"Everything should be made as simple as possible..but not simpler." Albert Einstein

abstract map making

My younger son LOVES office supplies.  They are his favorite thing ever and first thing on his birthday wish list.  And out of all office supplies, tape is right at the top.  He has amassed quite a stash of colored tapes and one day I was looking at them all stacked up on his worktable and thought they would be really easy to use to make a great map.

In kindergarten he made a map of his classroom and so was beginning to understand the concept of map making.  For this project I wanted to limit the variables to make it easy for him to produce something beautiful in the end so we talked about making up an imaginary map, rather than mapping something existing.  This would eliminate the measuring as well as the scaling and transferring of reality to drawing.

We looked at some subway maps for inspiration, talking about the need in a map to simplify and to show only the information that is needed, in this case lines going from point A to point B.  We also talked a bit about how how roads (and public transportation lines) need to be simple themselves, to all for efficiency.  So the straighter the better.

We got a large sheet of bristol board, some scissors and all of his tape and spread out on the floor.  Then he just stared at the paper, not sure where to start.  That big blank sheet is intimidating to all ages, I guess.  I told him to choose a color and make a line going from one place to another on the paper, thinking about how that line is a line of travel for someone on a bus or train.  Once he had the first line down, it was easier for him, and he started thinking about all the places he wanted the lines to go.

I had him extend the tape over the edge of the paper onto the floor, to help keep it in place.  I also showed him how to take a roll of tape and hold it next to a line he had already put down to test out the color and placement.  He wanted to use his favorite colors over and over again so we discussed how using the same color in more than one place would be confusing on this type of map.

As the paper started to fill up, I asked him if he thought he was done.  He indicated one corner that was pretty blank and said he felt that there needed to be something there.  He added a few more lines and then we talked again about how maps shouldn’t be too confusing, or show too much information.  And then he decided that it was “done”.

In the end this became more of a lesson in color and composition than map making.  But mapping is such a complex idea I think it is difficult for young kids to grasp all at once.  I like the fact that we were able to talk about very basic map making concepts in relationship to the art he created and that he was able to end up with something beautiful in the end that he absolutely loves.  Personally I think it’s important to set these limits early on, to allow kids to be successful in creating something beautiful.  That way they will want to continue exploring.  Maybe for our next project we’ll walk around our neighborhood and make a map based more on reality.

You can get some colored tape like my son’s here. He also used some japanese washi tape.

Two previous art lessons we embarked on:


Learning to see

I wanted to show you

I love small books and murky dark colors.  And of course polaroids.  I purchased this little book a while back and fell in love with not only the images inside, but the book itself.  It’s such a simple format -the small, square shape, nice textured paper and simple pamphlet binding.  I am currently teaching a portfolio design class at the U of M and plan to show this to my students.

Along with the book, Tara sent me this original polaroid of tall trees, showing mostly their trunks.  I love the proportion of dense stands of trees with really tall trunks.

You can purchase your own copy of the book here.