At the Direktorenhaus Museum in Berlin this past week, a solo exhibition of detailed architectural drawings by Virginia-based artist Benjamin Sack (previously) opened to the public. Titled Labyrinths, the collection of new works features vast cityscapes comprised of impossible inner-geometries. The maze-like urban maps reference musical compositions and various symbols found in cosmology.
Often creating based on what he calls a “fear of blank spaces,” Sack tells Colossal that his starting point for each drawing is different. Finding inspiration in history, cartography, and his own travels, the artist starts with a general concept and builds his intricate worlds intuitively as he goes. Star-shaped buildings and pathways meet with rows of houses that spiral out from clusters of skyscrapers. The pieces in Labyrinths range from 11 inches by 14 inches (a standard photo print size) up to 90 inches wide and 69 inches tall. A work titled Library of Babel is drawn on the surface of a globe measuring 16 inches in diameter. “Generally, a large piece is begun with a few very broad and simple demarkations in pencil,” Sack explains. The rest of the lines and spaces are filled in with pen.
“Over many years my interest in architecture and cityscapes has evolved,” Sack tells Colossal. He adds that drawing such intricate pieces has “become a way and means of expressing the infinite, playing with perspective and exploring a range of histories, cultures, places.”
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Maine-based artist, illustrator, and pop culture cartographer Andrew DeGraff creates detailed maps that outline the movements of major characters in iconic movies. Made by hand using gouache and ink on paper, each of DeGraff’s maps are meticulously planned and can take up to 1,000 hours to complete.
DeGraff has been working as an illustrator for 15 years. He began his “Cinemaps” series in 2011 and has since published a book that includes art inspired by Back to the Future, King Kong, The Shining, Pulp Fiction, and other classic movies. Speaking to Colossal about his process, DeGraff said that it doesn’t matter if the film is a favorite that he has seen several times, or if it is one that he is less familiar with—the approach is the same. While carefully watching the movie a few more times, he deconstructs each scene and character journey (which are color-coded in the maps) to create a flowchart. “Then I start building my reference file from film stills, behind the scenes shots of the sets, location shots, Google Earth—even LEGO recreations if [they’re] helpful,” he explains. He then creates a blocking sketch before going in with pencils and paint.
“The smallest ones are 50–80 hours, and the largest go up to 600–1,000 hrs,” DeGraff said. “It’s often tedious but meditative work and I’ve come to love it. And I get to listen to a lot of audiobooks and music while I work since I don’t have to fully concentrate while I spend a day painting 800 trees or something.” To see more of DeGraff’s attention to detail in painted trees and movie landmarks, follow him on Instagram.
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Illustrator and paper artist Katrin Rodegast fused human anatomy and city maps in her editorial work for Globe, the magazine of ETH Zurich, a Swiss science, technology, engineering and mathematics university. Rodegast rolled, coiled, cut, and scored colorful maps to form a heart, brain, lungs, spine, and knee joint. Curving highways and waterways seem to mimic the intricate network of capillaries that surround our organs, while also highlighting the innovation that arises from different systems and organizations working together.
The anatomical creations were made to showcase “Zurich Heart,” a flagship project involving nearly 20 research groups, which aims to develop a fully implantable artificial heart. Rodegast works with a wide variety of brands with a focus on magazine covers and editorials, often in the realm of health and science. You can see more of the Berlin-based artist’s paper illustrations on Instagram and Behance.
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Cross-Sections of Geological Formations and Views of the Cosmos Bring the World to Life in 19th Century Educational Charts
In 1887 Levi Walter Yaggy published the Geographical Portfolio – Comprising Physical, Political, Geological, and Astronomical Geography with his publishing company, Western Publishing House of Chicago. The popular set of maps and charts (an expanded second edition was released six years later) was intended for teachers to use in classroom settings. The two by three-foot sheets used clever composite images to convey the range of topography and animals around the world, resulting in dense caves and steep mountain peaks that could be straight out of a fantasy novel.
In addition to their imaginative designs and eye-catching color palettes, Yaggy made strides in the teaching aid field by incorporating interactive elements. Each set included a 3-dimensional relief map of the United States and latches revealed hidden diagrams on individual charts. Unfortunately, despite his forward-thinking designs, Yaggy did include the era’s all-too-common racist depictions of non-white populations on some of his cultural maps.
You can explore the full range of Yaggy’s Geographical Portfolio via digital scans on David Rumsey’s map website (where they are available as on-demand prints and as high-resolution downloads), and learn more about the charts on National Geographic. (via this isn’t happiness)
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In 2016 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that 2019 would be the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The declaration’s goal was to raise awareness for disappearing language systems around the world, while mobilizing a coordinated global effort to help preserve them. At the time of the meeting it was estimated that 40% of the world’s 6,700 languages were at risk of disappearing. This threatens the history of the associated cultures, while also erasing thousands of years of knowledge systems valuable for protecting the environment, peace making, and national resource development.
The Endangered Alphabets Project is a Vermont-based nonprofit organization that supports endangered, minority, and indigenous cultures by helping to preserve their writing systems. For the past six years they have researched and compiled information on endangered languages, exhibited artwork using the cultures’ sayings, proverbs, and spiritual texts, and partnered with organizations to publish educational materials and games in endangered languages. Through their research they have also created an interactive website that tracks these languages across the globe. The Atlas of Endangered Alphabets is a clickable map compiled from languages across the world. Many of these scripts do not have an official status in their country, state, or province, and are not taught in government-funded schools.
“My goal is to include scripts from indigenous and minority cultures who are in danger of losing their sense of history, identity, and purpose and who are trying to protect, preserve and/or revive their writing system as a way of reconnecting to their past, their dignity, their sense of a way ahead,” explained Tim Brookes, the founder and president of the Endangered Alphabets Project. “A traditional script is a visual reminder of a people’s identity—as we can tell by the number of cultures that continue to use their script as an emblem (on printed invitations, on shop fronts, even on the national flag) long after most people have stopped using it for everyday purposes.”
As a general rule, the atlas is guided by Article 13 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which says: “Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.” The project is therefore not necessarily about the language, but about the people that speak and continue to carry these writing systems as tradition.
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The Voyageurs Wolf Project is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota and Voyageurs National Park which tracks and studies wolves throughout the warmer months. In 2018, the project studied six northern Minnesota packs, creating a map that showcases the intensely territorial way the animals behave, and how tightly they stick to their packs. The brightly colored line drawings were composed from 68,000 GPS locations of the six packs, with negligible crossover between the data-driven formations.
Not only does the information help researchers track where wolves have been, but also which prey the wolves have killed. “This detailed GPS-data is incredibly valuable for understanding pack boundaries and also for our predation research,” explains a post from the Voyageurs Wolf Project. “We visited every spot these wolves spent more than 20 minutes to determine if the wolves made a kill. This required an estimated 5,000 miles of hiking this past summer from our field crew!!”
After the original map circulated widely, the team decided to bring the information to life, which you can observe in the GIF below. The moving image includes data from April 15, 2018 to the end of October of the same year, with GPS locations taken every 20 minutes. You can follow more data collected by the Minnesota-based team on Facebook. (via Twisted Sifter)
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Scott Reinhard combines contemporary land elevations with historic maps to create three-dimensional environments of a specific region, city, or state. To produce the digital maps, he pulls elevation data from the United States Geological Survey, which he then embeds with location information and merges with the original design of the old maps.
Producing these hybrids allows the Brooklyn-based graphic designer to gain a better sense of the topography found in large areas without aerial photography, while also developing a story from the cartographic information. He often selects locations he has personally visited or is generally curious about for his digitally produced works. “I am from Indiana, which always felt so flat and boring,” he explains to Colossal. “When I began rendering the elevation data for the state, the story of the land emerged. The glaciers that receded across the northern half of the state after the last ice age scraped and gouged and shaped the land in a way that is spectacularly clear.”
By visualizing the history that shaped a location’s composition at a large scale, Reinhard is able to notice trends in the environment in a more localized way. These forces affect how we traverse our daily environments, but are hard to comprehend without taking the time to zoom out, or look at from above. “As a visual person, I was most intrigued by the ability to visually harness data and create images that helped me gain insight into locations,” he continues. “I felt empowered by the ability to collect and process the vast amounts of information freely available, and create beautiful images.”
Reinhard was introduced to the methods he uses in his digital maps through Daniel Huffman’s website Something About Maps. You can see more of Reinhard’s digital works on Instagram and buy select high-quality prints, on his website. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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