Donna David FDGA 2016

June 26, 2016

This workshop kicked off the focus of my current sabbatical: maps and map making. The content provided basic information about map making, but what was even more interesting was the approach the other students brought to their own work.

The workshop was led by Connie Brown, an artist who specializes in hand painted maps. We started with a lecture about the parts of a map: physical features, place names, insets, neat lines, compass rose, scale, title(s). This led to discussion of how design can influence the message of a map. Ms. Brown presented several samples of her work to support the lecture.

The workshop was hosted at the Osher Map Library where we did our research. Library staff displayed parts of their manuscript map collection and lectured about them, just for us. This was fascinating and also inspirational. We were able to handle and look at antique maps. Among the items displayed with civil war battlefield maps, early maps of the world and sketchbooks of grade school girls from the 1800s. The girls would create small atlases as they learned about geography by drawing maps. The work was exquisite.

What will stick with me the most is witnessing how each student emphasized their point of view. Each person had a different level of experience with maps, drawing art work and telling a story. Projects ranged from mapping the journey of Sir Ernest Shakleton, an explorer of the South Pole to a simple map of China. My map was about a trip I made to Detroit.
All of the work was done by hand. Computers were only used for reference. During these three days of intense work, I was able to watch each student’s process from start to finish. It was a small group, so we got to know each other’s projects and intent very well.

It was good to be a student. I think this is important for any teacher, allowing you to listen to another teacher’s approach and how she worked with each person on their level. Her goal was to have us all satisfied with what we have accomplished, the goal was not to “finish”.

I was surprised to see the success everyone had with their maps, despite the varied skill levels. This reinforces my idea that students can use maps to learn about design principles of layout, typography, hierarchy and color.

As stated in my sabbatical proposal, I intend to use the information gathered in the course to help FIT faculty use a new approach to their subject matter. Creating a map involves research, planning and portraying a point of view. Maps are a great teaching tool for almost any subject, supporting the idea of “learning by making”. Working by hand, with pens, pencils and tracing paper slows the student down and forces them to think about what they are presenting. I have seen that, although it takes time, anyone can make a successful map – and a successful project is a good way to end any lesson. I look forward sharing this information with my colleagues at FIT.

This workshop truly inspired me creatively. I will use these lessons as I continue to make maps and map art during my sabbatical.