Map happy

A while back I wrote about some maps that I had started making. Now it’s hard for me to imagine having an especially good day or going through a rough spot and not mapping it out afterward. It helps me to cement the experience in my memory, make sense of things after the fact, hold on to the good stuff and review any lessons learned. Most of my maps are just pencil sketches. They are definitely more about the process than the product. At one point I set aside a special sketchbook for them, now they wind up everywhere, on napkins, receipts etc. Some chart my movements and some are about my thoughts. This week’s prompt from Illustration Friday is the word trail so I decided to see what would happen if I finished out a few. Above is a map of  my meanderings through a museum. Nothing in these maps is to scale. If it felt like it took a long time to get from point A to point B then the line is long, if time flew then the line is short. If the experience was easy and free then the line is loopy. Sharp zigzags represent tension. Sometimes a zigzag is good tension or excitement, sometimes not so good, anxiety.

Here is a map of a conversation that I recently had with my 15 year old daughter. I knew something was bothering her, but she didn’t want to talk about it. It was “none of my business”. It’s hard to see your child worried or upset. At her age I feel it is important to let her decide whether or not she wants to discuss something with me. We’ve been talking A LOT about privacy lately. This video from the American Library Association should be required viewing for all teens and tweens, heck everybody should watch it. In this map the  circle represents the issue and the loops are the conversation around it. For my own peace of mind I needed to be sure she and her friends were safe, and that she really didn’t want to talk about it. It’s hard to know sometimes.  So I asked some questions, then let the conversation  veer off onto other subjects. (As is often the case, we revisited the topic later after the dust settled.  Everything and everybody is fine and it really was none of my business, whew!)


  1. andothersuchthings

    Oh wow, I love the idea of a conversation map! It seems like you captured it perfectly…

  2. These are lovely abstractions. They are very calligraphic in nature. Maps and Trails are a perfect connection s well. Bravo!

  3. LOVE this post, both art & family aspects. I’ll bet you are a super Mom… when you’re not prying, of course. (HA! I’m totally kidding! Seriously, you seem like a very reasonable & thoughtful mother.)

    I have never tried to “map” abstract things before, like thoughts, or conversation with others. I’ve only mapped the physical, for documentation or planning purposes. I can really see what you are talking about, when you explain your process. Really interesting idea, with amazing results!

    P.S. When I saw your “trail” my mind snapped right to “jellyfish.” I gotta stop reading Mr. Doran just before you, HA!

  4. This is great, am going to try it……..
    teenagers, privacy and need to know, just wish mine had had gps!

  5. Thank you!! I am working on a big map right now. It does feel like calligraphy.

    Wow…”reasonable and thoughtful” I could kiss you, HM. May I quote you? Because most of the time I feel like a clueless, gelatinous mass drifting in deep water.

    Love the GPS idea, Heather. I wish someone would invent GPS fairy dust that we could sprinkle on them as they leave the house.

    1. Um, well, er… OK to kiss & quote, but don’t try any funny stuff ;-)

      HA! to “drifting gelatinous mass.” Aren’t we all.

  6. I think I’ve used the first map before (literally, as a geographical map), which would explain why I probably got lost. Great concept, mapping experiences and conversations and all.

    1. hee hee… thanks, they’re about as helpful as bread crumbs aren’t they?

  7. these are terrific, peggy… i’m working on a bunch of maps right now for a project (some are literal, and others more abstract and representational) and i just love how you’ve described your mapping process – i would have never thought to map a conversation. i’m impressed that you found such a creative solution to help you deal with your daughter’s difficulties while letting her sort it out on her own.

    and on a side note, when you wrote about scribbling on a napkin, my eyes went right to the designs and thought – actually – these designs would make great napkins!

    1. Thanks, Aimee! Napkins, tablecloths, a whole empire is spread before me…

  8. Bella Sinclair

    Wow, I absolutely LOVE your maps! Not only mapping physical locations, but time and conversations as well. How fantastic are you! You could take the craziest of events and make them seem so poetic and beautiful.

    1. Thank you so much, Bella!

  9. […] sketchbooks are my diary. In them I sketch from observation, make my lists,  and draw maps of events and feelings.  Above is a composite of a sketch and a map of  the afternoon that I […]

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