Introduction: Creating a Map With Flowers + Constructing Your Own Artistic Style
The Flower Map is a fun summer or spring project that motivates you to enjoy the beauty and colors of the outdoors. It will spark creativity and build your skills as an artist as you're enjoying life!
For this contest, my idea for the maps theme was to create a colorful map that correlates with the average world temperatures. Temperature maps have a very colorful spectrum – white and blue being the coldest and red being the warmest. This creates a very beautiful gradient of warm and cold temperatures. What’s a better way to show the beauty of colors than nature itself?
In this tutorial, I am going to describe…
- How I created my map
- How to freehand something accurately
- My techniques of how to work with colors
I will now take you on a detailed journey of how I made my map! I’m going to thoroughly explain tips on a step-by-step basis as well as my own ways of thinking through the project. I am a self-taught artist with my own techniques and thoughts, so I hope I can spread my experience that I have gained over a lifetime of making art. Hopefully by the end of the tutorial, you will be more able to adapt your own natural skills and creativity to your artwork! But first, here’s a list of (inexpensive) items you will need!
- Wooden board (specific details explained later)
- Pencil & eraser
- Hot glue or liquid glue of choice
- Reference map – for drawing and for color scheming
- Flowers, leaves, berries, or anything colorful you can find in nature! (IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: In many public parks or recreation areas, you are not allowed to pick flowers. My flowers came from my family’s own private land, so make sure that everything you are doing is legal!)
- Your own unique, artistic self!
Step 1: Choosing the Board
The first step in this tutorial is to chose a rectangular wooden board to put the map on. For the size of the board, choose whichever size you want, but make sure that the length-to-width ratio is 3:2 to fit the map without any extra space leftover and to make sure you have enough space. I chose a lighter-colored board to show off the vibrant colors of the flowers. Another idea could be a darker board with lighter-colored flowers – you are just looking for contrast between the two. We want to illuminate your beautiful flowers!
Step 2: Drawing the Map
For the map, I just drew it freehand while looking at a picture of a world map. You don’t need to draw the smaller countries – just the continents! Don’t forget Antarctica; the white flowers really pop out the other colors. If you do not want to freehand the map, you can print out, cut, and trace the outlines of the continents. If you want to freehand, here are some tips on how I did it:
How do I know where to start and how big to make everything?
First, to make sure that you are not drawing the map too big or too small relative to the size of the board, take note of the sizes of the continents. For example, North America will take about 1/3 of the space of the map horizontally and a little less than 1/2 the space vertically. I measured the length of the board and divided that number by 3, then put a marking on that number so I know how big to make North America. The same goes for the width – just divide the width by 2 and make that number slightly smaller to account for the fact that North America isn’t perfectly 1/2 the width of the world. I did this for all the continents as well as prominent spots on some continents to make sure that I keep my place as I’m drawing.
Where do I start drawing?
Technique #1: Freehand
Once you’ve planned out your dimensions, just start drawing! The hardest part is the first part, then it’s pretty easy after that. The technique I used was a mental grid. That may sound a little weird, but I’ll explain it! First, I drew the entire continents of North and South America by looking at a world map. It is vital to draw this as close to scale as possible because you will be using it as a reference point for the rest of the map. Don’t only look at the picture of the map as you’re drawing – also keep in mind what the continents should look like from general knowledge of their appearances. So how can you accurately draw North and South America? Once you’ve completed a small part of a continent, you can use that as a reference point of where to draw everything else! For example, I used Michigan as a way to draw Florida vertically (the left side of Florida starts directly below where the right side of Michigan ends). I also used the right side of Florida as a reference point of where to begin the left side of Peru.
As you get to the Eastern continents on the right side of your map, it will just much easier because you will have more and more reference points! It takes time and a whole lot of patience to draw everything to scale, but personally I enjoy that challenge and I feel that it makes me a better artist! One more tip for drawing – I prefer to do the whole thing in one sitting because the scale will be fresh in your head and you will get into a groove that may be difficult to get back into if you were to take a break from drawing. Once you think you’re done, look at your map as a whole and see if it looks right. Compare it to your reference map and compare it to what you think it should look like and make any corrections from there.
Technique #2: Freehand with a grid system
If you don’t want to just start drawing, you can use a grid system! A grid system allows you to know what is in line with what, both horizontally and vertically. This is easier to get the details correct than the regular freehand style and it leads you on the right path toward being able to draw without a grid! First, lay a grid over the reference map you have on your computer. You can find a grid on different apps or websites – even on the ‘Photos’ app. If your reference picture is printed out, draw the grid in even increments. Smaller grids are easier to create the details and larger grids are a bit more difficult. Next, using the same relative increments as you did on the computer or paper, draw a grid on your board. (By ‘same relative increments,’ I mean that the grid lines on the computer between, say, Germany and Russia, should be the same distance on your board.) Make sure to use a pencil to draw your grid so you can erase it once you’re done with it! The grid lines will allow you to zone in on smaller squares on your map so that you can draw each portion of the map at a time.
Once you’re finished, carefully erase your gridlines, making sure not to erase your map. Take a look at your map and make sure all the lines connect and it matches what the map should look like.
Step 3: Finding a Reference Color Map
You can now prepare to add color to your map! The reference map that I went off of is an average annual temperature map I found from the University of Wisconsin-Madison website. However, this is where your own creativity comes in! Your map doesn’t have to resemble temperature; I chose it because I just really love the colors of a temperature map and I wanted to show those off. You can do your own colors and let your artistic brain go! Or you can do a map that shows snowfall by using cooler colors or rainfall that has a different distribution of colors. Fall colors would be pretty as well! Whatever catches your eye will look amazing!
Step 4: Adding the Flowers
Now it’s time for the fun part!! Go have fun in nature! Look for vibrant colors that stand out to you! However as I said before, make sure that you are not illegally picking any flowers or leaves. If you are in a public area, contact the organization in charge of that area to see what is okay to take from nature. If you are on private land, make sure to get permission to pick flowers from the owner. We (my family) have private land, so I was able to take whatever I want.
Once you’ve contacted the correct people, you’re all ready! Bring with you or just keep in mind your map that you have chosen. I just went out and picked whatever stood out to me! I stuck with picking flowers, leaves, berries, and a couple mushrooms. Some other ideas could be moss, bark, rocks, feathers, bones… again, this is where you can show your own artistic style! (I just keep calling everything ‘flowers’ to simplify all the different things you can use.) I stored all of my flowers in a little notebook so that they can all lay nice and flat without any crumpling. Make sure to use them right away to prevent any wilting!
After obtaining your natural colors, you may begin gluing! I used hot glue, but you can use a different liquid glue such as gorilla glue. To glue, all you have to do is glue the back of a flower and stick it on the board! I thoroughly glued everything, petals and all, to ensure the stick. You could also glue the board first then place a flower down.
Where do I start gluing flowers down?
I didn’t really go from continent-to-continent in an organized fashion with my approach. I just randomly took whichever flower that was next in my notebook and placed it wherever it corresponded with the reference map. This way, your types of flowers (species, size, etc.) will be randomized and as you improve with your technique, that will be randomized as well. The layering of your flowers will also become randomized. With this kind of artwork (and many, many other kinds), the key is randomization!
What are some techniques for working with colors?
In terms of organizing your colors on your map, everybody has their own way, but I will tell you how I did it:
For my temperature map, I took note of the gradient and ombre-effect of the colors. The colors didn’t just go from green to yellow to red. The green become a lime, yellowish-green before becoming yellow, and so on. This makes sense because temperatures, like colors, don’t just have strict borders – they go from warm to a little cooler to even more cooler to cold. This fluctuation creates a beautiful gradient of colors! So, in order to replicate this effect, I used two techniques. Let’s use red and yellow as an example.
Technique #1: Sharp changes in colors
On areas of the map with sharper contrasts (seen on coasts and areas with both very high and very low elevations), I used larger yellow flowers on one side, larger red flowers on the other side, and in between, since it is such a sharp change, I would just take a couple smaller yellow or red flowers (or even just the petals) and I would glue them on top of the yellow-red border. This showed both a gradient and a sharp change in temperature.
Technique #2: Gradual changes in colors
The second technique occurred in areas where there was a more gradual change in temperature. So, to continue with our red and yellow example, the gradient would be much longer, creating orange in between red and yellow. So, I would find orange flowers and glue those between the red and the yellow flowers. Still be cognizant of the gradient and be sure to allow the yellow to morph into the orange and the orange to morph into the red by using those smaller flowers and petals.
How do I make use of more precise shapes, like berries and mushrooms?
As you can see from the map I created, I used berries and mushrooms, but only on some coastal lines and islands. I personally did not glue berries around the entire perimeters of the continents because that could look too organized, not random, and too sharp. Also, since I had red, orange, and purple berries, I only glued them where red, orange, and purple were most prominent so that the berries were more randomly spaced apart. Again – randomization is key! Note that I did not put any berries in the middle of any continents. This is because the brightness, sharpness, and precise shape of the berries would have separated the gradual effects that the flowers are making with one another. The flowers each have different shapes and sizes that blend into one another, and this creates a beautiful and smooth gradient that things like berries could otherwise distract the eye from.
How can I focus on contrast and color focus?
One more thing that I would like to note is the importance of Antarctica. Antarctica has much more extreme climates than the rest of the world and that shows a contrast. This contrast further pops out the colors of the other flowers. For me, contrast is one of the most essential elements to keep in mind when creating art, and Antarctica is the perfect natural contrast. The way that the temperature of Antarctica is white while the rest of the world has colors both brings out the vibrancy of the colors of the flowers and brings out the beauty of white flowers. Always keep in mind things like this when creating any type of art!
Step 5: And Just Like That, You're Done!
Congratulations, your flower map is finished! Make sure to display your artwork where everyone can see and take lots of pictures before it wilts! Although it is a temporary piece of art, it actually stays colorful and full for a week or even longer, depending on where you are storing it!
I hope you have gained some insights into how to create art in this tutorial, and I hope that you can make your own creative flower map!
If you have any questions or comments please let me know – I love talking about art, giving more tips, and even learning more from you all!
Thank you for checking out my work!
Runner Up in the