As you know, then purpose of my Plants, Life, Riverside project is to make plants more visible in our increasingly busy world. It’s about telling the “plant story” of a suburban city and demonstrating we don’t need to travel to a designated natural area to see plants, animals and nature. Today I share with you an activity that not only supports this position, it also helps children and adults establish a sense of place about where they live.
I have always had an interest in maps. My interest in maps began when I saw an old globe (complete with sea monsters) at the Huntington Library when I was a young. Years later I was able to learn more about maps in a cartography class I took as an elective in college. I enjoyed the class very much. I got to sit still, draw, think and immerse myself in a subject in which I had a genuine interest.
The class was also respite from physics and organic chemistry!
It is my interest in maps that prompted me to investigate the article
Artistic Cartography by middle school art teacher, Miranda Nelken. In her article, Nelken (2012) explains how she uses topographic maps to connect students with the animals and natural areas in their area. Through a series of activities she describes in her article, Nelken teaches students how to merge animal drawing with geography, cartography and local history. She also introduces students to the work of Stuart Arnett, a Canadian artist who draws animals on topographic maps.
Applying the studio lesson presented in Nelken (2012) to botanical art will be easy to do. Nelken’s directions are very clear. What maybe isn’t so easy at first thought, is associating this lesson to the work of a contemporary botanical artist the way Nelken associates her classroom project with Arnett. Fortunately, I know of an artist who is the perfect match.
Allow me to introduce you to Susan Rubin, a botanical artist in Colorado whose work I have admired for many years. She blends maps with botanical art and I thought of Susan’s work the moment I came across Nelken’s article.
Susan has two cartography series in her portfolio. One series is about spice plants and their origins and the other is about houseplants and their origins. If you haven’t seen Susan’s cartographic images, I encourage you to take a look. They are exciting and make you think about more than just the plant and how you have come to know it.
To view Susan’s cartographic images, go to her online portfolio and click on Spice and Map. While you’re there, be sure to explore the series, Chlorophyll, a collection of colored pencil paintings about leaves.
Artistic Cartography is available online from SchoolArts magazine and can be downloaded for free.
Nelken, Miranda. 2012. Artistic cartography. SchoolArts. April 2012. Retrieved from http://www.davisart.com/Portal/SchoolArts/articles/4_12_middle-school-studio-art-lesson-plan-artistic-cartography.pdf
Do you blend maps with natural history art?
Introduce us to your work below.