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Artist ID: 2453

My hand-drawn maps are created because I have to draw maps! I have been drawing maps of fictional places from my imagination since the age of five and they are a reflection of my observations of the real world. These maps are not fantasy worlds or utopias, but intended to feel like a place that could exist. They are set in the real world and are mostly drawn in the present-day gaining inspiration from places I have travelled, or sometimes just an image on social media or a TV show sparking my curiosity about a place. Some maps are drawn specifically because I am intrigued by where a friend lives and what features are around them.
I want people looking at my maps to be drawn in, to feel a sense of familiarity, a feeling that the place could exist, even though the places are all from my imagination. They are often meticulously drawn over a number of months building the map in layers, starting with natural features. To do this I can spend a couple of weeks researching and reading about that area to learn as much as I can about all the aspects of their culture that would impact the map. The local geography and how humans have impacted it are key elements. Most of my maps have a much deeper story in my mind that makes it into the art, as I need to know why a settlement exists before I can draw it realistically. Learning how different parts of the world were settled and why towns exist where they do is a large part of the process. The maps are created on a variety of mediums, including paper, wood, canvas, board, walls (murals), 3D objects and directly on skin as temporary art or designs for tattoos.

I use drafting pens from 005 to 08 widths, coloured pencil, acrylic pens and occasionally watercolour paint depending on the surface material. I hand-draw contours on board or use a base terrain from something that looks and feels like geography/topography to me. These include using the wood grain in birch as contours, photographs of textures (often parts of old buildings) and human skin as the starting point for my terrain. They all provide a different challenge and require that I survey these natural landscapes before I can add man-made features in a way that looks correct. For example, a railway line must conform to the contours, so requires studying the area to find the most likely and realistic path.

The Human Terrain series creates maps that conform to the natural geography and terrain of the human body. The purpose of this series is to re-imagine the body as the base terrain/layer for my art without pre-planning or design. This includes the challenges of a canvas that is not still or consistent between models and differ from other work, in that they need to be completed in a single sitting. I take all the photographs myself. Maps drawn on flat surfaces or other people are the same distance from my eyes, drawing on myself is not and that is a very different challenge, and that forms one of the submissions, essentially a form of self-portrait (drawn during lockdown). This work also gave me more of an insight into how my customers and models feel when they are drawn on and having their images potentially published (even with the option to remain anonymous).

Originally from Aberfan in South Wales, David lived in southern England and has hand-drawn plausible fictitious maps since the age of five often inspired by family vacations by car. One large map became 30 sheets of A4 paper spread across the floor of one beach vacation as it was raining outside. David was trained as a cartographer by the British Government’s Military Survey mapping agency from the age of 16 and continued to hand-draw fictional maps during breaks. David moved to Huntsville, Alabama in 1996 and has worked in GIS, software implementation, customer training and software design within 911/Public Safety, often travelling for this work and even drawing fictional maps in airports on in-flight. He was juried in to Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment in 2011 where he now creates most of his maps and switched to being a full-time artist with some GIS consulting in 2014. David has been interviewed by local news and radio, been featured on a PBS travel show and had work accepted to several juried shows and exhibitions including the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2016.

The fictional maps are set in the real world and can be inspired by real places travelled to or viewed online but are all from his imagination. They include research into that area that includes looking at the terrain, culture, history, road layouts, public transport, language and architecture, all to ensure plausibility is maintained.

The maps are created on a variety of mediums, and have evolved chronologically from paper and whatever pens or pencils I had available when young, to drawing paper and professional drafting pens, to wood, board, canvas, walls (as murals), 3D objects (e.g., furniture or instruments) and directly on skin, as temporary and very personal body art. All maps are hand drawn and created on the fly, without design or planning (no sketches or under drawing) and can be commissions that include significant aspects, places and events of their life into a map. The more detailed maps can take several months to draw. David has designed several tattoos that turn this personal map into permanent body art. Clothing and other products have been designed in collaboration with a designer featuring several maps and are available as print-on-demand.

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