Cartographer’s Story #18, by Michael Sutherland
From a young age I was fascinated with places. Whether walking to the park, riding my bike, or staring out the window on long car rides I observed the world around me. I never created a map though until middle school. What began as an extra credit assignment of being a landscape designer led me to make a map of an imaginary city. The long thick scroll of sheets taped together still sits in my office today with its overly complex highway interchanges and chain stores mysteriously named for my friends. While I’ve created many other maps since then it holds a special place in my heart as my cartography beginnings.
Over the years I’ve created maps of many places I enjoy. This includes my favorite parks, cities, and regions. They’re labors of love that often take anywhere from three months (my maps of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, for example) to a year or more (State College and Lehigh Valley) to complete.
My normal drawing process is organic. Typically I have a size in mind for the map which will fit into a standard frame (24 by 36 in most often). I then begin scaling out the city/region/place on individual 9 by 12 in sheets of paper in pencil. Once it’s been sketched I’ll mostly erase the lines to a faint outline and redraw it colored pencil most likely two times. I’ll then tape the sheets of paper together like a cartographic surgeon before scanning the final map with a high grade scanner (university, work, or other specialty printing location). I wholeheartedly believe the more you work at any talent the better you’ll become. And so I continue drawing, every time improving my cartography skills.
Currently I see my work on Etsy as Sutherland Maps. At this point the shop hasn’t taken off too much but that was never the point. I create these maps as labors of love to places where I have great memories with people.
Lastly, I’ve wanted to point people to my faith in Jesus through these maps. I believe he’s given me this talent to glorify him and know that I could never make these maps on my own. And while I love the places I draw currently, I look forward to a heavenly city one day where things will be perfected (Rev 21:1-4). Until then though I’ll continue drawing, exploring God’s creation, one map at a time.