Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blast from the Past #232: Amherst College campus map

This is the drawing that started my freelance illustration career, right after I graduated from UMass. I just realized that I can't even remember HOW I got this job, but it was a good way to start out as an illustrator -- it was challenging, paid pretty well, and taught me a lot.

As I recall it, in 1976 Amherst College was looking to update the map of their campus. Like many colleges, things change over the years -- new buildings are added, old ones sometimes demolished, and so on. I was tasked with the job of drawing the entire campus, including all relevant buildings, roads and paths (and trees), using a kind of aerial perspective.



(As you have probably guessed, this is a photograph of an actual printed copy of the map -- hence the folds and wrinkles. I don't know where the original art is -- perhaps in a drawer in some filing cabinet somewhere at Amherst College.)

To get all the details correct, I spent a number of hours walking around the campus and making notes, getting a sense of what was where. But the real key to getting this thing done was having access to the official school photographer's archive of aerial photos of the campus. There were none that encompassed the whole area, so it was a matter of picking and choosing the right ones, then using those to create a map of the entire campus.

It was not an easy drawing to do, and I think it took me about three weeks to complete. But the folks at Amherst College seemed happy with the result, and used it as their official map for many years. A few years after I had completed this piece, they asked me to come back and draw -- in the same style I had used for the original -- two or three buildings that had been added to the campus in those intervening years. I was happy to do it. I don't think this art is still used for the campus map -- there have been so many changes to Amherst College over the last thirty-two years that I am almost certain they've had a new one created.

The one hundred and seventy-five dollars I was paid for drawing the original map was put to good use (at least I thought so) -- I went out and promptly purchased an awesome stereo system at Radio Shack that I used for a long time -- a Realistic brand turntable with built-in amplifier and radio, and two speakers. I think I still have it, though I have not used it in quite some time.

Because this was my first real paying job as an artist, and it came at the right time, and it was such an educational experience for me, I still have great fondness for this piece. And there's another nice memory that goes along with the work I did on this map -- one that involves the Amherst College photographer and a Hallowe'en costume I made around that time. Maybe I'll post something about that in the future. -- PL

9 comments:

Josiah said...

nice post for Amherst's 250th anniversary celebration today - seeing Mikey & the Turtle Van stroll down the street made my day!

J said...

Wow, this is a really nice piece. I think we would just use photographs and computers for campus maps now.

Pete, I have a question. Would you happen to know who were the artists that drew the Playmates TMNT toy package arts? I was think how cool it will be if Mirage and Playmates would release an art book collecting all the toy arts.

PL said...

" J said...
Wow, this is a really nice piece. I think we would just use photographs and computers for campus maps now."

I think you're probably right -- and if I had had then the computer stuff I have now, I probably would have used it too! I do think art is better than photography for projects of this nature, as you can get more clarity and edit out extraneous details.

"Pete, I have a question. Would you happen to know who were the artists that drew the Playmates TMNT toy package arts? I was think how cool it will be if Mirage and Playmates would release an art book collecting all the toy arts."

Unfortunately, I do not know who those artists were. I always assumed they were either in-house artists at Playmates, or freelancers hired by Playmates. We never had any contact with them that I remember. -- PL

Brookslyn said...

Hm. That Amherst College map looks really familiar! Could I be sitting on an original Laird Pre-TMNT piece of art? I'll have to ask my mom and sisters next time I'm at home. Just wondering, has anyone in recent years approached you for an autograph of something not TMNT related?

~ tOkKa said...

-->> That's pure skill right there.

O god.

PL said...

" Brookslyn said...
Hm. That Amherst College map looks really familiar! Could I be sitting on an original Laird Pre-TMNT piece of art? I'll have to ask my mom and sisters next time I'm at home. Just wondering, has anyone in recent years approached you for an autograph of something not TMNT related?"

It does happen, but quite rarely. I think at the last New York Comicon I attended somebody had some old self-published thing I'd done -- I don't remember what it was. -- PL

daniel john said...

I never thought of it like that, but it really is true.

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