Nate Padavick has a true love for maps. He specializes in map design and map illustration and he has drawn maps for books, magazines, newspapers, posters, websites, and apps, as well as on beer cans, walls, greeting cards, and even dish ware. The awesome websites They Draw & Travel and They Draw & Cook are run by him and his sister Salli Swindell. With artists participating from all around the globe, They Draw & Travel presents the biggest illustrated map collection over the internet. And They Draw & Cook, which is run by Swindell, is the recipe version of the same deal. Here’s what Nate Padavick has to say on this extremely inspiring work.
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Nate Padavick, Awesome Outdoor Pursuits in Colorado
Annabelle Metayer, Beautiful Amalfi Coast in Italy
How did you gain interest in map culture in life? What draws you to maps most?
I’ve loved maps since I was a child. I think my interest began with an old globe I had in my bedroom. The oceans were full of illustrated sea monsters. Even today any map I see captures my attention. I think maps represent adventure, possibility and discovery.
It's been 12 years since you started to work as They Draw & Travel. Now you have hundred thousands of followers from all around the world. How did your audience expand since the beginning, throughout time? Was your connections in the art world helpful? What can you say had affect on the big boom?
They Draw & Travel (TDAT) is the sibling of They Draw & Cook (TDAC). My sister Salli and I launched TDAC as a blog with only 8 illustrated recipes. We didn’t think anything would happen, but 2 days after launching an artist sent us her own recipe illustration and asked if we would post it. Soon after, it went viral. We quickly realized that many artists have a passion for cooking and for traveling. Our sites are the stage from which they can celebrate and share their passions. The key to success is connecting communities. You see, many people who submit illustrations are professional freelance illustrators or avid drawers and these people often have their own active community of friends, family, and fans. So when we connect with one artist, they in turn connect us with their communities. It’s like one big illustration party!
TDAT is possibly one of the most motivating and fun art projects online. It’s pretty amazing how you two write detailed comments on each map you publish on the website. Sometimes people cannot find the time to do such things. In your vision at TDAT, this interaction must be a crucial factor. Can you explain?
The first thing I do every morning is check to see if someone sent us a map. It makes me so happy to see how each person interprets a favorite place using illustration. I am always impressed by the amount of care, energy, love and time people pour into their map illustrations. Illustrating maps is not easy and many people do it not only to share their love of a place, but to also strengthen their illustration skills. I leave feedback on every map because I want people to know how much I love and appreciate their creativity. Sometimes, a map comes in that is not as good as it could be. In those cases, I will send an email to the artist with a few suggestions. 100% of the time they appreciate my ideas and incorporate them into a revised version that I am happy to post and share.
Agnes Barton-Sabo, Weird and Wonderful Anchorage, Alaska
We can only imagine how many different types of maps you have seen in your life. Please tell us one of the most greatest map ideas you have come across so far.
Just when I think I’ve seen everything, someone will send in a map that knocks me off my chair! Some people have illustrated maps of their homes or bedrooms, maps of their mind, maps of imaginary places, or maps of their favorite TV shows. My maps are ones with super interesting themes. For example, one artist sent in a map called The Louvarian Aviary – it is a map of all the birds found within the Louvre. Another example is a map called Where to Find Cashew Chicken in Springfield, Missouri – evidently there are 35 restaurants in this little town that serve Cashew Chicken! It’s so weird and funny!
Aunyarat Watanabe, Bangkok, Thailand
TDAT is a very inspiring space. As an artist, what kind of experiences have you had in terms of getting inspirations from other artists’ maps, their styles, techniques and ideas? Is there a specific story about this that comes to your mind? There must be relationships you maintain with people you met through the website…
TDAT has allowed me to connect with so many other freelance illustrators. Illustrators often work remotely and don’t usually collaborate with each other, so TDAT has been a great way to start a conversation with, connect with, learn about and become inspired by other illustrators. I actively follow hundreds of them on various social media platforms and have met dozens of them in person. An added bonus of TDAT is that many art directors use the site to find new talent and they often ask me for help finding someone. So it is very nice when I can refer them to an illustrator who I know and admire. Win-win!
Jessica McGuirl, Charleston, South Carolina
Joanna Gniady, Enchanting Prague
Looking through the tons of different style maps, what do you think is more powerful? Showing a map that is resourceful to others? Or expressing some deep personal relationship with the place?
All the illustrated maps on TDAT tell a certain story and there are basically three different routes an illustrator tends to take: 1) maps that celebrate a city by featuring it’s famous landmarks; 2) maps that feature an artists favorite places like restaurants, shops, and parks; and 3) maps that are highly personal and tell a sweet interesting story, like a map of one’s childhood memories. If an artist can create a map that includes a little bit of all these characteristics, then they’ve really made a true mapsterpiece!
Nata Metlukh, Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, California
Pinyada Ratanasungk, Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok
One wishes to throw away all the guidebooks and only look through the amazing maps on your website for travelling purposes. As far as we understand you are a fan of travelling yourself. For you, what are the inspiring travel magazines, publications, books you like to look at?
You are too kind! The maps on TDAT are a ton of fun, right?! Whenever I travel or I hear that a friend is planning a trip I always look on TDAT to see if there is a map of that destination and there usually is, and it usually contains at least a few ideas that one wouldn’t find in a guidebook.
Camila Tubaro, Mi Buenos Aires Querido
Monika Roe, Paso Robles, California
What are the certain criteria for maps to be published on your website? There are so many brilliant maps. You must be turning down some maps as well?
I rarely reject a map completely. If an aspiring artist submits a map that is not great, but has potential, I will always send them an email with some helpful feedback and suggestions for improvement. Sometimes an artist will send in a map that they did for some other purpose. That’s OK, but only if they make it TDAT-sized. All 1000+ maps on our site are the same size and 95% of them were made just for TDAT.
Renata Ortega, Oaxaca, Mexico
Nicole Duquette, Downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania
We realize TDAT is also acting as a worldwide agency where fresh talents are discovered. How do you manage to maintain the business side of things? Is it through merchandise and other products you create together with the artists?
TDAT (and TDAC) are labors of love and creative playgrounds for Salli and I. We do not make any profit, ever! In fact, it has cost us more money than we could ever hope to recover. We do sell some maps as prints and give the artist 50% of net proceeds, but our yearly share of that income only covers a tiny fraction of the expense. The monthly hosting fees are high because the sites get a lot of traffic and the website maintenance and development costs are crazy. The expense is justified because it’s a good promotional tool for Salli and I and we truly love doing it.
Petra Hämmerleinova, A Beautiful and Magical Visit to Prague, Czech Republic
They Draw and Travel (and They Draw and Cook) are one of the many things you make happen as Studio SSS with your sister. What kind of work share do you have with Sally Swindell in running things?
Even though Salli lives in Hudson, Ohio and I live in Somerville, Massachusetts, we still maintain a super close working relationship through daily video-chats and phone calls, mostly about what freelance assignments we’re working on or about some awesome new recipe or map that just arrived in our inbox. I manage They Draw & Travel and Salli is the queen of They Draw & Cook. I love to travel and she’s a fabulous cook, so it works out perfectly!
Margaret Hagan, In Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey
We read that you’ve been changing locations a lot since the past few years. What are your plans for the future? Where do you want to live and explore? And what is the next destination for your travel plans?
Oh yeah. It’s crazy. Hold on, let me count...in the last 10 years I’ve lived in 10 different homes in 8 different cities from Berlin to NY to San Francisco an deven a few years in a tiny little town in the mountains of Vermont. My boyfriend and I moved to Somerville because he accepted a wonderful job at Harvard University, so we have no plans to move any time soon! If I had to move tomorrow I think I would choose Sydney, Australia because the weather is amazing, the culture is fabulous, the food is fantastic, and it has tons of options for outdoor recreation. This summer we have lots of travel plans: hikes in Big Sur, beaches on Cape Cod, parties in Berlin, the Biennale in Venice, and bike rides in Jackson, Wyoming. I think I’ll be doing much more traveling than drawing this year!
Jessica Rae Gordon, Nelson, British Columbia, Canada
Thanapron Sookthavorn, Mong Doipui Villages in Chiang Mai, Thailand
James Gulliver Hancock, Williamsburg, New York