• On The Map - Interviews with Cartographers 19

    Continuing our series of interviews with cartographers, this month we're talking to Kaitlin Gray, known to many as Chashio. She's known for realistic mountains, panoramic landscapes and a boundless drive to try new things.
    We asked her 7 questions, as we will in each interview.

    1) Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background...

    My name is Kaitlin Gray. I am known to many as Chashio, and to many others as Kaitlin Gray, and to one or two as K or Kait or Rabbit. I also went by Kohe Gri a few years back when I actually started writing down some stories over on Figment, but I haven't been very active with writing stories in a long while. [note to self: change that.]

    I'm a self-employed visual artist and illustrator located in the Bangor area of Maine about an hour from the coast and Mount Desert Island. My interests are rather varied when it comes to what I enjoy creating and I've always found it a bit of a struggle to define myself and what I do, as it seems to shift and shoot off in new or old directions frequently and sporadically... recently I've been saying that I make art, maps, etc. and then following whatever direction of experimentation catches my fancy. The tactic is allowing me to feel like I have more freedom to be whatever 'myself' is, so I guess I'll stick with it. I'm trying not to repeat too much info I've posted elsewhere because that seems boring so, suffice to say, I'm creative and if you'd like to see more of what that entails, check out my website and go from there.

    A bit of background... hmm...
    I grew up in the Maine woods drawing horses and hoping to one day move to any place with fewer woods and lots of horses. I owned/raised/trained/worked with horses for a while but horses are rather large and expensive creatures and, it turns out, I quite like the woods. At various points I thought of maybe getting into veterinary care or dog walking or architecture, and at times I still think I would enjoy being a writer and/or editor, but none of that has happened much yet. A whole bunch of circumstances and whatnot convened and I gave up my last horse on my 21st birthday [eight years ago now, it was not a great day] and sometime soon after [which might have been a few weeks or a bit longer] walked into an art supply store, bought a whole bunch of art supplies [go figure], and proceeded to teach myself how to paint and draw better. Eventually I began calling myself an artist. Sometimes I believe it.

    2) How did you get into mapping?
    I've always loved stories and reading and especially books with illustrations of the characters' worlds; combined with my creative inclination, it was maybe inevitable that I eventually would start imagining and drawing some worlds myself. But to get it all rolling... [my memory is not that clear but I'm pretty sure this is how it happened ] I saw a cool map on the internet, followed the link back, found the Cartographers' Guild and jumped right into it.

    3) Do you create maps professionally, or for fun? If you've sold your work, how did you get started? Any fun/horror stories to share about commissioned work?
    Both. Sometimes I like to focus more on my own stuff, and I don't usually go looking for commissions, but when someone likes my work and brings me an inspiring project... I get a ton of satisfaction from taking a fragment of idea and turning it into a larger glimpse of the whole, whatever the whole may be.
    Aside from commissions [as they're not really the only way to create maps professionally, though it sometimes seems like it] I've been jotting down notes and working out ideas for other means of releasing/publishing/printing maps and map related things for people who want them. I'm not exactly sure how it'll manifest but I'm pretty sure something fun will happen with that in the near future.

    How I started out with map commissions? Like many on the Guild, by browsing the mapping requests section and asking after the ones that caught my interest, and of course posting work online where people could see it.
    Nope, no insights or stories to share; one person's fun is another's horror, and sometimes I think that also remains true for the same person; at different times the fun thing would be horrible/horrifying, or vice versa.

    4) What kind of computer setup/equipment/software do you have? Any advice or tips for learners?
    I work traditionally and digitally and have a place set up for each, though it tends to get jumbled in the process. My attic studio is filled with canvas, paper, brushes, paint, graphite in various forms, charcoal, ink, pens and other drawing stuff. There's a bookshelf stuffed with books for reference and inspiration, plus all the other bits of that lying around everywhere... the whole thing is a bit of a mess. Then I have my digital corner with a scanner, printer, desktop pc and wacom intuos4 tablet with sketchbooks and post-it notes with scribbled ideas scattered around it all, so... also a bit of a mess.

    When I draw/paint on the computer I usually go for either Photoshop or ArtRage; I've tried a few other programs and some have very nice features but these two are my favorites at the moment. I sometimes use Google Earth when I want to browse for or look up interesting land features that I saw in a picture of someplace. Occasionally I want to overlay/compare or trace something quickly and years ago I came across this neat little bit of software called SimmTrace that lets you make program windows transparent-ish; it's original intented use is interesting as well.

    Advice or tips for learners? Not really at the moment, except perhaps: don't be afraid to fiddle and experiment and try stuff; if you've always wanted to be able to do something, find a way to start doing it, practice and play, and don't worry about making a mess of things in the process. Mess and mistakes are a large part of what makes up the pathway to skill.
    I guess I'm better at offering advice and tips for specific situations when I happen upon them... but I'm hoping that you'll find something in all of this interview to be useful or inspiring in some way. [preferably a good way.]

    5) What are your favourite kind of maps or favourite map makers from history?
    I like a lot of different map styles and artists but I suppose my favorite kind to work with is the oblique/panorama/aerial/bird's-eye-view perspective. It's a lot like landscape painting, which I also do quite a bit of, so it feels very natural to me.
    I love the panorama maps of Heinrich C. Berann [http://berann.com/panorama/index.html] and James Niehues [http://www.jamesniehues.com/] but I'll often look for inspiration for this type of map in landscape paintings and other artworks unrelated to maps. I really enjoy seeing and trying to create a visual image of a place that lets the viewer feel the atmosphere and get a glimpse of what the place they're viewing would be like to walk around or live in. Sometimes what I end up with is closer to a landscape painting and a little bit further from a map, but... I think it works, mostly, and I enjoy it... so there you go.

    6) What do you consider your best piece of work? How about your favourite, if different?
    Hmm... Do unfinished pieces count?
    This is a really tough question for me to answer because I'm often not as satisfied with a finished piece as I was when I began sketching it, for many reasons. There are a number that I like more than others but the reasons might not be because they're great pieces so much as they helped me to get passed some issue I was stuck on. So I don't really know that I have a good answer for my best one, but I suspect that my favorite piece is tucked away somewhere in a stack of forgotten sketches amidst all the mess.

    7) Where can we find you on the web?
    I'm currently in the process of restructuring, setting stuff up, and doing a lot to drive myself to post more and get out to other places... so, rather than answer this with a list that's likely to change in the near future, if you'd like to find me around the web, go to this page on my website:

    Thank you!

    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Voolf's Avatar
      Voolf -
      Thank you Chashio for sharing your story. Your maps are increadible. I especially like those perspective mountains of yours and oblique view of lands. And the real "painting" touch to all your maps.
    1. J.Edward's Avatar
      J.Edward -
      Oooh, that Isle of Greyscale is awesome.
      Thanks for sharing all that about yourself and your work.
      I've always been a fan of your work as well, including your oblique works.
    1. Mouse's Avatar
      Mouse -
      I absolutely love your work, Chashio.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with us
    1. ChickPea's Avatar
      ChickPea -
      Thanks for the interview, Chashio. Some beautiful work here.
    1. Chashio's Avatar
      Chashio -
      Quote Originally Posted by Voolf View Post
      Thank you Chashio for sharing your story. Your maps are increadible. I especially like those perspective mountains of yours and oblique view of lands. And the real "painting" touch to all your maps.
      Thank you Voolf. I'm glad you enjoy my creations.

      Quote Originally Posted by J.Edward View Post
      Oooh, that Isle of Greyscale is awesome.
      Thanks for sharing all that about yourself and your work.
      I've always been a fan of your work as well, including your oblique works.
      Thanks, J!

      Quote Originally Posted by Mouse View Post
      I absolutely love your work, Chashio.
      Thank you so much for sharing your story with us
      Thank you, Mouse.

      Quote Originally Posted by ChickPea View Post
      Thanks for the interview, Chashio. Some beautiful work here.
      Thank you, ChickPea.
    1. Diamond's Avatar
      Diamond -
      Great interview, Chashio! I still love that Callis map...
    1. Rathaven's Avatar
      Rathaven -
      Ise of Grayscale is amazing and I can't wait to try my hand at panoramic/birds eye view style. Thank you for the inspiration.