Friday, January 16, 2009

Mail, for You: My Moving Announcement

The Interimaginational Institute for Fantastical Exploration & Cartography is excited to announce its big move back to my original blog, at

The new blog will have all sorts of exciting happenings, including some cool destash giveaways from my really extensive library.

I will not be closing this blog, but I will no longer be updating it, so to keep up with my wanderings, exploring, and map-making, please do visit me over there. I look forward to seeing you! Also, the Institute now has its own Flickr account, so please stop by there as well!

Realm of Unicornia Map

(If you have any trouble finding me, please feel free to email me at paintandink @

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Living the Map

Living the Map is such a delicious phrase, isn't it? Just three words, but packed with so much possibility that they make me want to pack my bags, jump in the car and get moving. And that's before learning the story behind them.

Daniel Seddiqui, a recent graduate of my own alma mater, couldn't find a job after graduation, so he hopped in his car, and set out on an extraordinary journey: traveling to 50 states in 50 weeks, working at a different job in each place: meatpacker, farmer, rodeo announcer, wedding coordinator, Border Patrol agent, and, appropriately, a cartographer.

Daniel as a rodeo announcer.

He has a whole page on his site to explain why, but really, why not?

Truth be told, I am doing exactly what I want to be doing right now, and delighted about it. But I still have a list of dream careers, from ESL teacher to marine biologist (he did that, too) to Imagineer, and wouldn't it be fun someday, when I'm itching for something new, to try them each out for a week or even a month? And, even better, to take the road trip of all road trips, to each of the 50 states. It is my secret (not-so-green*) dream to travel the United States in an RV, and just take my ink and brushes and paints with me, to map as I go.

But Daniel's story also appeals to me for another reason. I've been thinking a lot lately about the world and all its greatness and all its problems and how two people from the same country can have such extremely different opinions about how things should be. Not to mention people from two different hemispheres.

And I've been thinking about how some people live in very small, constrained worlds, when they don't have to, often just because they don't realize there is more to the world beyond their limited experiences. Some people get very belligerent when they say this is how things should be, regarding this issue or that policy, or this war or that country's actions, or this religion or that philosophy. Some people don't seem to ever consider other perspectives. And I used to think this was because they were narrow-minded, but maybe it's because the just don't know there are other perspectives. They don't remember how to look.

As Daniel Seddiqui says, "I was unaware of what life was like outside my bubble."

Daniel as a marine biologist.

I'm not against opinions, not at all. I am fond of opinions, especially my own, and frankly, some of my own probably are narrow-minded, too. It's just that I think - my opinion is - that the more different types of experiences you have, the more tolerant you becomes of other viewpoints, other lifestyles, and other cultures. You don't always have to understand why people do things a different way. You just have to understand that there is a different way.

I think most of the readers of this blog have had experiences in learning that there is a different way. And maybe you have found, like I have, when it comes to solving problems, that once you understand that other perspectives exist, the more willing you'll tend to be to try fluid solutions instead of applying one-size-fits-all, rigid solutions. I often get overwhelmed by obstacles and problems, but as my horizons become ever broader, my mind is more and more likely to jump immediately to thinking of ways to solve the problems.

You just have to have one motivation, more than any other: curiosity. Even while I think there are no certain solutions to the world's problems, I think curiosity is a key element in all of them. (We can't try new solutions until we want to find out what they might be.) And I mean any curiosity (as long as it doesn't cause harm, of course), even if it's just finding out how people decorate their homes in another country. Because curiosity is like creativity: nurture the spark and you can build a fire.

So while there aren't many people who can take a journey like Daniel Seddiqui's and literally "live the map," the rest of us can travel vicariously, explore virtually, and nurture our own curiosity. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think curiosity is an innate human quality, and some people just don't remember how to keep the fire going. And I also think it's contagious. The more we indulge our own curiosity, the more it will spread, and the more our collective horizons will expand: curiosity about decorating becomes curiosity about daily life becomes curiosity about economics becomes curiosity about government.

Daniel as a cartographer.

We don't have to become experts, but I think eventually, after curiosity becomes knowledge, knowledge transforms into ideas. It simple, maybe too simple, but it's a start, I think. And then we can, together, really make the world a better place.

(At least, that's my opinion.)

* Maybe by the time I achieve that dream, there will be solar powered RVs.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Biggest Little City

Reno, Nevada, 8"x10", watercolor and India ink
© 2009 Alison Whittington, all rights reserved

I'm going to make a concerted effort this year to share more of my artwork on my blog. This map of Reno, Nevada, commissioned last year, is one of my favorites, but that could just be because Reno is the closest thing I have to a hometown...

... No, it really is one of my favorites. I am especially fond of the compass rose and Circus Circus.

And Fleischmann Planetarium, because I spent a lot of time there in high school, happy in my nerdiness. That's where I first ate astronaut ice cream. Not on my list of most delicious foods ever eaten, but clearly on my list of most memorable foods ever eaten. (Right up there with pulling a spoon out of my soup to find a tentacle draped across it. And that is another story.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Maps, to Start the Year Off on the Right Foot, er, Hand...

I hope this blog post finds you all well and starting off your new year happily...

We are back from our northeast post-holiday cross-year excursion, having enjoyed delicious beverages, eaten some of the best breakfasts ever, and cheered each of our favorite football teams to victory (mine, college, and his, professional).

And now I have wrapped up my first day back by diving into the backlog of Google Alerts I have set up for keywords and phrases like "imaginary maps," "cartography," "watercolor maps," and every variation of my name and/or shop name that I could think of.

This is often, especially for "cartography," a lovely way to discover other people's maps and artwork and generally delightful things.

Like the Hand Drawn Map Association. Where have you been all my life, oh, Hand Drawn Map Association?

Actually (tucking my head down and lowering my voice), I have seen the Hand Drawn Map Association before... but couldn't remember how to get there again... lost the map, you see.

Not a problem. Thanks to Cartophilia, I found my way.

I love the detail in this map, by Alex Williams:

This anonymous map is great... bringing to mind the question, what did I do while spending countless hours in meetings over the years? Nothing nearly so interesting, I think.

I'm fond of this one, by Andrea Biller-Collins, since my birthday is Groundhog Day:

And an imaginary world, or two, after my own heart (drawn by Jamie McQuinn, who I believe is the Cartophiliac himself, which might just show that all roads take us back to where we started):

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Moving Pictures

This is an video of art illustrating a song about art. It's just lovely. Magical, actually.

(Via Luca Has 2 Mommies)

I loved the video so much, I went to iTunes and bought the song.

Do You Know Your State's Motto?

Check out this awesome map, a composite of 50 linocuts, from artist Emily Wick (via Prêt à Voyager).

Emily says, on Anne's site:

Believe it or not, they are the official mottos. Each state only has one official motto (though occasionally a state will change it).

However, a state can have many slogans; they are typically used for advertising purposes, such as "Vacationland" or "The Sunshine State".

The mottos are often written in Latin on the flag and other official documents, so many people are not familiar with a motto even if they live in the state!

Thanks for visiting Two Eyeballs. Maryland's is definitely the most eyebrow-raising...

She offers shirts and other goodies with the individual states, as well, in her gift shop.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Accidental Deliciousness

I meant to make haystacks, which are very simple: melted butterscotch chips and chow mein noodles in clumps.

But I forgot that the recipe didn't include marshmallows, so I added marshmallows.

But then it was too sticky, and I realized my mistake.

And I do like marshmallows, but I don't like overly marshmallowy things (blame it on an overdose of rice krispy treats as a kid). So I decided to add chocolate chips to the marshmallow-butterscotch mix, to balance it out a bit.

Then I stirred in the chow mein noodles. And at some point, a half stick of butter.

The mess was too sticky to form spoonful cookies, so I pushed it all into a 9 x 13 baking pan and let it cool.

Oh-my-god good.

Sticky, but not too sticky, not too firm. Not too sweet, either. Just sweet enough to make them irresistible. Do you know what I mean?

Here's the recipe (I've unofficially named them earthworm cookies, because that's what they look like, but there's got to be a more appetizing name):

1/2 stick butter
1 bag marshmallows
1 bag butterscotch chips
1 bag chocolate chips
1 can chow mein noodles

Melt it all together, push into pan. Let cool. Enjoy.