Introduction: Map/Journey Wall Art

About: Making is happiness. Most of my free time involves me either being elbows deep in some project or another, or staring off into space planning every minute detail of a project that is yet to be

While wandering around a department store in the pre-holiday rush, I stumbled upon a cool piece of artwork featuring a map of London. Since my sister is an Anglophile, my first thought was 'Score! Into the trolley you go." However, as other items piled up, and my mental tally of budget vs amount of gifts teetered into hazardous territory, I began to talk myself out of it. I mean, my sister's favorite place in England is Oxford, not London. And wait! If I'm going to be making this myself, I can make it for any place, right? My sister is an actual Tolkien scholar (such things do exist--it's like the esoteric, scholarly form of the starving artist :9), so why not make her one themed around Middle-Earth? Out of the trolley expensive, generic wall art! To the workshop, ho! And thus, was money saved and an idea forged.

Back story aside, this is a very simple, inexpensive project, requiring next to no artistic skill. It would be a cute and artsy way to commemorate a journey you made (although better make it while the memories are fresh--it'll be hard to remember whether or not you stopped by Dinkelsbühl while backpacking around Germany five years after the fact), which is the coolest part about this project, in my opinion--it's completely customizable!

Step 1: The Goods

You will need:

  • A map! If you have a road map of the location, that's great to use, and adds yet another personal touch. Otherwise, if you'll be printing it yourself, I would recommend doing so on a sturdy card stock, and making a few copies on which to practice.
  • A canvas in the size of your choosing. I used a 12" x 12"
  • Paper towels
  • 2 colors of Mod Podge. Think about what features of the map you'll be highlighting. For Middle-Earth, I chose to paint the bodies of water and forests in blue and green (very original, I know). The piece used for inspiration was a detailed road map, and highlighted major routes in pink and the rivers of London in blue
  • 1 or 2 paint pens. I'd choose neutrals, so that your piece doesn't become too busy. In this i'ble, the route is done in gold, and the name below in silver
  • Clear glue
  • ~1" paint brush for glue (obviously, scale to your needs)
  • Small stroke flat brush (same deal as above; used a no. 4 here)
  • Pencil
  • Good eraser
  • Stencil in the shape you'll want your map (a piece of copy paper works just fine)
  • Straight edge (once again, I used a piece of copy paper)
  • Scissors

Step 2: The Journey

Start by drawing your route onto the map. Either follow a visual reference (shout out to LOTR Project! Those folks do amazing things, and let me accurately map Thorin & Co plus Frodo & Sam's journeys without needing to dig into the lore myself) and freehand it, or lightly pencil the route in, and then go over it with the paint pen

Step 3: The First Color

Time to fill in your first topographical feature! You'll want to paint in a dabbing motion, holding your brush almost vertically for narrow parts, and using quick swirling motions for larger areas. You might also want to experiment with different brush sizes and strokes. The purpose of this step is not only to add color, but to add texture, so uneven paint and not-quite-perfect lines add to the visual interest.

Allow the mod podge to dry before continuing

Step 4: The Second Color

Same drill as with the first color. Allow this one to dry, too

Step 5: The Stencil

Place stencil onto your dry map, and adjust until you're happy.

Carefully and lightly trace your pattern, then cut that bad boy out

Step 6: The Gluing

Flip your map over onto a clean, dry surface. Generously coat the back with paint, paying special attention to the edges. This is where using card stock comes in handy; it's thicker and easier to flip and transfer over to the canvas, which is what you need to do now. Carefully position your map on the canvas; I placed it just above center so that the piece would be balanced when I added the writing to the bottom.

When you're happy with the placement, press firmly, squeezing out any air bubbles and pressing down the edges. Then, to further seal the edges, and give the final product a shiny finish, fully coat the front of the map in glue, swiping out over the edges to distribute it evenly

Step 7: The Text

For the amount of deliberating and drafts that I did for what I would write on this thing (from writing the Sindarin word for 'middle-earth' to writing 'not all those who wander are lost' in Quenya), what I ended up doing seems kind of plain. But, I'll just convince myself that writing Middle-Earth in mock-needlepoint cursive is cutesy and slightly ironic..(right? maybe? who knows).

Anyway, for this part, decide on your text and what kind of font you want. From there, take your straightedge and lightly pencil in the boundaries of your text. Then, lightly pencil in the text itself.

Trace the penciled text with your paint pen. Allow to completely dry, then fully and gently erase the pencil marks, being careful not to smear the graphite on the canvas

Step 8: The End!

You now have a unique commemorative map, perfect for gifting or hanging on your own wall. Enjoy!

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