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I’VE TRIED TO WRITE THIS INTRO nine times already. Ten’s the charm. (For the record, the scrapped stuff talked about Luigi Serafini, Ridleygrams, my dad, Detroit, and time capsules—a few of the influences on the Mapmaker project.) I realize the bigger issue here is my uncertainty as a writer, and how that’s a major hurdle when you’re trying to make a graphic novel. More on that in a second. Mapmaker started as an illustrated short story that I submitted to the Xeric Foundation for a publishing grant. I didn’t get the grant. But it was still a great victory for me, as I had committed to a date, a deadline, and I had finished something. That was version 1.0. Writing a story without anyone saying “no” or “that doesn’t make sense” created this weird pressure. I avoided feedback, even though it’s what I needed the most. Figuratively, I was on a deserted island talking to myself. Doubt set in. So after the grant business passed, I reread Mapmaker and came to the conclusion that the imagery is what I loved most. So, for now, the text is in the lobby waiting for another exam. One of these days… The cityscape, called “Silver Alley Always” in the story, is definitely influenced by Detroit. I think Detroit looks imagined. Nature is taking over again. Wild—like overgrown, dense foliage overcoming old homes and sidewalks. There are pheasants and deers and snakes. Even though so much of it is dilapidated, it’s beautiful and mysterious. There’s peacefulness like an old graveyard. Most of the actual cityscapes of Silver Alley Always were created from imagination, but one image of a towering, symmetrically constructed building is based on a photograph I took of apartments near 6 Mile and Woodward. My suspicion is that Albert Kahn was the architect. In the story, it’s far bigger and menacing than the original. To portray that surreal quality of Detroit, I used a few different techniques aside from just drawing with ink, paint, whiteout, and pencil. I also built miniature sets, photographed those sets, ran the photos through a copy machine, then drew over the degraded prints. I’d go to the hobby shop and buy smallscale train set pieces—buildings and whatnot. I cut up blue construction paper and arranged it to be water on sand. For characters, I made costumes and photographed myself in poses—or asked friends to photograph me in poses. The narrator’s name is Phineas, an explorer, and he wears this shemagh head scarf to protect himself from the sun and desert winds. I made his out of a ripped t-shirt, an ascot, and beaded necklaces. Mapmaker’s getup was simpler: a dark veil, press-on nails, slim black pants. I shot him barefoot, and illustrated mummy-like leg wrappings. I spent about six months on it. I was inspired by Ralph Bakshi, who in the 70s and 80s was doing a lot of Rotoscoping with his animated films. He’d film live action scenes and then animate over each frame of the film. What you get is this eerily lifelike cartoon. He wasn’t the first to do it, but as a kid I really appreciated it. I still do. So what is Mapmaker currently? Version 2.0 is something like a deck of cards. Twenty-eight art panels, printed on 285-gram watercolor paper, in a handcrafted box made from solid walnut, copper and curly maple. My friend Matthew Tait designed the boxes. I wanted the whole package to feel special, like a souvenir from Silver Alley Always. ✹

IMPERCEPTIBLE DIRECTIONS American Society of Picture Professionals

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Issue 4, 2012: ASPP's The Picture Professional Magazine  

The American Society of Picture Professionals is pleased to present the digital version of our quarterly publication, sponsored by Corbis Im...

Issue 4, 2012: ASPP's The Picture Professional Magazine  

The American Society of Picture Professionals is pleased to present the digital version of our quarterly publication, sponsored by Corbis Im...