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ARTELLAGRAM, May 26, 2006
May 26, 2006
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Exploring Creativity, On and Off the Map
by Marney Makridakis

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned in my weekly "Memo to Artella Members" a bit about my experience with maps, and how they have been inspiring me creatively, and several Members have written me about this, asking to hear more. So today's article includes ideas and tricks and tools for how maps can play a role in literally re-directing your creativity.

You could say I've had a bit of an obsession with maps over the past few months. It all started when I created the Table of Contents for

Artella 9, THE JOURNEY: Destination & Imagination. I decided to make the Table of Contents an actual "map", which would guide the reader to move through the issue, passing through both real and imaginary locations. (I'd like to share a free poster of The Journey Map with you, which you can download here.)

It was an amazing experience, creating a fictional Map. It brought me back to a childlike state of mind, where I got to make my own rules. Imaginary continents got to float next to real ones. It was so freeing!

As you've know no doubt experienced, once we're attracted to something, we start seeing it everywhere. And so since then, I've started seeing and experiencing great ways to incorporate maps into creativity. Here are some resources and ideas to share with you:

  • The book, Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer, is a fascinating find. It's all about the ways in which writing and mapmaking are similar, and the intersections between maps and books. It's dense, but a fascinating read.

  • In the book The Creative License: giving Yourself Permission to Be The Artist You Truly Are, Danny Gregory devotes two pages to ideas for drawing maps. He suggests drawing maps of your trip to and from work, drawing your childhood home, mapping your elementary school, mapping places you've ever traveled, mapping the origins of the food you eat, mapping a task you do every day, step by step. I took out my crayons and drew a map of my elementary school and it brought out so many interesting memories, just trying to recall the space and environment.

  • If you've never worked with MindMaps as a brainstorming technique, it's a fabulous way to get your mind thinking in new ways. Much juicier than lists, MindMapping involves puttnig a central ideas drawn in a circle on page, and then radiating ideas out from that point. For more info on MindMapping, read any of Tony Buzan's books on the subject, or look up "mind mapping" in a search can even find software where you can do it on a computer!

  • Create maps of your mind, your imagination, your soul, and your body. Not only art projects, these can be true self-expression exercises as well!

  • Lately I've been on a kick painting on maps, instead of canvas or paper. Read more about this in the Art Tip, below!

Perhaps the age-old mystery in maps can inspire a bit of creative magic in your life, too! You never know where your true north is hiding!

I've been painting on old, large maps, instead of canvases or paper, and it's brought a new dimension to both the process of painting and the final work. Painting on a map is like having a dialogue with lines, shapes, colors, and spaces. You have to choose what to cover and what to leave exposed, and what kind of opacity and translucency to use on the parts of the map that you cover up.

It also involves creating a relationship with the places that the map represents, and asking questions like, "Are these real places?" "What do they add to this painting?" "Why is THIS map in particular in this painting, as opposed to any other?" (an important question when using any ephemera, not to mention when it's your entire painting surface!)

On a practical note, I used acrylic paints to paint on these old maps. I imagine they would be too flimsy to withstand watercolor unless they were first mounted on watercolor paper. In general, old maps in particular can be quite fragile. For durability, you may want to mount them on a stretched canvas, either before or after you paint on the map.

See the painting in full size, and to see other examples!

Maps are great tools for writing, too. Take a look at these examples:

For fiction:
When you are writing stories, drawing maps for the different locations in the story is a great way to capture details, ensure consistency, and expand your sense of place.

For poetry:
Sketch figurative maps, such as what the map of love looks like, or the map of the ocean's sigh. Allow those images to breathe new life into your poetry.

For non-fiction:
Use mind-maps (see the feature article for an explanation) to help you organize your thoughts and resources.

This is one of those exercises that needs to be done, and not just read and thought about. Give it a try. Your maps don't need to be fancy or "artistic". They can just be pencil sketches on a piece of paper, or even a napkin. It's just about orienting yourself visually in order to better inform your writing. Why not use all the tools you have at hand?

Now it's easier than ever to get Artella news at least once a week, sometimes more, in the Artella News Blog. And what's more...with almost every post, there's a BlogJog "sneaky" Special hidden in the post, which is a sale or freebie that's listed exclusively in the blog, and only for a few days. Look what special deal is there, right now!.

  1. May is almost over…and so is our amazing Collage Kit sale! Our fabulous "Muse, MAY I?" sale has been sweeping the Artella community and bringing joy to creative folks everywhere! You still have a few more days to celebrate our famousCatalyst Collection™ collage kits in this unprecedented sale!

    From now until midnight on Wednesday, May 31, you save $10 off ANY single kit. Buy any TWO kits, save $20 and ALSO receive a free 1/4 lb. bag of world coins for you to use in your art! Buy any THREE kits, save $30, get the bag of coins, AND get your choice of $30 worth of free Artella eProducts! What more could your Muse ask for this May? Good all month long at the The Art Supply General Store! But note that our stock is limited. We've already sold out of one kit, and others are very close to selling out as well. So, ask your Muse which kits she wants, and jump in on the "Muse, MAY I?" sale before the deadline comes and your favorites sell out!

  2. Rock Out with Marney and Jill Badonsky! The World of Pretend: Using the Power of Imagination to Live Your Dream has been rescheduled for Wednesday, May 31. This teleclass presents Jill (esteemed author of The Nine Modern-Day Muses and a Bodyguard) and me at the top of our game, so we can bring you to the top of YOUR game, using powerful exercises and activities with highly unusual power to make your dreams come true. Artella Members save $5.00 off this class! Come see what it's about! Info and signup are at

  3. Advertise with Artella! We're now taking advertisers for the upcoming issue of e-Artella #e-9, and first-time advertisers can save 50% off the cost of any ad. However, you must reserve your ad at by Monday, May 29, and we must receive the artwork by Wednesday, May 31. Contact Anthony at with questions.

  4. New feature for Artella Members! You thought having 100 clip art images in the Members' Art Studio archives was enough? Well, we didn't! With our new Members' ClipAsks, Artella Members now get two free pieces of clip art EVERY week, just for answering two quick survey questions. There's also a weekly drawing for a great gift! Just one more reason to love Artella Membership!

    One of the ClipAsk questions this week asks Members which Membership feature they like the best. Well, it's no surprise that so far, the feature in the lead is our daily LinkLatte email! Are you thirsty for a daily shot of creative Web destiny? Become a Member for only $3.00/month with no commitment, and sign up for this nifty daily treat! Sign up at!

  5. Need wedding gifts? The Wedding Shoppe in The Shoppes of Artella is open for business! Come visit! And for your handmade wedding gifts, don't miss the Wedding Whimsicalia Collage Kit – it's on sale until the end of the month! And no matter WHAT kinds of gifts you're shopping for, you can ALWAYS use our Interactive SmartShopper to help you shop for anything, anyone, anywhere.

  6. Sprites of Spring . . . your second gift is due! If you’re one of the many generous souls participating in the Sprites of Spring gift exchanges, this is just a reminder that your 2nd gift needs to be in the mail before the end of the month! If you have any questions, contact Fred at Don't forget to come read and/or post comments and messages to your Sprite and Sprite-ee on the SpriteWrites page! Come see what others have posted about this special project!

It's party time! Today's links are all about helping you connect and create with other people in unique ways!

  1. Why not throw an Art Party, such as the one suggested by our friends at Zero G Danno at Make their book bouquet, or try one of their many other projects! Tres fun! (And be sure to round out your art supplies with some Catalyst Collection collage kits while they are still on sale!)

  2. Or throw a "service soiree", in which you gather with friends to create boxes or kits to send to a worthy organization, such as the school supply kits created for Operation Iraqi Children. These kits are inexpensive and easy to make, and the instructions on the Web site are simple to follow.

    This is a suggestion from the book The Difference a Day Makes: 365 Ways to Change Your World in 24 Hours or Less by Karen M. Jones. If making a difference appeals to you, come join "compassion-fruit", the online discussion group that was co-founded by Karen and me, at

This Quotz Crystal™ is a high-resolution JPEG, suitable for printing. Print it out to remind you that you have a fascinating your JOURNAL about it!

If the image doesn't show up below, go to to see it.

Compassionately, compass-ingly yours,

Artella Founder & Publisher

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