An anonymous contributor sent this map to Yuca’s in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles along with their recommendation to eat at the small taco stand for lunch. This was in 2009, mind you, and we pride ourselves in doing our research. We all know the American Apparel is no longer there, and just in case this map inspires you to lunch at Yuca’s, be aware it may have moved. Luckily, their website says its only a few blocks away on Hillhurst.
This detailed and accurate hand-drawn map indicates the location of fruit trees and bushes in the Browne’s Addition neighborhood of Spokane, Washington. Though it was drawn over 11 years ago, the map could likely be used today to find the very same fruit trees Amaris identified. Go ahead and try Spokanians…(Spokanites?).
Today’s maps from the archive will hopefully inspire you to draw a map of your neighborhood.
Drawn entirely from memory, Aura depicted her hometown of Woodbridge, Connecticut as it existed during her childhood. The map includes travel time (in green) to reference the distances between places as well as details such as the best trick-or-treating and a stop sign that was repeatedly vandalized by teenagers.
Sabine’s map combines memories of her childhood growing up in Germany with glimpses of her current life in Arkansas. She uses the street layout of her German neighborhood to create a visual structure. She then fills the blocks with text derived from the free association of childhood memories and her contemporary daily routine.
When was your last night out?
Think back to the last time you went out for pleasure. When going somewhere was more than buying groceries with a mask. When you could text someone and meet them to do one of the many things we normally do to unwind. Maybe it was a movie or a seemingly uneventful dinner. Maybe it was a grand theatrical production or just a casual drink around the corner. At the time it may have even felt mundane. That’s ok. Given our current pandemic-influenced lifestyle, these moments of collective activity deserve recognition.
Through map-making, take a moment to commit to paper your last night out.
As I sit here amid the pandemic, it’s been over three months since my last night out. While March 5th isn’t technically the last night I went out before the lock-down, it is the last night that felt normal. It was a rather unique evening mixed with a good dose of mundane reality. I met my friend for a beer before we went to see Alex Da Corte’s re-interpretation of an Alan Kaprow happening. On the way there, I called my dad to wish him a happy birthday. We stopped at Starbucks to get a protein bar. We had extra tickets and gave them to friends. A friend I hadn’t seen in a long time shared his clementine. We met more friends afterward and shared an Uber home. Truthfully, all of us knew things were changing that night. My dad told me to refinance my mortgage and buy more cleaning supplies. Alex told the audience to go home and call their mothers. Earlier that day, we considered how we might work from home. The future was very uncertain. Even though our official lock-down was a couple of weeks away, everything I did after this night was influenced by a looming fear of what comes next.
Cute musings, but how do I get started?
Hey, there’s no wrong way to start a drawing, but if you find blank paper intimidating, keep reading.
Where did you go and how did you get there? Take a moment to consider all of the places that are important for your story. Note how you traveled to these locations. Jot them down on a notecard or simply make a mental record.
Let geography guide the composition. The spatial relationship between important locations can help determine the overall composition of your drawing. Decide on a starting point and an endpoint, allowing other locations to fall into place. You can look at your phone if you want, but chances are you have a pretty good idea of how to get there. You found your way there in the first place!
Pencil to paper. This is the perfect map to draw without preplanning. As you work, your mind will wander, and you’ll naturally remember more details. Start with a pencil to help the drawing evolve. Chart the overall journey from start to finish. Imagine you are explaining how to get there to someone else. As you are drawing, jot down anything you remember along the way.
Edit and refine. Once you have the basic image in pencil, redraw it with something more permanent such as a pen or marker. Edit the original drawing as you go, making determinations about what is important and what is extraneous. Erase the pencil, or just leave it there to reveal your process.
Color for emphasis. Color is optional, but it is an excellent way of creating distinctions, emphasis, and mood in the image. In the example above color is used to indicate different modes of transportation, to de-emphasize the text notations, and to show the predominant color scheme of the event.
This map uniquely resonates with the spirit of this activity. Mashing together a variety of shows he attended over many years, Tony Gonzalez plots his proximity to the stage for each performance. While technically representing multiple nights out and drawn years before we knew what social distancing meant, it references a series of memories within collective spaces as well as a form of escape and entertainment many of us miss right now. With the lens of the pandemic, it’s hard not to see this as a document of something in the past. Consider drawing your version of Tony’s map. Imagine, for example, blending a year’s worth of concerts, sporting events, performances, and drag shows. Go ahead and mix them up in honor of the collective moments we so desire.
Ace drew this diagram to document the apartment he shared with two roommates. I’m posting it today it to provide some additional inspiration for Activity 3: Home Poem. Imagine, for example, a similar diagram of your home where the names of rooms are replaced by text found in each space. Ding ding ding! Light bulb!
Drawn on the back of a fax cover page, this map provides directions from 237 East Ontario Street to two of the tallest buildings in Chicago: the Sears Tower (Willis Tower) and 311 South Wacker St. The HDMA received this anonymous submission in an envelope along with a pink Post-it stating “my boss, owner of the Film and Tape Works, makes these all time. It’s hilarious.”
Let’s find meaning in found text by exploring the words surrounding us at home. The strange, repetitive phrases that inundate our daily lives can become slogans for our personal realities. For example, think about the endless text on the products in your bathroom and how much this text might say about your daily identity construction. Consider Claire Saffitz joyfully reading long lists of ingredients and how this underscores not only the nearly impossible task of recreating a factory-produced snack food but also our relationship to manufactured food in the 21st century.
Begin by choosing a room in your home. We’ll be trying to capture the spirit of that space through text, so find a room containing many objects with words on their surface. Start exploring the space by looking for text within it. Notice objects you use regularly but don’t necessarily read: your Sharpie marker, your coffee mug, a warning sticker on your lamp. Record any words and phrases that grab your attention. Notice things like repetition, lists, and slogans. You don’t have to write everything down. Instead, try to focus on the text that captures the mood of the specific space and its role in your daily life.
Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Marker / ACMI AP Conforms to ASTM D-4236 / Sharpie Fine Purple / Made in the USA
Oxford Circus / London / There’s so much to see in London / London Transport / 5d / Postage Revenue / First Class / Greetings from London / London
Caution: to reduce the risk of fire, use MAX 100W Type A bulb
In the journal entry (at top), for example, I wrote down text found in my basement. Of particular importance in that space are some boxes that remain unpacked: “Small / The Home Depot / Pratt 100% Recycled / Small / Pequeña … Be Orange / Think green.” Text from a calendar becomes a nod to the repetition of days while being quarantined “…April / Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday / Friday…” and text found on the back of Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook lends a hopeful reach towards traveling again someday “…maybe she’s on a photo shoot in Zanzibar.” I didn’t set out to make a poem about these ideas, but instead discovered along the way how the objects in the space coincide with my experience right now. This weird little collection of text really is a portrait of my life during the pandemic.
The poems alone can be seen as unique maps defining space through words rather than lines or symbols. Certainly you could take the text further by incorporating it into a fully realized drawing. You could, for example, combine the text with a diagram of the space or conform the text to lines that mimic linear perspective.
Amanda received this map from a hotel bartender in Gloucester, Massachusetts who recommended Charlie’s Place for breakfast. She writes, “the gist was to turn left at the hotel [INO] onto the coast road, bear left at the Y-intersection, turn left at a stop sign, and Charlie’s Place was on the left, across from the Stop and Shop. If you get to the White Hen, you’ve gone too far.” As of today, the restaurant is still there, so now you have the recommendation too.
Throughout our shelter in place, I’ve been thinking a lot about food. In my house, this happens mostly through lists. We have a list of recipes to try and a list of our favorite, easy-to-cook meals. We have a list of meals that make leftovers for lunch and a list of neighborhood restaurants still doing take out. Most importantly, we have a hopeful, idealized shopping list that inevitably gets edited at the store depending on what’s in stock. Not to worry, we also have a list of food to look for during next week’s outing. So……let’s draw a map of a food memory.
Pen, pencil, note cards, journal, note pad
Take a few minutes to pause and think about your memories of food.
While focusing your attention on your memories of food, list any associations that pop into your mind. Use the prompts below or simply spend some time with your thoughts.
- What is your favorite food right now? Where is the first place you ate it? Where is the best (or worst) place you ate it?
- What was your favorite food as a child? Is it still important to you now? What foods did your parents or grandparents make for special occasions? Are there any flavors or smells that instantly transport you to the past?
- What food or flavors do you remember from your travels? Is there something you ate on a trip that you’ve never eaten since? Is there something you loved when traveling but it just doesn’t taste the same without that view of the setting sun?
Letter or A4 size paper, pen, pencils, Sharpie markers, colored pencils, ruler
Begin your drawing by choosing a subject. You could create a map of the best pizzas you’ve ever eaten (or the worst), a diagram of your ideal salad, or a map of your quarantine take out splurges.
It’s worth taking a moment to consider the importance of geography to the memory you’ve chosen. If specific places are key elements, be sure to include details that reference geography (as in the map of childhood car rides above). If not, your drawing can be more of a diagram. In the drawing below, for example, I’ve focused on individual foods and ingredients rather than cartographic details.
As many of us are looking for useful distractions right now, I’d like to share some activities we can draw at home. I’ll be posting a new one each week for the next few weeks. Today I’m sharing a version of an idea I proposed to the Museum of Modern Art. Although we ended up using a different project, I think this one is perfectly suited for those of us sheltering in place.
Please interpret the drawing exercise as you wish. The word neighborhood, for example, can mean many different things. I generally think of my neighborhood as the walkable area near my home. You may choose to interpret it as a favorite route done either by walking, biking, or driving. You could even do a version of this exercise by focusing on your memories of the neighborhood where you grew up.
Pen, pencil, note cards
Let’s start by writing a few lists. I like to use note cards, but use what you have on hand. For each prompt, try not to overthink it. Let your brain wander as you write. We will use these lists later to incorporate ideas into a finished map drawing.
What are the landmarks in your neighborhood?
For the first list, think practically. How would you describe your neighborhood to others? How would you provide directions to get there? Do you live near a popular store, park, museum, restaurant? What places would you recommend to a visitor?
What do you remember right now about your neighborhood?
For the second list, consider the details. List the things that have caught your attention in the past. The things you notice every day. The mundane things others might not notice. The uneven sidewalk you trip over, the car that never moves, your neighbors’ charmingly odd decorations.
What do you remember after walking around your neighborhood?
For the third list, and if you are able, go for a walk in your neighborhood. As you walk, try to notice new things. This is also a good opportunity to note any changes. What’s different today? Once you return home, quickly jot down the things you noticed on your walk.
Letter or A4 size paper, pen, pencils, Sharpie markers, colored pencils, ruler
Use Letter or A4 size paper. Larger paper is great too. You’ll have more room to explore while drawing. Pencils, a gel pen, and a Sharpie marker are my favorite drawing tools, but whatever you have on hand is perfect. This is a great time to break out the colored pencils as color can be especially useful for adding emphasis.
Using your lists as inspiration, map the area you consider your neighborhood.
Let this drawing be less about an accurate map of the area and more about the specific details you have uniquely discovered about your neighborhood. Yes, you can look at a map online, but drawing is such a good way of getting time away from screens. You live in this place every day, so you already have a good understanding of its geography. You possess a wealth of information about the area and this information is unique to you. It’s this personalized information that makes your map more interesting than the analytical Google map of your zip code. Think of this map as your commentary on the area surrounding your home.
If sharing your map online, you may want to leave out specific details that reveal the exact location of your home. I suggest drawing the area surrounding your home, but skipping the representation of your home itself.
A good place to start is to think about how someone would travel to your neighborhood. Use your first list as a guide. What is the major street or public transit route that brings people to the area? What places might someone recognize or notice? Draw these important landmarks on your paper.
Continue to incorporate elements from your other lists. Add streets and routes as you go. Use symbols or written descriptions to reference your unique understanding of the area. There is no right or wrong way to approach the drawing. Remember the process of thinking about a familiar place in a new and interesting way is itself an important exercise.