By day, Scott Reinhard designs graphics for The New York Times. Recently, he created a United States map detailing where city-dwellers fled during the pandemic and another showing how the Pantanal wetland in Brazil has transformed into a massive inferno. Incorporating an ever-growing swath of data, his daily tasks are connected to the fluctuations of news cycles.
But in his off-hours, the Brooklyn-based designer takes a broader look at the state of the nation. He merges vintage maps and contemporary elevation data, creating stunning digital works that flatten the differences of time and space into hybrid objects. While his graphics for The Times are rooted in the ever-changing present, his personal work is nestled within historical contexts.
Reinhard’s interest in data and map-generation grew while he was pursuing a master’s degree in graphic design at North Carolina State University, particularly during an introductory course centered around geographic information systems. “I basically became aware of all these cartography tools that I had no idea about. Because I wasn’t coming from that background, I was free to play around… and approach visualizing geographic data in new and interesting ways,” he says.
That experimental period spurred Reinhard’s ideas of fusing historical maps and contemporary land elevations, and he began exploring filtering, a cartographic method that calculates a theoretical sun and provides data about corresponding landscapes. “It’s pretty crude, but it really fascinated me that from a flat, black-and-white image, which is basically what elevation data looks like, you could interpolate this scene,” he shares, noting that he began to work with 3-D renderings around the same time. “That data that’s stored in a paper map can still be activated.”
Since 2019, Reinhard has refined his focus and shifted to larger series. “I’m still interested in these USGS (United States Geological Survey) maps as graphic objects and as really beautiful works of graphic design. What I’ve really been enjoying is to build these out,” he says. The more comprehensive collections have included studies of Alaskan maps from the 1950s, one series focused on the Oregon coast, and another considering south-central Indiana where he was raised.
A macro-view captures the intricacies and histories etched into the landscape of a region, showcasing glacial formations, seismic activity, and how a mountain range emerged during a period of years. “I realized once I started visualizing the landscape that, on a day-to-day standpoint when you look around you, you see elevation changes, but you don’t really see patterns. We’re just a little too small,” he says. Because USGS maps utilize coordinates, they also circumvent more political orientations found in documents outlining territories or other cordoned-off areas, offering an opportunity to correct false narratives that have been perpetuated by cartographic objects in the past. The historical maps hold additional information on trends and periods in design, which manifest in aesthetic choices like style and color.
Reinhard currently is working his way through producing a collection of USGS-recommended maps from the 1950s, a novel project that’s rooted in exploration and curiosity. “All maps are exaggerations, to some extent,” he says. “You can push and pull what the map says and what the map tells you.” Explore Reinhard’s extensive collection of digital works on Instagram and his site, where he also sells an array of prints.
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Shaped Using Precisely Cut Maps, Nikki Rosato's Busts and Portraits Connect Place, Memory, and Identity
Through mesh busts and delicate portraits, Nikki Rosato visualizes the connections between place and identity. The Washington, D.C.-based artist carves out the multi-colored highways and back roads from common maps, leaving the distances and spatial markings intact. She then shapes the cut paper into figurative sculptures and 2D artworks that vary in density and color depending on the original city or region.
Rosat utilizes the precise markings of cartography to highlight the complex, inner-workings of memory and belonging. “As we move through life, the places we inhabit and the people that we meet alter and shape us into the person that we are in the present day. I am interested in the idea that a place I visited as a child has affected the outcome of the person that I am today,” she says.
In a note to Colossal, the artist shares that she shifted her practice after her grandmother died in 2018. “I’ve taken the last few years to do a lot of research into my strong matriarchal lineage (my great grandmother literally walked hundreds of miles on foot with a 2-year-old to escape Lithuania in the early 1900s and then built our family in a small town in Pennsylvania),” she says, adding that her current projects consider the trajectory of these two figures’ lives.
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From his Brighton-based studio on the seafront, Mark Powell (previously) pieces together crinkled book pages and postcards laden with travel dispatches. The vintage collages serve as backdrops for the artist’s oversized portraits of older folks, whose pensive stares and deep wrinkles are rendered gently in ballpoint pen. Often magnified, the subjects complement the weathered, ephemeral surfaces that span multiple feet. “I’m currently working on a series of larger works because they have much more impact on the viewer, more confronting yet comfortable I’m hoping. It is also much more tricky because by just using a ballpoint pen no mistakes can be made, and it would be a terrible shame to ruin a map, document, or letter that has survived hundreds of years only to be destroyed by me,” he shares with Colossal.
Each enlarged illustration—which sometimes depicts famous subjects, like Basquiat and Hunter S. Thompson— takes about a month to complete, and Powell generally works on more than one simultaneously. Recently, he’s started to slow down his artistic production as he shifts away from creating for dozens of shows every year. “The past two years, I’ve taken a step back from shows slightly to allow that evolution space to breathe. It has meant that the quality of the work has increased immeasurably (still much room for improvement of course),” he says.
Powell’s detailed illustrations will be included in an upcoming show at Hang-Up Gallery in London. Until then, dive into his repurposed projects on Behance and Instagram, and check out the available prints in his shop.
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Australian artist Shane Drinkwater writes on his website that when it comes to painting, he’s interested in the “making.” Using a system of lines, dashes, numbers, and circles, Drinkwater creates works that often appear as astronomical maps of imagined star systems. Abstract stars form repeated patterns around vibrant planets. The artist allows the act of painting to dictate how the cosmic compositions land on his canvas, and the results are visually arresting.
“I delve into the act of painting with a minimum repertoire of visual elements aiming for a maximum visual intensity,” Drinkwater writes. “Ideas and images appear through the making of the work, language becomes unnecessary, I let the work speak for me.” To see more of these cool maps and other paintings by Shane Drinkwater, follow the artist on Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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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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Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.