Thursday, January 29, 2009

Still Important: Save Handmade

Save Handmade!

Yes, this is for sidebars, but I think it deserves its own post, and since I missed the blog-in yesterday, this is my makeup post. I did write about the CPSIA here, though.

Please, please, please do whatever is in your power to help bring attention to this issue, and allow small businesspeople, craftspeople and artists, both those in America, and those who import to America, to continue making a living doing what they love and making high-quality toys, clothing and other wonderful products for children.

(Not only is handmade worth saving on its own, but this is not the time to be cutting off more sources of income or shutting down another part of the economy.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

And the Self-Discovery Continues

You Are a Playwright

You are a highly literate wordsmith. You love both reading and writing.

You are also a natural storyteller. You can turn a mediocre anecdote into a riveting tale.

You find people and all aspects of life fascinating. No topic is off limits for you.

In modern times, you would make a good filmmaker or novelist.

What's Your Medieval Profession?

I just found this quiz here, and I was sort of hoping to get "cartographer" like she did, but honestly, playwright is just as good, and probably more accurate, since my maps are more story-ish than scientific.

So here's a story for you, to go with that picture at the top:

I worked in Orlando briefly one year, and my brother came to visit. He's much younger than I am (well, 13 years younger, as opposed to my sister, who is 31 years younger, so young is relative, but I digress...). At the time, he was about 12 or 13.

I took him to some crazy museum - I think it was the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum - and in the gift shop, they had these fake skulls for sale. I turned my back to look at something, and when I turned around again, my little brother was standing in the middle of the gift shop, skull in hand, looking in its eyes and saying, yes, you guessed it (speaking of playwrights):
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Got Yer Inspirational Speeches Right Here.

I have a funny passion and love for training montages in movies, and the equivalent in non-sports films... the movie might be awful, and the training montage will still make me choke up. And this has the same effect!

And, lest I neglect real history, congratulations, President Obama. Your speech was incredible.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Earth Shaking

Fifteen years ago, not exactly, but on the Sunday night before Martin Luther King Day in 1994, I stayed up way too late. I was a college freshmen and I had a paper due on Tuesday, so I thought it was a great idea to pull my all-nighter on Sunday night, so I could sleep Monday night.

At 3:30 a.m., I crashed. And one hour later, I woke up, reluctantly, from a deep sticky sleep because other things were crashing. Onto my laptop. This being 1994, laptops were very special and very expensive, even with black-and-white screens, and I woke up to one thought, My father is gonna kill me if something bad happens to my computer. So I tumbled out of bed, heavily, and stood over my laptop holding my arms straight out over my computer to protect it.

Then I heard voices in the dorm's hallway, and I thought, Wow, those people are partying late, even for a three-day weekend. In spite of the fact that I was not at all curious about why things were falling on my laptop, curiosity is nonetheless a big part of my personality, so I abandoned my defenseless laptop and made my way to the door, opened it, and asked the people in the hallway, "What's going on?" As in, why didn't you tell me you were having a party!

They looked at me like I was crazy, and said, "It's an earthquake, Alison."

Oh, well that explained it.

There's not really an ending to this story, other than the fact that the computer survived just fine, and ever since, Martin Luther King, Jr. and that earthquake are inextricably intertwined in my mind.

And that brings us to this particular Martin Luther King Day, which precedes an Inauguration Day that wouldn't be what it is going to be, if it weren't for Martin Luther King. And even though I didn't get Inauguration tickets like I had hoped, I still feel so glad and so lucky that I get to watch this incredible event take place, even on television.

So I just want to say thank you, Dr. King, for all you did, and for all you gave. I wish you could see just how much you, too, moved the world, and in your case, for the better.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Coming Soon!

After a very long hiatus, I'm moving my blog back to this address, on Friday, January 16, from its current home.

UPDATED: The move seems to have gone quite smoothly, but please feel free to let me know if you encounter any problems, especially as I will be tweaking settings and layout for a few weeks to come. Leave a comment, or contact me directly at paintandink @

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Living the Map

Living the Map is such a delicious phrase, isn't it? Just three words, but packed with so much possibility that they make me want to pack my bags, jump in the car and get moving. And that's before learning the story behind them.

Daniel Seddiqui, a recent graduate of my own alma mater, couldn't find a job after graduation, so he hopped in his car, and set out on an extraordinary journey: traveling to 50 states in 50 weeks, working at a different job in each place: meatpacker, farmer, rodeo announcer, wedding coordinator, Border Patrol agent, and, appropriately, a cartographer.

Daniel as a rodeo announcer.

He has a whole page on his site to explain why, but really, why not?

Truth be told, I am doing exactly what I want to be doing right now, and delighted about it. But I still have a list of dream careers, from ESL teacher to marine biologist (he did that, too) to Imagineer, and wouldn't it be fun someday, when I'm itching for something new, to try them each out for a week or even a month? And, even better, to take the road trip of all road trips, to each of the 50 states. It is my secret (not-so-green*) dream to travel the United States in an RV, and just take my ink and brushes and paints with me, to map as I go.

But Daniel's story also appeals to me for another reason. I've been thinking a lot lately about the world and all its greatness and all its problems and how two people from the same country can have such extremely different opinions about how things should be. Not to mention people from two different hemispheres.

And I've been thinking about how some people live in very small, constrained worlds, when they don't have to, often just because they don't realize there is more to the world beyond their limited experiences. Some people get very belligerent when they say this is how things should be, regarding this issue or that policy, or this war or that country's actions, or this religion or that philosophy. Some people don't seem to ever consider other perspectives. And I used to think this was because they were narrow-minded, but maybe it's because the just don't know there are other perspectives. They don't remember how to look.

As Daniel Seddiqui says, "I was unaware of what life was like outside my bubble."

Daniel as a marine biologist.

I'm not against opinions, not at all. I am fond of opinions, especially my own, and frankly, some of my own probably are narrow-minded, too. It's just that I think - my opinion is - that the more different types of experiences you have, the more tolerant you becomes of other viewpoints, other lifestyles, and other cultures. You don't always have to understand why people do things a different way. You just have to understand that there is a different way.

I think most of the readers of this blog have had experiences in learning that there is a different way. And maybe you have found, like I have, when it comes to solving problems, that once you understand that other perspectives exist, the more willing you'll tend to be to try fluid solutions instead of applying one-size-fits-all, rigid solutions. I often get overwhelmed by obstacles and problems, but as my horizons become ever broader, my mind is more and more likely to jump immediately to thinking of ways to solve the problems.

You just have to have one motivation, more than any other: curiosity. Even while I think there are no certain solutions to the world's problems, I think curiosity is a key element in all of them. (We can't try new solutions until we want to find out what they might be.) And I mean any curiosity (as long as it doesn't cause harm, of course), even if it's just finding out how people decorate their homes in another country. Because curiosity is like creativity: nurture the spark and you can build a fire.

So while there aren't many people who can take a journey like Daniel Seddiqui's and literally "live the map," the rest of us can travel vicariously, explore virtually, and nurture our own curiosity. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think curiosity is an innate human quality, and some people just don't remember how to keep the fire going. And I also think it's contagious. The more we indulge our own curiosity, the more it will spread, and the more our collective horizons will expand: curiosity about decorating becomes curiosity about daily life becomes curiosity about economics becomes curiosity about government.

Daniel as a cartographer.

We don't have to become experts, but I think eventually, after curiosity becomes knowledge, knowledge transforms into ideas. It simple, maybe too simple, but it's a start, I think. And then we can, together, really make the world a better place.

(At least, that's my opinion.)

* Maybe by the time I achieve that dream, there will be solar powered RVs.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Biggest Little City

Reno, Nevada, 8"x10", watercolor and India ink
© 2009 Alison Whittington, all rights reserved

I'm going to make a concerted effort this year to share more of my artwork on my blog. This map of Reno, Nevada, commissioned last year, is one of my favorites, but that could just be because Reno is the closest thing I have to a hometown...

... No, it really is one of my favorites. I am especially fond of the compass rose and Circus Circus.

And Fleischmann Planetarium, because I spent a lot of time there in high school, happy in my nerdiness. That's where I first ate astronaut ice cream. Not on my list of most delicious foods ever eaten, but clearly on my list of most memorable foods ever eaten. (Right up there with pulling a spoon out of my soup to find a tentacle draped across it. And that is another story.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Maps, to Start the Year Off on the Right Foot, er, Hand...

I hope this blog post finds you all well and starting off your new year happily...

We are back from our northeast post-holiday cross-year excursion, having enjoyed delicious beverages, eaten some of the best breakfasts ever, and cheered each of our favorite football teams to victory (mine, college, and his, professional).

And now I have wrapped up my first day back by diving into the backlog of Google Alerts I have set up for keywords and phrases like "imaginary maps," "cartography," "watercolor maps," and every variation of my name and/or shop name that I could think of.

This is often, especially for "cartography," a lovely way to discover other people's maps and artwork and generally delightful things.

Like the Hand Drawn Map Association. Where have you been all my life, oh, Hand Drawn Map Association?

Actually (tucking my head down and lowering my voice), I have seen the Hand Drawn Map Association before... but couldn't remember how to get there again... lost the map, you see.

Not a problem. Thanks to Cartophilia, I found my way.

I love the detail in this map, by Alex Williams:

This anonymous map is great... bringing to mind the question, what did I do while spending countless hours in meetings over the years? Nothing nearly so interesting, I think.

I'm fond of this one, by Andrea Biller-Collins, since my birthday is Groundhog Day:

And an imaginary world, or two, after my own heart (drawn by Jamie McQuinn, who I believe is the Cartophiliac himself, which might just show that all roads take us back to where we started):