Working on the Canvas Map Project, Part 1

Every summer as a kid, my dad took me and my younger sister to a couple of new US states for a short vacation. After ten years of doing that, plus some school and personal trips, I’d covered 48 states.

Now that Jey’s here, I want him to see all of the amazing vistas and interesting spots around this massive country, so we’ve started doing a fair bit of traveling ourselves. But we ran into a couple of problems: first, what’s the best way to keep the memories of those trips alive in our home, so that we can enjoy them, and share them with others? Second, how can we display our digital photos, and further, still tell a story about where we’ve been and what we’ve seen?

We eventually landed on a solution…

Creating a giant canvas map to be displayed in our home to be a constantly-evolving piece of artwork ties our first problem together neatly: as we travel to new places, we’ll paint on the names of the cities we visit along with landmarks, city emblems, whatever strikes our fancy and triggers memories of the trip.

Unfortunately, nobody manufactures canvases in the size we really wanted, so we bought canvas stretchers and custom-cut braces, along with a massive roll of canvas.

Once that was assembled, we made a gridded map of the country, then taped off the canvas to make sure the lines were accurate.

We wanted the look of the finished piece to be personal and informal, so once the lines were on, we drew in all the state shapes by hand. This is a lot harder than you might imagine, particularly on states that hit the northern and eastern borders of the country.

(Here, you can see that we started drawing in all the states with the tape still on. That got pretty complicated, so it didn’t last long, and we eventually got all the grids down, removed the tape, and finished up the rest of the states.)

The entire thing is drawn now, and the grid lines are erased. The next step will be painting it, and then adding all of the city art for places we’ve been, like San Francisco, Boulder, Colorado, Dallas, Austin, New York…

Then, we have to deal with the second part of the problem: how can we connect all of our trip photos from those places to this large, physical record? We’ve had an idea that shouldn’t be too hard to execute. But for now, stay tuned.

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