Paper Art: Chart a New Course with a Mixed-Media Map

Several events have happened lately that have made me stop and ask myself where I'm going in my life, among them a birthday and the realization that my children are getting more independent. And you know what they say, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up somewhere else."

paper collage map by cate prato
"Where to Next?" a map for the rest of my journey.

I've decided it's time to map out a strategy for accomplishing the personal goals I've yet to achieve and experiences I've always wanted to have.

I could just make a bucket list, but I like the idea of creating a visual road map like the ones in Jill K. Berry's book Personal Geographies: Explorations in Mixed-Media Mapmaking. Using mixed-media, collage, and paper art techniques, Jill presents 21 projects you can adapt to plan, record, or imagine your journeys and get in touch with yourself.

The book is divided into three categories: Mapping the Self; Mapping Your Experience; and Plans, Projections and Possibilities. I adapted a map by Aimee Dolich, Peregrinations, from the third category. This map looks more like a lotto game card than a road map, but that's OK. It's a paper collage reminder of what I'd like to accomplish in my remaining years.

First, I made a list of all the things I don't want to miss out on:  Rent a villa in Tuscany, Learn to tap dance, Visit Istanbul, Hike with my family in Scotland, Visit Iceland, Paint in the south of France, Write a funny novel, Drive across country visiting old friends.

Next I gathered supplies: handmade paper, watercolor paper, random journal pages, photocopies of old pictures, ephemera, maps of all kinds, card embellishments, alphabet stickers ('cause you know I can't write!), plus water-soluble colored pencils, rubber stamps and ink, and a fine point black pen.

paper art map by cate prato detail
Detail of map, showing the squares representing hiking in Scotland and visiting Turkey.

I divided the page into a header and nine squares and dug in. For many of the "place" squares, I looked up images on the Internet, found one that spoke to me, and then drew freehand first with a mechanical pencil and then with the water-soluble pencils. I tried to keep some color consistency with blues, greens, and pinky-reds-similar to the colors you would find on a traditional road map.

Sometimes I drew right onto the watercolor paper, sometimes I laid down a wash of watercolor first, and sometimes I collaged a background onto the square first. This happened in the square that references Turkey. I had drawn a fez, but it looked really awful. Then I remembered I had a photo of my great-grandfather in what was then Constantinople, taken in 1925.

I made a photocopy, but my copier is on the fritz and made what was supposed to be a sepia-toned image pink and purple. I decided to run with that. The colors reminded me of some paper in my stash: a gelatin monoprint on paper with greens and rusty pink. I liked the texture it provided and used gel medium to put a square of that paper down as a background before adding the cutout of Big Papou.

I can't tell you how pleased I am with my "Where to Next?" map. Not just because I like the artwork, but because I now feel focused on the next part of my journey.

There are so many more map ideas I'd like to try in Personal Geographies. I highly recommend you check it out.

P.S. What would you like to map? An experience you had? Your creative self? A journey you'd like to take? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

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Blog, Paper Art and Zen Doodle

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