Inspiration images for map-based artwork
August 23, 2011 10:14 PM   Subscribe

Can you suggest some inspiration pictures for artwork involving old maps?

I recently picked up about 10 huge old maps our geography dept at university was throwing out. They are totally useless to me or anyone I know as maps because they are things like detailed maps of mines in very specific parts of australia, or hiking maps for places no one I know what ever go, or maps covering very tiny uninhabited parts of Antarctica. The details are not very interesting, and just framing them seems kind of pointless.

But they are pretty, on a sort of "stand back and squint your eyes" large scale.

So I'd like to turn some of them into art of some sort. I don't want to wallpaper a room or a wall. I will use some for wrapping paper or similar, but I'd also like to make stuff I'd put on my wall, and/or decoupage a table top.

But when I google for inspiration, most of what I find looks really not that great. I like the idea of painting a simple image using a map as a canvas, but I'm not finding very many examples of this, and what I do find, I don't really like, or have been painted quite amateurishly. I am hoping someone here has links to interesting or good-looking examples of this sort of thing.

As for the decoupage, if anyone has any tips or suggestions for that, please let me know!
posted by lollusc to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a map guy and I love maps, so you'll have to forgive my bias.

What is it you're wanting to do with maps? It sounds like you don't really like what you're seeing with maps and you want to turn them into something else... but what?

I have done every single thing that can be done with maps to make them look amazing; in ways that are map-like and in ways that are not... but I don't know what it is you want. Can you tell me something that has been done with maps that you think looks cool?

Barring that... just treat them as you would any other texture, and make art accordingly?
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 10:49 PM on August 23, 2011

In the Atlanta Airport there is an installation that does some awesome things with maps. I think it might be The Navigation Project-- but I can't find detailed pictures of the installation. I'm pretty sure she uses maps as the textures in her art.
posted by Drama Penguin at 11:21 PM on August 23, 2011

use the maps as a base for a fantasy location- adding dragons, castles, buried treasure, etc.
posted by titanium_geek at 11:33 PM on August 23, 2011

I don't know what I want to do with the maps exactly. What I think could maybe look good is to paint something like a landscape, using the map as a canvas, so that the map shows through in the parts of the picture that would otherwise be white space. But I can't find any examples of people who have done this so that it actually looks good. Maybe a simpler painting would work better than a landscape - maybe just a tree, or a silhouette stenciled on top of the map.

Basically I'm still at the brainstorming stage, so any ideas or images you can throw my way would be cool.
posted by lollusc at 1:29 AM on August 24, 2011

I'm not arty in the slightest, but my first thought was painting a simple silhouette - perhaps in a grayish colour so the details show through - over the map and then framing them. Shackleton or Mawson for Antarctica? Miner with hard-hat for mining maps (or perhaps the Beaconsfield miners, as a symbol of people who occasionally defy the odds and give the world hope)?

I'm a bit sentimental that way, I'd like to use them to honour people who have an impact on my thoughts of the area/industry. YMMV.

posted by malibustacey9999 at 1:52 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Use the map like a pattern fill. Instead of treating the map as negative space and wanting to slap stuff on top of it, treat the map like positive space, like a color, and fill in the background with a contrast.

Octopus map
Shadowbox butterflies
Simple geometric shapes evocative of geological structures

Personally I would go the fantasy route as well - carefully relabeling and embellishing the maps until they portrayed an unreal location and marking a dotted red line to display the route you personally took, trekking through the Death Mines of Antagonia or hiking the Ice Giants' Ankles in Greenlundova, and frame them in ridiculously gilt gold things. But that's me.
posted by Mizu at 2:30 AM on August 24, 2011

I LOVE that octopus map. Thanks for the idea of using the map as the positive space.

I like the idea of the related silhouettes too. I might experiment with that.

Fortunately I have enough maps to try various different things and still have some left over.
posted by lollusc at 4:11 AM on August 24, 2011

tumblr has tons of map-related art ideas. you can use mine as a starting point; I reblog a lot of stuff from fuckyeahcartography.
posted by desjardins at 11:56 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh wow, I have map envy now. My favorite thing-of-the-moment to do with interesting maps is decoupage them to things. Cool examples (NOT mine, I haven't done anything nearly as impressive) here, here, and here!
posted by aecorwin at 12:09 PM on August 24, 2011

« Older File sharing from an old Mac to iPhone   |   Slang Lingo? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.