Carly Rubach

This Map’s for You, Wisconsin

By - Aug 7th, 2011 04:00 am
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I’ve been living in Wisconsin for a few years now, and I feel like I’m finally beginning to appreciate not only the city of Milwaukee, but the splendor of the state as well. Summers are quite magical, and there is always something going on any night of the week. Just recently, we discovered a scenic beach on the south side (Grant Park) and an affordable golf course owned by the County Parks System. The beach was a nice, quiet contrast to Bradford if you’re in the mood for a more secluded afternoon.

After moving here from Missouri, I thought I would be missing out on the scenic beauty of the rivers, parks and cliffs, but I was mistaken. I’ve since discovered the clear waters of Devil’s Lake, the towering rock faces in La Crosse and an unforgettable fall camping experience in Sister Bay.

Wisconsin, you’re swell.

All of this summer exploring has made me think about maps — I love getting maps that represent places that I’ve lived or visited. I have a Colorado trail map and an old Missouri map in our bathroom, but I needed something from Wisconsin. Since I hadn’t come across anything I liked, I thought, “Why not make one myself?” So I grabbed a scrap piece of heavy canvas fabric, watered-down some paint and got to work. I chose to mark certain hot spots with a mixture of sketch and collage. This makes the map more personal to the experiences that I have had in Wisconsin so far, and I’ll be able to go back and add to the piece as I continue to venture the state.

This project was slightly more difficult than I’d anticipated — it was one of those where I could see just what I wanted in my head and then I couldn’t get it out. I had to make a ton of adjustments. I planned to keep it simple by doing a bit of tracing with a cutout, but my printer has been very rude and useless. Instead, I sketched, which worked out fine—the outline is not exact by any means, but that’s okay! I struggled with colors and spacing for filling in the “hot spots.” I realize now that I need to visit more places in the Northwest and North central areas of the state so that my map can look more balanced. In time.

TCDIY Beginning of the Map

I did, however, feel pleased with the end result and look forward to editing the piece in the future.

Painted Map


18” x 18” piece of heavy canvas fabric
Staple gun
Acrylic paint
Fountain pen with dipping ink (optional)
6 pieces of plywood 2” x 24” about ¼” thick
4 small nails


Trace or freehand the outline of Wisconsin or other state-of-choice with a fountain pen and ink (makes a nice, thin stroke) or other thinly tipped ballpoint pen.

TCDIY Detail of Milwaukee

Outline surrounding states if you’d like.

Fill in areas with a coordinating palette. Use a lot of water to thin out the paint, and it will go on much easier.

The rest is up to you. I looked at a road map and drew faint lines to represent highways.

Mark your hot spots! I used dried birch, ink on canvas and felt. Use your imagination.

For the frame, I took two pieces of wood (one for the top, one for the bottom), wrapped a section of canvas over each piece and staple-gunned them in place.

Take two more pieces of wood and layer them on top of the pieces you just secured. Staple them in place.

TCDIY Framing the mapTake the final two pieces, lay them vertically to frame the sides of your canvas. Hammer a small nail in each of the four corners to secure.

Categories: TCDIY

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