for this project. I wasn't able to hike every trail in each place, so these maps have become portals for me to continue exploring each location now that I'm back home through my research.
Thanks for reading, watching my video, and just generally being interested in what I'm working on!