Insanely elaborate and wonderful custom maps

Marilyn sez, "Connie Brown's custom-drawn maps start at $10,000 for a standard 3' by 4' size. Here's why:"
Once Brown has the map planned out, which, she adds, is the truly time-consuming portion of the job, it takes another 140 hours (or so) to complete the piece. After getting an enlargement made by an architectural printer, Brown traces the map she developed onto the canvas. It's all freehand from there, lettering included. To add color, she prefers a "finicky" technique of brushing on and rubbing off acrylic paints. Brown loves the look of the transparent wash and "it's a good background for place names." For water, she goes all Seurat on the maps. "I paint a gazillion little dots, inspired by the stippled maps of the 16th and 17th centuries," says Brown. "I love the color part, and I get a little too excited when I stumble on a new shade."

Brown will be giving a talk on the creative uses of maps on April 10 at the New York Public Library.

(Click through below for more maps!)
Mapmaker, Mapmaker, Draw Me My Life (Thanks, Marilyn!)


  1. “…she didn’t have an inkling of how difficult it would be to put ‘places on a two-dimensional plane and deliver clarity without chaos. Making it beautiful is the easiest part.'”

    I always found it was the other way around. Admittedly I have formal training, but making a proper map is pretty easy. Being able to make it look good is the hard part, or at least good without destroying the accuracy of the map itself.

  2. As a former cartographer, I have to say that $50k for a map is hugely overpriced, even hand-painted and artistically rendered. At most, it should take no more than 100 hours to produce, and I’m sorry, $500 an hour is lawyer or hooker pay.

    1. Were you reading some previous version of this article? Both this article and the one linked to say that the maps start at $10,000. There’s no mention of a $50,000 map that I can see.

      At $10,000, 100 hours is $100 an hour, and since she says she takes over 140 hours to produce the maps, it’s actually much less per hour.

      That doesn’t seem hideously expensive to me, although waaay out of my price range. If they cost $1000 they’d still be way above what I’ve ever paid for art, but at least I might fantasize about it some times.

      1. So SamSam — if you were going to commission a map from Connie, what would it be of? I’ve dreamt up a million (or, well, six or seven) different ideas since I interviewed her for the piece.


    2. @Nobilis

      Perhaps. Just perhaps. Artists (like Ms. Brown) who create original and beautiful works should (and continue) to command a very respectable price for their unique abilities.

      Noting your “comparisons” for Ms. Brown’s fee, it appears that you’ve never fared well enough in your former career. But there is certainly no need to take it out on this artist.

      1. Actually, cartography is quite well paying, and if we all charged that much for such inaccurate, if pretty, maps, there would be a whole hell of a lot of lost people.

  3. As a child of the Cold War, my brain keeps seeing a map that displays the lethal blast radius of various grades of burrito.

  4. Maps most certainly are art, I can only hope one day to afford such things as personalized hand made maps. Right now the best I can do are 75-100 year old maps. Mostly of the British Empire. The sun always kept it lit, so it was easier to draw.

  5. Bee-yoo-tee-full. I don’t think $10,000 was too much for Charlie Owen to pay for his cycling adventure being rendered so beautifully. What a momento. At first I thought that she had to be crazy to charge so much, but the I saw how personal and wonderfully rendered they were. The burrito map is another story. An iPhone would take care of that quite handily.

    1. Jeligula — I wrote the NGT Intelligent Travel piece this all came from. It goes into the back story of each map. Worry not, Brown didn’t expect her son (who she gave it to as a gift) to actually use the burrito map. She created it as a bit of an experiment and was just having some fun.

      And you’re spot on as far as how personal the maps are–she spends a ton of time talking to each client. She, clearly, feels an incredible responsibility to her clients and their stories. She’s good stuff–and very funny.


  6. I have to say I was quite perplexed until I clicked “read more” – why is the burrito map the headliner? Well, it did get me to click, but still…

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