Imaginary Mapmaking with Emily Garfield

Perhaps our most unique Skillshare class is Emily Garfield’s Imaginary Mapmaking. Emily is an incredibly talented Somerville-based artist with a long-standing interest in cartography, architecture, city planning, and other fields we might not typically think of as “artistic.” We’re very excited to tell you more about this class and all the “outside-the-box” ideas and inspiration that Emily has to offer you on March 2nd!


Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an artist? How did you arrive at imaginary mapmaking as your artistic specialty?

I always drew and made things as a kid, but artist was never on my list (I wanted to be a florist or a landscape designer, after I got over wanting to be a ballerina). I don’t think anyone who knew me growing up is surprised by my current medium, though. I liked drawing mazes and building houses in the woods. When I got to college I majored in art, though my course of study was also focused on aesthetics (in poetry, philosophy, and a lot from cognitive science). I drew maps for my senior show as an extension of my interest in cities and fictional architectural environments, and it fit in with what I had learned about the aesthetic draw of fractal patterns.


Where do you find your inspiration?

The maps are more about speculative cities than existing fictional places. I’m actually mostly interested in the process of drawing something fractal like a map, and how that process is similar to the way cities grow and also how we perceive them. I read a lot about emergence, city planning, perception, memory, architectural theory. I’m very interested in how people create mental maps to navigate the spaces around them, and I see some of my maps as those kind of personal vignettes of place.

skillshare background

You grew up in New York City, so we’re interested to hear about the path that led you to Somerville. How does the local arts community support you in your work?

I lived in New York until I left for college in Providence, and after that all my friends were moving to the Boston area so it seemed like a good next step. I’ve actually found the Somerville arts community to be a better environment for me, too. I know a lot of people here who are making their art just for the sake of the art, and it’s very inspiring. I’ve been learning a lot right now because I’m coordinating Somerville Open Studios this year, so I’m thinking actively about the connections between artists and also meeting a lot of fascinating creative people.


What can Skillshare participants expect to learn in your class? Do they need any prior experience in drawing or mapmaking?

Though the medium is mapmaking, the takeaway will also be a lot about thinking creatively and cultivating visual inspiration. I’ll show some of the techniques that I use, but maps mean so many things to people that the medium is ultimately personal. No experience necessary; I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of maps people make!


Read more about Emily’s Imaginative Mapmaking class over on the classes section of our website. You can find her on the web at, on Twitter at @emilygarfield, and on Etsy as well!

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