Find someone who looks at you the way I look at roadside detritus or interesting cement patterns. Two and a half years after my big carto-creative breakthrough “Homeworlds,” I’m still hung up on making found-texture faux-satellite map art. Asphalt blobs, paint spatters, suspicious stains, and floor textures from random places around town (and further afield) still spring to life with exaggerated features in my mind’s eye.

Once I began seeing islands (or lakes) everywhere, I couldn’t stop visualizing these places that don’t actually exist on this, or any other, planet. I think I’m drawn to these singular shapes because they’re self-contained maps that fit in one frame, and that interest continues to fuel compelling digital art. It’s almost at risk of becoming a gimmick, but if I’m a one-trick pony with this stuff, it’s a damn good trick, and this steady flow of projects needs organization at some point, so here we are.

I choose the subjects based on how interesting their shapes seem as I notice them. Maybe they show up on the sidewalk in another town, or maybe they’re right across the street from home. Maybe they’re dirt, or paint, or tar, or gum, or what’s left when a local shop rips out their linoleum floor. I just have to know what to look for, and use my imagination to see what’s there.

Is that cement on a pool deck? No, it’s a rocky hilltop surrounded by woodlands or a dusty island in a shallow sea. Drywall in my garage? No, it’s a dry savannah. A slab of concrete on the harbor’s well-trod dockside path can become a long lake as blue as Tahoe. A mangled fruit skin outside a coffee shop can be come a freezing glacier locked away by winter pack ice. Alpine lake, or seismic gash? Why not both—made from a pile of sand on a bike trail?

For about six months in 2019-2020 I used this impulse to flesh out my found texture fantasy maps of the Game Board and beyond, and doing that created a huge backlog of faux-satellite-map stock in various stages of production. My terabyte drive now holds as much data for tar blobs as for 25 years’ worth of music projects from my days in bands—so I’m not hurting for supplies, as it were.

That’s handy when friends and clients ask for help with their own world-building, because starting from a blank canvas is no fun. For fantasy maps, I like to think that I’m churning out material that’s different and maybe more compelling than the hand-drawn hobbit-maps flooding Instagram and other table-top-roleplaying spaces. Others who do their own thing stand out, so why not emulate them?

“Great Keir,” you say [or maybe I say to myself], “but what are your goals for this stuff?” Do we have to have goals for art? Not every hobby has to be monetized or turned into ephemeral non-fungible tokens. If I did take this to the next level, it would be something real, because 1) it feels right to make the digital into the tangible, like recording a song to tape, and 2) island imagery hits home after pandemic-era physical and mental isolation.

So…a poster? Maybe. A “Found Islands” 24×36 in the style of “Homeworlds” would be cool, but it would also feel repetitive. Ok, then…an exhibition? Planning an event like that seems excessive, especially after almost a decade marinating in that mindset with AIGA and Tight Ship. More likely a book, maybe like Peter Gorman’s “Barely Maps,” but separate ones for the faux-satellite imagery and the D&D-related fantasy maps.

Whatever happens with this stuff physically won’t keep it from eventually falling offline, though. Like “Homeworlds” and my other Instagram challenges, “Found Islands” soon won’t exist as a social media presentation. I’ll delete the originals and point the old hashtags to new big slideshow montages, because I think it’s important for creative people to not rely exclusively on social platforms for promotion. No third party deserves to profit off your creativity, especially the flagrantly amoral ones.

That won’t interrupt anything new, though the same process of post-compile-delete will probably apply. If I’m gonna call myself a “map artist,” which is mostly what I’ve become, then maintaining the low hum of creativity that I mentioned in this character art piece is definitely part of staying stable during what seems to have become permanently unstable times. It’s also just fun to do, which is so often its own reward, so stay tuned for more.

“Found Islands” Digital Map Illustrations

ClientSelf-DirectedServicesmap design, digital map

Privacy Preference Center