I’m not really big on traveling. It makes me nervous, and I’m usually too wound up to enjoy it. But I love maps so when I saw the Journal52 prompt for this week I decided to go that route. (Route. Maps. Get it? Lol!)
Scale and fancy map keys are too much work for my messy mind, so I just went for a map-like look. I let the flow of color and shape dictate my choices more than trying to be realistic with my depictions of location.
I didn’t have my camera handy to take step-by-step photos, but if you are interested in my process I have the steps with photos of the products I used, below, along with some of the reasons I chose the products I did.
Step 1: I used a yellow (not shown in this photo) 15mm tip Montana Marker to color the entire page. These wide tipped acrylic paint markers cover large areas fast. I was able to do the whole page, with no effort, in a matter of seconds. Though you can get empty Montana Markers, I used one with Montana paint. It’s very fluid and matte (almost chalky). I like that in a background color, because it doesn’t compete with your mid-ground and foreground as much as a glossy color might.
I also chose acrylic paint, though it would not have had to be Montana Marker acrylic, because acrylic paint acts as a seal, and when you use alcohol or permanent marker over it, the marker is less likely to bleed through the page (this differs according to marker, paint and paper, so test before doing this).
Step 2: I decided to get funky and add a chevron shaped border. I cut two strips of FrogTape’s Shape tape to fit, cut each in half, lengthwise, sticking matching halves to opposite sides of the page, so the patterns would match.
Step 3: I used a black Sharpie brush tip to outline the shape tape. A Montana Marker in Shock Lt. Blue was used indirectly–I pushed the marker tip down on my non-stick craft mat, and then used a make-up sponge to spread the color thinly in various places. The very light blues and greens on my maps were created this way. The thinner the paint, the more green it looked because more of the yellow showed through.
I wasn’t trying to re-create any real map or location. I just went with the flow, but started light because it’s harder to change dark areas, if you decide you don’t like what’s happening.
Step 4: I used a Lime and Green Sharpie brush tip to color in areas of the map. I blended the colors in some places to imply that the terrain types were overlapping in some places.
Step 5: I used a Lt Blue Sharpie brush tip to draw in lakes and rivers.
Step 6: I used a Burgundy Sharpie brush tip to draw my roadways and imply populated areas.
Sharpies are a permanent marker (alcohol marker). I prefer the brush tip variety, which produces a thick, bold line, covers large areas quickly, and has a little flex to it. It doesn’t permit much line variety, which brush tips often do, but I think it requires less pressure to use.
The ink in a Sharpie is mostly opaque, meaning little or no color from underneath shows through. The lightness or darkness of a color counts–yellow won’t cover green, but will make it yellow-green. But light blue (which isn’t very light) will cover green, yellow and pink without too much change in color. If I had wanted to keep my water the exact same color through-out the map I should have done the lakes and rivers first and colored around them. I felt that would give the map a stilted look, leave the possibility of white spots (from trying to avoid coloring over the blue) and would be a lot more work. A slight change in the blue seemed preferable to me, but this would be an artist’s choice. Another choice would be to use a different medium, with truly opaque colors.
Many water-soluble (blendable) markers won’t stick to acrylic paint, but alcohol markers will. They do take longer to dry, though.
Step 7: I used a white Sakura Gellyroll gel ink pen to add more roadways and populated areas. Most maps use different colors to show different types of road systems–international highways versus local streets, etc. The same goes for populated areas. A rural city might be colored differently than an urban city. Depends on what the map is trying to portray.
I decided to go with a gel ink pen for a couple of reasons. It didn’t have to be a gellyroll, that’s just what I had on hand. I wanted to lighten certain areas of the map, and a white gel ink pen is opaque enough and of a consistency that it will write over darker colors.
I also wanted more contrast, but not so much that I created strong focal point. Gel ink reflects light differently than either the acrylic paint or Sharpies that I was using. It gives a little more texture as well. I felt the yellow of the background, despite being matte, was pulling the eye away from the map instead of pointing into it. The white, I felt, was light enough to pull the eye into the map without bisecting into definite sections.
Step 10: I pulled off the shape tape, and, of course, all that yellow was too much. But, I had a plan for that.
One of the fun things about using that Chevron shape border is that arrow shapes–triangles–tend to lead the eye. I used my Sharpies add more arrows. The dark blue and red were a bit of a calculated risk. They are a bit more intense on-screen than in actual life, but either way, some people may find their eye goes around the edge of the page instead of into the map. Others will find that the darker color keeps the eye from leaving the page altogether, and the red points them into the map.
Although this only took me about 1/2 an hour to do, it’s a very busy piece. Normally, I’d call it too busy. But people expect maps to be busy, and I believe we relate to them a little differently than we do most artwork. That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it, lol.
Step 9: A Pigma Micron is a waterproof, permanent ink pen than comes in different point sizes and colors. It is one of my go-to pens and I used one to write down the names on my map. I chose my names for whimsy and to make clear this map was just for fun. I didn’t write many names because as I’ve already said — busy.
Step 10: When I started this journal, I decided that I would stamp the name of the prompts using this alphabet stamp set that I bought somewhere for $1 (probably Walmart). I use StaZon ink because it will stamp on most surfaces, though I switch to Ranger Archival if I think I’ll use alchohol markers over it, because StaZon (solvent ink) reacts to alcohol and smears. I also found a Date stamp on sale at some point, and sometimes I remember to use it, lol.
A matter of note, I’m using Strathmore Aquarius II watercolor paper in this handmade journal. It’s a mix of synthetic and cotton fibers, fairly thin for watercolor paper, but sturdy and it doesn’t buckle or dimple very much (the edges curl sometimes), no matter the medium you’re using.
While it isn’t very toothy for a cold-press paper, it isn’t great for stamping. I don’t mind a rough look, and usually used fill-in gaps with a Micron or color around it with a Gellyroll. While Strathmore Aquarius II is a good choice overall for mixed media–not so much if you do a lot of stamping.