Author’s note: I have decided to start a new series called “Different Walks of Life” where I interview an interesting person who is either an artist, humanitarian, traveler or someone doing something awesome with their life. We all get tired of the 9-5 grind. So here is my chance to showcase different people and highlight their inspiring work. 

Meet Doug Crews-Nelson, a Cartographer/Artist from Madison, Wisconsin, who is just beginning to promote his ingenious maps for sale. As Madison is my alma mater (I went to school at University of Wisconsin-Madison and met my husband there) of course I had to support a fantastic local artist whose work is fabulous.

A World View by Doug Crews-Nelson

A World View by Doug Crews-Nelson

Doug was kind enough to send me one of his maps and of course I had to choose the Paris Map (shown below) as Paris holds a special bond within my heart. I lived and studied there my junior year of University. The map is utterly gorgeous and I can hardly wait to frame it and hang inside my home. There are many more beautiful maps to choose from and this is only the beginning.

Paris Map by Doug Crews-Nelson

Paris Map by Doug Crews-Nelson

Here is another one of Doug’s maps that I find really wonderful. It is also offered in blue.

Pallet Series World Day Map by Doug Crews-Nelson

Pallet Series World Day Map by Doug Crews-Nelson

I asked Doug to provide me a few details about his life and how he became a Cartographer. Here is what he had to say.

When did you start doing art?

I have been sketching and painting since I was small.  I started college by taking commercial art classes but in my young idealistic mind, decided to withdraw, thinking it was diminishing the passion of design. (It wasn’t really. I was young).

Later, I transferred to geography with a focus on cartography (the study and practice of making maps). This was a really good fit for me.  I learned about the world in a much broader sense, from geology, elements of geophysics, weather, and climate to more in-depth cultural and ecological studies.  Cartography was the facet that combined my interest in the world with my design and layout skills.

All the maps I produce now are made from scratch using public domain data, converted and laid out to create clean and readable information in an aesthetic setting. My mission is to foster interest in printed maps for people of all ages by building beautifully designed and geographically accurate designs.  Frankly, I’ve got a huge backlog of map ideas.  I wish there was more time in the week!

What inspires your work?

It depends. With maps, I may start with a color palette.  As I spec the map, I get a feel from the colors and bring in or create elements that perpetuate the mood.  Then I move back to the original design and play with the colors.  Usually, I’ll need a physical print of the work to assess the readability of the text.

For some maps, I like to challenge myself to jam with as many elements as I can.  These projects like my “Paris” map, bends and breaks some of the fast rules of cartographical design, squeezing labels in places that they normally might not be set!  The hope is to spark travel interest or daydreams.  My intent is to add more cities to this series, so if you have any thoughts  you may be on the ground floor of one of my future projects: London, Tokyo, Rio, New York…the list is endless. The series name is “Gather No Moss“.

Recent projects have been inspired by general interests.  I must be vague, to protect my projects.  One map I am working on is a physiographic map (using symbols for physical elements) based on a recent popular book/movie series.  Another project is huge and describes a major U.S. hobby with over sixteen thousand labels! Crazy!

Any other interesting tidbits about you?

What drew me to your blog, originally, was your interest in social responsibility.  Some of my background includes leading several high school Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness canoe trips.  These journeys are valuable and life changing for some kids, sparking a deep appreciation for our wild world.  I’ve led other senior and middle high trips to various natural settings.

I have also assisted in leading urban immersion trips with middle school kids, to educate and help serve meals to those who need, stock pantries and resale shops, tour inner city greenhouse projects, and help with planting for urban green space reclamation programs.  One thing I have observed, comparing all of these activities, the kids admit that they feel good when they get a smile from a person, when the kids share their gifts.  Next summer, we will be going to the Heifer Project in Arkansas.  Heifer is a program that raises animals for donation to families and villages in developing countries, for sustenance and improved life quality.

Oh, I almost forgot.  If you are inspired, feel free to swing by my Etsy store or Facebook page and check my projects.  I am planning a giveaway to promote my grand reopening for October.  I would be pleased if you stopped by to visit.  Leave a note about maps you would like to see or just comment.  All are welcome!

The Lands of North America by Doug Crews-Nelson

The Lands of North America by Doug Crews-Nelson

Want to order some of Doug’s amazing maps? They are the perfect gift for the holidays. Check out his little shop by clicking here. I can attest that the Paris map I received is beautiful quality and I can’t wait to frame it and hang on the wall.

About Doug Crews-Nelson

Doug’s background begins out of college, where he created maps using pen and ink, over twenty years ago. From there, he worked for a local mapping company, scribing elements to be composited to films for press plates and began developing his computer cartography skills. He became a business partner at Magellan Mapping Company where his repertoire grew to include graphic design. He experimented with fine art design on his computer using top of line graphic design programs, and getting an education on print substrates.

As print cartographers are being squeezed out of the market by online mapping services, Doug has been happy to turn his focus toward reacquainting people with a love of the printed map, combining accurate information, in a clean and effective way, coupled with elegant design and element. And that’s the twist, these maps can be used as a geographic resource as well as stand alone art. As an artist, Doug works with the media he is most familiar with: Paper, adhesive fabrics, clear acrylic, bio-materials, certain woods, ceramic tiles, and so on. Projects range from household, office, and public spaces. Products are wide and creative, including; framed compositions, murals, and laser/router cut printed elements.


    1. Thanks! It is rainy here finally too in Minnesota. We’ve had an incredible fall with lots of hot sunny days and gorgeous fall colors so no complaints! 🙂

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