Accidental Cartographer

Yesterday was a lovely weather day so I decided to finish an outdoor painting that I started last weekend.  It’s a fun kid project that my girls have always enjoyed. We started making maps out of various spills and splatters on paper table coverings at restaurants. It was a great way to ease embarrassment when somebody (myself included) made an accidental mess. And it filled that dreadfully long time between when the kids were finished eating and when the adults were finished, not to mention the seemingly eternal wait for the check. Then, when the girls were older, we got the idea to make our maps on purpose, with paint, in the backyard. Making this island map brought back such fond memories,  I thought I’d share the process. Here’s how it goes…

First, mix some paint and water in a bottle…

Then splash/pour the mix onto your paper….

Go ahead and get a little sloppy with it! You can always sop up a little of the excess if you need to.

When you have a good looking map shape let it dry in the sun for a while. Have a picnic lunch and think about who lives on this island. What do they eat there? What do they like to do?  When you’re done eating and your map is nice and dry take a regular ball point pen and trace around all the little inlets and bays.

Paint the water around your island (I suggest blue, but that’s just me)  then add some features, name the bays, add forests, buried treasure, pirate skulls or whatever the shapes in the map and your imagination suggest.

Don’t forget a compass rose!


Now that the girls are older our splattering is more intentional…most of the time.  But I’ll always see tropical atolls in coffee cup rings.


  1. OMG I can’t wait to do that at work tomorrow!!!!!!!!

    Very nice (seriously)!

  2. Love it. Will copy this to my Grandson tomorrow and I think T will enjoy it too. ” Tropical atolls in coffee cup rings” , perfect.

  3. […] diligently on our sketchbook exchange books while the combined poppets worked on Peggyellen’s splatter maps. Marigold took this picture of Jody reading to Rosie the reading tyrant. The photo seems to be one […]

  4. oh wow this is awesome..Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Thank you all : )

  6. […] of my maps are simply a record of letting my mind wander. This one started with a splatter map of tea bags as my jumping off point. Then I added the dregs of the previous night’s bottle of […]

  7. i should’ve commented awhile back…i love this idea of yours! i am a new homeschooling mom, and my 6 yr old, 4 yr old and i made these maps this week! thank you thank you thank! it was the BEST art project to start with for us this week! thanks a million!

    1. Amy, I love that you made the maps! Thank you so much for telling me about it! Best luck with homeschooling, Peggy

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