Behind the Map

Alex had a vision for a hand-drawn map of Wollongong in 2019. Little did he know he would soon become obsessed with it for over 2 years until it became a reality. 

He brought an A0 piece of paper from a local arts store and began looking at satellite imagery online to get a scope of what might be involved in creating the map. He was determined, but his first attempt at putting pencil to paper resulted in the whole thing being scrunched up and thrown in the bin, with a declaration to his housemates “this is so hard”.

But he didn’t give up. With an expertise in digital cartography and computer software, he turned to online mapping in search of a solution. He divided a digital map of the city into smaller sections, creating a grid that he could refer to while drawing. He edited some of the cells on the online map, bending and flattening them, so that he could see what it would look like from an aerial perspective.

With a spring in his step at the promise of this new strategy, he purchased another piece of paper and a fresh set of pencils, setting to work again. Using the grid as a reference, he drew the main features of the city, such as the roads, one cell at a time.

Then it was time to add further details. For some areas, he was able to source drone imagery, but for the most part, it was necessary to walk the streets. He took thousands of photos from multiple perspectives to try and get a better understanding of every feature on the map from an aerial view.

Alongside photographing the city, Alex would also visit places with higher vantage points, such as Flagstaff Hill, where he could overlook the panoramic views, the ocean, and the stunning coastline. He would look at the smallest intricate details of the view with an open sketchbook and a pencil in hand, patiently drafting every single feature one by one.

Armed with the photos and sketches, Alex returned to his studio in Thirroul and meticulously sketched each area, first in pencil, then in pen. The smallest segment of a map would take him an entire night to draw in pencil. He estimates that he spent over 500 hours on the map in total. He became consumed by the process.

Alex describes the work as his 'gift to the gong'. He is proud of the place he grew up and the amazing community here. And he is over the moon to present the completed product to you.

You can pre-order your copy of the map here.