What do you do?
I make maps, and create prints, posters and finished, framed works from those maps. I display these works at my showroom in Las Vegas, and sell them on my website artmapmaker.com.
How do you make the maps?
I use traditional techniques of pen-and-ink, mechanical lettering, and coloring with colored charcoal to create original maps by hand.
Why do you make your maps by hand?
People are surprised to learn that I make the maps by hand. I learned my craft from a renowned cartographer who taught this method, and I have continued it ever since. As with any other hand-made work, each piece is unique, and carries the mark of the maker. The nuances incorporated into each map are unattainable with a computer, and endow each map with personality and character. This gives an artistic spirit to my maps. Besides the detailed information that each map provides, the artistic nature of the map makes it attractive to people and yields a piece that is fit for display in one’s home or place of business.
I enjoy this methodical and detailed process for making maps. I am an ophthalmologist and I liken my mapmaking to ophthalmic surgery. Both are dependent on fine motor skills, require patience, and are unforgiving of mistakes. Also, I find the creative process to be satisfying; it is gratifying when people enjoy my maps.
Who taught you how to make maps?
Van English, former Professor of Geography at Dartmouth College, taught me. He was a world-renowned cartographer who was the personal cartographer for General George Marshall, US Army Chief of Staff, in World War II. Professor English offered a course in cartography, which I took. The course included a didactic section in which he taught the history of mapping, principles of projection, and general knowledge of maps. In the studio section, he taught us mapmaking techniques and gave us the opportunity to make maps ourselves. My final course project was a map of my European and Middle Eastern travels undertaken during my junior year.
How long have you been making maps?
I have been making maps for over 40 years.
What are the subjects of your maps?
My current project is the “Great American Cities” series. I have made maps of continents, countries, states, regions, and cities. I create custom maps for specific purposes, such as records of people’s travels. Because each map takes many hours to design and complete, the most efficient and affordable way for people to acquire my maps is to purchase prints rather than originals. All my prints are signed, and all framed, finished pieces are signed and numbered.
Do you go out into the field to make your own measurements, or do you make your maps from existing maps?
This is a very good question. Unless you are Captain Cook triangulating a new-found coastline, or working for the USGS and placing benchmarks for triangulation, all maps are derived from existing maps.
What is the actual process you use to make your maps?
Once I decide what I would like to map, I find a map or maps in the public domain to use as a base map. I adjust the scale as needed and trace the outline and linear elements (such as rivers, streets or boundaries) onto tracing paper. The tracing paper outline is placed on a light table, and art paper is placed over it, revealing the image of the map elements. These elements are again traced in pencil, this time onto the art paper. Next, the tracing on the art paper is inked using pen and ink. Lettering is added using a technique called mechanical lettering. This technique uses a hard plastic template of the shapes of letters incised into something that looks like a ruler. A pantograph-like instrument with a fine point traces the desired letters one-by-one, and a pen tip with ink transcribes those letters onto the map. When the inking is complete, color is added using colored charcoal. The colors are softened with a stomp, a tool made of rolled paper that looks like a pencil. The completed map is sprayed with a fixative that bonds to the paper and protects the ink and color.
How do you make the prints?
I take the completed map to a shop that uses a high-resolution copy camera to photograph the map and covert the image into a digital file. This file is given to a printer who prints these images onto art paper using a state-of-the-art digital printer. The prints are faithful to the originals and really have superior coloration.
How do you sell the prints?
People can order them from my website: artmapmaker.com. I mail the signed prints in a sturdy mailing tube.
Can I see the maps in person?
I have a showroom and studio in Las Vegas that is open by appointment. Please contact us to schedule a visit.
How do you handle your custom mapping service?
This is the best part of what I do. People commission me to make a custom, bespoke map of an area special to them. The most popular of these are travel maps. If a couple has gone on an anniversary trip, or a honeymoon or special family trip, I work closely with them to learn exactly what they want in terms of theme, size, inscription content and title, color, complexity and other details. I design a draft and submit a proposal. The price is determined by size and complexity.
Do you create anything other than maps?
Yes I do. I make globes. My non-cartographical works include pieces created using the same techniques as the mapmaking process, but applied to various subjects and scenes, including a view from on airplane window, an Egyptian obelisk, a football, a baseball bat, and a soccer ball. Also, I photograph graffiti and have the images transferred to canvas.
Is there anything else I should know about you or your maps?
I love maps, and I love making maps. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to pursue mapmaking as a second career. I want to use my showroom in Las Vegas as a way for interested people to see my work, especially given that 46 million people visit Las Vegas each year. People love maps. Maps give each person a chance to connect with that part of the world, and rekindles memories of prior experiences and people, and fuels dreams of future travel.