100Days100Maps : Looking Back

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Why Make 100 World Maps in 100 Days?

• Fear of procrastination/laziness – knowing I need accountability to get things done. (Ala Gretchen Rubin’s 4 tendencies – I am an obliger) and I knew social media could help me with this.

• Fear that freelance opportunities and Athena Project volunteer work would take precedence over making my maps – that’s not why I quit my job. I quit my job to be an artist and I was afraid it would end up on the bottom of my priority list.

• For years my mind was overflowing with map ideas but I just didn’t have the time, suddenly I did and I wanted to hurry up and get those ideas out… to make room for others, maybe better ones.

• I wanted to LET GO. My maps in the past took so much time and were detailed and precise. That was great but I wanted this adventure to allow me to let loose, let go, get messy, experiment.

What I Learned

• It felt really good to produce so much even if I didn’t love every one

• I learned that people have different tastes – some of the maps that I liked least were the ones that others liked most. I always enjoyed the process of making my maps so it’s good to accept that the final product doesn’t really matter – someone might love it. Just do the work and enjoy the process. There is a higher power at work here. It isn’t just about me and my preferences. The artist as a vessel (I’ll have to explore this in a future blog). Once the art is made, it isn’t mine anymore. I make art for others.

• I learned that my favorite maps to make are those that use organic materials. Their shapes generally lend themselves to the shapes of the continents (like flowers, leaves, sticks, rocks and food items). And it made me feel earthy, connected. That’s hard to describe but I loved the feeling. I was channeling my inner Andy Goldsworthy (if you don’t know of him, look him up – what he creates with nature is incredible).

• I was also surprised at how much I enjoyed sitting at the computer and doing digital maps. I never did them before because I spent so many hours in front of the computer when I was working as a web/graphic designer and when I got home I just wanted to use my hands. Now, I was happy to have an excuse to sit and use the software I know so well, with which I feel I can make magic happen.

• I still feel like I have to explore paint. I did some nice watercolors but I have much more to do when it comes to paint. I thought I would paint more but I have a block, a fear… I’m scared it’s going to be bad. I hope now that I will purchase a few canvases and I will paint and no one says I have to show it to anyone. Just keep working it until I feel happy with it. Maybe add in bits of pieces of collage – call it mixed media instead of just paint. That seems more up my alley.

• I did feel good when I made a map that had more of an activist message. Like finding the message that I purposefully don’t add political boundaries in my maps because it’s important to me that I get across that we are humans sharing this planet with cultural differences but a common tie as humans (gotta work on that messaging). Also the rice map about world hunger or the handprint map about peace. There’s an activist in me and since I don’t feel comfortable talking politics, I really could use my art to make statements. I should explore that more. I think I’m stopping myself because of my rebelling against the intellectualism I experienced in college which just annoyed me. But the truth is, last years elections were what motivated me to get my art out there. I felt the world needed my art, not just for the beauty but there are deeper messages there and it’s not just about the fact that travel is fun. It’s about what we learn through travel – to be open-minded, accepting of other cultures, to connect and to be present.

• I will never be at a loss of ideas. I still feel like I have so many more and not enough time. That is a good thing.

• I am eager to spend more time on one map now that I am not doing them daily. I’m excited to focus on quality rather than quantity. Next I want to work on 10-15 maps that I would be happy to hang in my house and that in a year or two I hang as a solo art show.

Creativity Retreat & My Nine Symbols

Last week I had my team over for a little creativity retreat. We had had a couple hours of craft time in the past but this was our first time making a day of it. We had a great time. We went to a Creative Mornings Denver talk (these happen monthly and are free to people in creative fields), then went out to brunch and then came to my house for a quick overview about what I learned in a recent leadership training and then craft time! Brittney tried embroidery for the first time ever and Mandy made a beautiful beaded bracelet.

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I decided to draw my 9 ‘personal symbols’ on little river stones (that I will eventually glue into a little shadow box). It was an idea that I got from listening to the Happier podcast – which is a new one I started listening to by the woman who wrote The Happiness Project, Gretchen Ruben. I am really enjoying the podcast. And loved this idea for your own personal symbols (inspired by the 8 auspicious symbols of Buddhism). Here are what I chose to represent myself:

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Dove in flight with olive branch
I love birds. I have images of them throughout my house. This choice of decor was not a conscious one, it just started happening over the years of decorating my house. To me birds represent freedom and flight. I also love the dove with an olive branch as a symbol of peace. In my youth and in my twenties I was idealistic and dreamt of peace on earth. Now, middle-aged, I understand that that is a far-fetched idea and I recognize that the best I can do is find peace in myself; foster peace in my family; and cherish it in my friendships.

World Map
Well, duh, anyone who knows me knows this is an obvious one. It has been the focus of my art for over a decade and for the decade before that I spent years traveling around the world… visiting or living in all the continents except Antarctica (still on my list). I had traveled to 30 countries before the age of 30 and lived in 7 of them. To me the image of a world map, represented without political boundaries, is a reminder that we are all connected, the world is one. They represent my love of travel as well as my calling to make art, but also humanity and this shared world that we all call home.

Elephant
Symbolizing my love and adoration of animals. I have always loved them since I was a child. My bedroom was a menagerie filled at various times with cats, birds, snakes, turtles, frogs, hamsters, Guinea pigs, mice, gerbils, lizards and fish. In elementary school I thought I wanted to be a vet, in middle school a marine biologist and by college I thought I’d become an animal behaviorist. I veared in a different direction once I decided to honor the artist and designer in me but then came back around, and was able to combine animals and design, when I got my job at Denver Zoo five years ago. I feel that animals have a lot to teach us, especially elephants and other species that have a certain untapped wisdom like wolves, killer whales, great apes and even ravens. Having animals in my life, especially during a not so idyllic childhood, offered me companionship that I didn’t otherwise have. Having pets, even as an adult, has taught me what it feels like to love and to experience unconditional love.

‘W’
I like the idea of using a letter that is an obvious serif typeface to represent graphic design, since that is my profession. But also ‘w’ stands for so many things – wander and wonder (I am happiest when I am following this motto for myself); www (world wide web and my profession as a web designer for the last 20 years); also ‘w’ stands for wife which is a big part of my identity.

Om symbol
This is the one symbol I chose to represent yoga, meditation, and my love of Eastern spiritual ideals. I am not a religious person but I am spiritual and I believe in the power one can find within oneself by finding calm, being centered and focused, using visualization and positive thinking. I believe in the idea of being in the present moment even if I find it to be a constant challenge. Having yoga and meditation in my life help with that. I believe in the connection between mind and body. I believe that we are all connected and that we have a higher purpose during our time on Earth.

Tree
This tree encompasses the idea of nature, growth and creation. Nature is where I feel most spiritually connected to something bigger. Nature is my religion. I grew up on an island and have now settled in the mountains. Through my travels I have experienced extraordinary spectacles of nature – deserts, waterfalls, rainforests, glaciers, rivers and grasslands. No matter what my environment I stand in awe of my surroundings – the vastness and power of the ocean or the strength and presence of mountains. I also love to stop and look down to inspect the minute miracles of nature – buds on trees, wild flowers, tiny insects, nests and broken egg shells. This tree, for me, also represents growth and regrowth. I want to always be growing as a person, to continuously learn and improve. In the same way that a tree cycles through the seasons so do we during the course of our lifetimes. We have ups and downs, valleys and peaks, and when those darker moments present themselves it is important to remember we will come into the light stronger and changed, hopefully more wise and truer to ourselves.

Compass/North Star
This is the one tattoo I have on the pinky toe of my right foot – which in and of itself represents my rebellious side (but not too rebellious). I got it when I was 17 in someone’s basement – in 1994 when tattoos weren’t so mainstream. I gave it a lot of thought before getting it. Even at that age, thanks to my European parents, I had a passion for travel. I came up with this symbol because it was meant to look like a compass – North, East, South, West and like a representation of the North Star both of which meant direction and guidance. As a young person about to enter the world, eager for independence, I felt that direction and guidance would come from trusting my intuition, being true to myself and facing the world ahead with courage. Those ideals have always stuck with me as has my little pinky toe tattoo.

Camera
When did I fall in love with photography? I learned how to develop photos in a darkroom when I was 16, my dad gave me my first SLR camera at 17 and I traveled to East Africa at 18. It was an early introduction to some of the most magnificent wildlife and landscape photography the world had to offer. I fell in love. In college, I took a broad array of art classes but mainly focused on photography – at times spending 10 or 12 hours in the darkroom without even taking a break to eat. Those days I used photography as a form of self-discovery. Years later, I traveled the world taking photos, obsessed with capturing moments and memories. When I eventually settled down in one place, I made a point to work somewhere where photography was part of my profession. At Denver Zoo, I am the Design & Interactive Manager, leading our design team, but I am also the staff photographer. I love the connection I feel with the animals when I am photographing them, following their every movement, waiting for that glint in their eye that tells me there’s a soul in there. By sharing these photos of our animals with our guests through our marketing efforts, my hope is that they too experience that connection and sense of awe. In the future, I’d like to travel and photograph animals around the world in their natural environments. Today, I get to do the next best thing. Which actually works better for our family – my kids would miss me too much if I were constantly up and going on photographic adventures.

Greek symbol for Motherhood
This one was an obvious one it was just hard to know what symbol to use. I found this Greek symbol of motherhood and liked it because when you are a mother, your children are intertwined with you. It is inevitable that they become part of your identity, even if that was hard to accept for me at first. Motherhood is the ultimate symbol of creation. How do you even begin to write about bringing life into this world. I can’t, so I won’t. I will say that my daughters have taught me how to love, how to nurture, how to surrender and have forced me to be a whole lot less selfish. I won’t lie, it was really hard for me to be so needed when they were really little; nurturing didn’t come naturally to me. I was filled with guilt, inadequacy and a small sense of failure. I am grateful that numerous sessions of therapy have helped me come out the other end and now I am proud of the mother that I have become. I am there for my children and I am doing my best, along with my husband, to raise kind, curious and happy daughters.

Bonus to this exercise is that I shared it with Sophie, my 8 year old, and she spent a couple hours the following day trying to define her own personal symbols which included: Energy (being active), Yin Yang, Family, Never Give Up (infinity symbol), Friendship, Chinese symbol for tiger (to symbolize animals), Japanese symbol for water, Japanese symbol for earth, symbol for Bravery. Some of them stood for who she is and things she loves – a few others, I think, she chose just because they seemed ‘cool.’ Here are her drawings:fullsizerender

 

Bikes and Horses – A commissioned piece.

This is my second time ever being commissioned to create a piece of art. Very exciting. I’ve hesitated calling myself an artist because it seems like you have to sell your art to be considered an artist… but now, I give myself permission. I am officially an artist. Woohoo.

The recipients of this commissioned piece will be a couple who are getting married this summer. The groom’s sister, Michelle, an old coworker of mine, reached out asking me to make a world map as a wedding gift. He’s an engineer who loves mountain biking; she’s a veterinarian who loves horses. They both love traveling. Combining bikes and horses at first felt like a challenge but as I got to thinking and sketching, a ton of ideas came to me.

I sent these sketches to Michelle and explained to her my ideas.

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I’m going to hold off telling you what idea we’re leaning towards (you’ll have to check back as I get started and post my progress), but I will share that I got a bunch of old rusty bike parts and found some mini horseshoes online and am ready to get started. Also, Michelle sent me a photo of some art that her brother previously had commissioned – love the colors, graphic elements and distressed textures. Great inspiration.

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