How one artist is transforming the modern metropolis into Tolkien-style middle Earth masterpieces.
Image credit: Stentor Danielson, via his Tumblr blog, Mapsbergh.
“Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end.” –George R.R. Martin
We’ve reached an interesting point in our civilization, one where most of our lives are so thoroughly modernized and concentrated in cities that we’re all but divorced from how humans lived for thousands and thousands of years. Some of us yearn for a connection with that experience, and the combination of nonfiction/history and the entire fictional genre of fantasy help bring us there. Have a listen to Tan Dun and Yo-Yo Ma’s fantastic and evocative Yearning Of The Sword,
while I share with you a spectacular art project that has the potential to connect us with our pastoral past even moreso: the fantasy-style maps of geography professor Stentor Danielson.
What he does is he takes modern American cities, their geographical landmarks (rivers, hills, forests/parks, cemeteries, mountains and valleys), their notable man-made structures and townships/counties, and then renders them in the style of J.R.R. Tolkien’s maps from his middle-Earth Universe.
This started with Pittsburgh (above), where he lives and professes, but then has expanded to other major cities in the nearby vicinity. As he describes it at his Etsy store:
Mapsburgh produces delicate hand-cut paper street maps, fantasy maps in the style of Tolkien, and other cartographic art.
Don’t see a map of your town? Want a map of your home? No problem! Contact me and I will make a custom map, anywhere in the world.
He’s done a number of major cities in this style, including Philadelphia, PA,
and he even made Cleveland, OH look good!
People have taken him up on his custom work as well, requesting small towns such as Concord, Massachusetts, one of the birthplaces of the American Revolution all the way back in 1775,
and Sewickley, PA, a completely boring residential suburb of Pittsburgh that looks an awful lot more interesting rendered in this style!
But my favorite is that he’s taken a couple of the cities and created colorized versions of these fantasy maps!
It’s a tremendously creative project, and considering the labor that has to go into it, not a bad deal at ~$60 for a custom 8.5″-by-11″ map of your city or ~$150 for a much larger 18″-by-24″ suitable-for-framing print. Go and check out all of his fantasy prints at Etsy and his complete tumblr here, and whether you buy something or not, I hope you truly enjoyed this remarkable project! (Brought onto my radar by LaughingSquid.)