Map-making sits at the intersection of my love for art and travel. I must have been a cartographer in a past life because I am fascinated by all kinds of maps – ancient cities, star charts, prison plans, routes of invasion, colonial propaganda and those hopeful edges of Terra Australis Incognita (the ‘Unknown Southern Land’). One of my favourite features are those clever easter-eggs that mapmakers used to identify forgeries of their work; be it a fictional mountain named after the artist or a dead end street that is actually underwater. Some of my favourites are the Map of Piri Reis (1513), compiled for Ottoman-Turkish intelligence, the Map of Juan de la Cosa (1500), the earliest undisputed representation of the Americas, and the Nova totius Terrarum Orbis (Hendrik Hondius, 1630), the first widely distributed map to depict Australia.
It is about time I attempted a map of my own!
The Risen Island or the Isle al Katie, is a science-fiction concept I have been wrestling with for more years than I care to remember. This floating island has appeared in a few of my paintings but I have only just got around to mapping it out, as it might be seen from above. The island is home to a theo-aristocractic organisation of thirty religious sects; by trade, the locals are pilots, navigators, astronomers, meteorologists and, most importantly, explorers. Circles are a common theme in the planning of the city as these people worship spherical, planetary-like gods. The island is divided into thirty estates (the suffix Al meaning “property of”) and areas are populated on caste lines (for example, the Third “Clergy” Circle, the Fourth “Merchant” Circle or the Ghastly “Working” Circle).
This was an attempt to produce a map similar to those found in the front of children’s story books and fantasy novels, or to support a computer game. The emphasis is on silly suburb names rather than architectural specifics. In future, I may draw some larger-scale maps of particular districts, in which case I can depict buildings and streets in more detail. For now I have taken a more graphical approach, depending on text and limited colour to add meaning…and I am still unhappy with the font. This map was very fun to make, but I feel 90% of the meaning is lost if the audience is unfamiliar with the accompanying back story. My next challenge will be to make a map that “makes sense” and “tells a story” without need for a descriptive blurb!