Activity 1 Map Your Neighborhood

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.

Prompts

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.

Drawing

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.

Unknown, Nicollet Island, 2009 [Minneapolis, Minnesota]

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.

Share your map with the Hand Drawn Map Association. The best way is to email info@handmaps.org or tag hand.maps on Instagram. Also, check out insta for more inspiration including some maps of neighborhoods from the archive.

Unknown, My dog’s fav. places to poop on Calvert Street, 2009 [Baltimore, Maryland]

Neighborhood maps: Berlin

Unknown (drawn for Martin Voorhorst), Everything Is Not To Scale, 2008 [Berlin, Germany]

Martin’s friend drew this map for him when he was visiting Berlin. While there, he wanted to explore the Wedding neighborhood of the city via bike. I particularly like the use of office supplies. Highlighters provide the absolute best colors for map-making. Please buy some and use them in your cartography.

Neighborhood maps: Waynesboro

Unknown (drawn for Tony Gonzalez), Police Chase, 2009 [Waynesboro, Virginia]

This map traces a police chase that grabbed the attention of people living in the Tree Streets neighborhood of Waynesboro, Virginia. One of Tony’s coworkers witnessed part of the chase, and drew this map to show where he was standing when the cars came around a corner.

Neighborhood maps: San Anselmo

Unknown (drawn for Renee Sharp), Damaged Videos, 2008 [San Anselmo, California]

This is a map worth keeping. Even though it’s not particularly practical for navigation, it’s a cool piece of ephemera with a fun story. A video store clerk drew it for Renee and her boyfriend when they stopped to ask for directions to a popular sushi restaurant. The clerk quickly drew a few lines on the back of a slip of paper used to label videotapes damaged by customers. Even in 2008, this object was a relic of the past. The rendering was not only incredibly vague but also completely wrong. Despite the map, Renee and Bruce eventually found the sushi restaurant. They also kept the piece of paper using it as a bookmark before eventually sending it to the HDMA.

Neighborhood maps: Venice

Justin Thiele, Venice, c. 2012 [Venice, California]

The neighborhood maps I’ve been sharing recently are some of my favorites in the collection. This drawing hits on all of the best qualities of hand-drawn maps. It includes personal recommendations, can be used for navigation, and has a striking visual appearance. Justin drew it for his friends when they were visiting him in Venice, California. They wanted to spend some time checking out what made the neighborhood unique, so he recommended the canals and included his favorite pizza place.

Neighborhood maps: Philadelphia

Will Haughery, Fishtown, 2010 [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]
Janel Olah, FWM VIP Party, 2007 [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]

The maps pictured here are of the Fishtown neighborhood in Philadelphia. Like many neighborhoods, there are no true boundaries of the area, and the definition is somewhat malleable. Haughery’s map makes the case that Frankford Avenue can be considered a boundary between Fishtown to the southeast and Kensington to the northwest.

Olah drew the second map for guests attending a party held for Fabric Workshop and Museum apprentices. She idealizes the somewhat confusing layout of streets and highlights the triangular structure of the area where William Penn’s original grid plan for the city breaks down in unexpected ways.

Neighborhood maps: Syros

Dimitris (drawn for Krista Muir), Hermoupolis-Syros, 2012 [Ermoupolis, Greece]

Krista’s friend, Dimitris, drew this map for her when she was traveling through Greece. No one could remember the exact address of her friend’s mother’s place where she would be staying, so she used this map to find the house after arriving on the island.

Neighborhood maps: Chicago

Unknown, Lounge Ax, Empty Bottle, BFA Show, c. 1998 [Chicago, Illinois]

As far as I can tell, this is the first map I collected. Drawn 10 years before I founded the Hand Drawn Map Association, it provides directions to three places in Chicago: the music venues Lounge Ax (now closed) and Empty Bottle, as well as the BFA graduation exhibition for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Sadly, I can not remember who drew this map. Whoever it was, they were a SAIC student living in the loft on Wabash Avenue where we stayed. If it was you, please let me know!

Montablan Archipelago

George Kohn, The Montablan Archepelago, 1969 [Fictional location: Montablan; drawn in Varanasi, India] original HDMA web archive: map 103

George drew this map while attending Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India for a year of study in 1969.

The fictional archipelago of Montablan originated years earlier in his imagination while mowing the yard of his childhood home in Iowa. Driven by his contempt of cutting grass, he fantasized himself as one of a group of exploited workers on the island of Lospania who were planning a revolt.

As he grew older, the island remained in his imagination, expanding into a small archipelago of closely allied islands. The place names are influenced by aspects of Indian culture as well as his love of American football. The references in the map to places such as Talortown and Talorado, for example, are a misspelling of Jim Taylor, a fullback for the Green Bay Packers from 1958-1962.

Distant Relatives

Anonymous (drawn for Larry Chance), circa 2008 [Sorrento, Italy] original HDMA web archive: map 101

Larry and his family received this map while visiting distant relatives in southern Italy. After a visit in Barrea, Larry’s hosts drew the driving route to Sorrento, 187 km to the south on the Gulf of Naples.