David Lemm: Wayfinding

Here's what happened when our Illustrator in Residence got everyone mapping the King's Cross area for themselves


  • David Lemm
  • Illustrator in Residence

Things are beginning to pick up as I move towards the business end of the residency, with my work-in-progress exhibition just around the corner (!).

Blurry ideas are beginning to slide into focus and I feel like I'm at a point now where I need to decide if my meanderings into unfamiliar territories continue, forging some kind of new path, or whether I need to arc back a bit to more familiar ground in order to reach my destination - the final exhibition in January.

I've been continuing to experiment with different materials to play with form and composition. These were a couple of preliminary sketches for the map which formed the basis of the Big Draw project during my last visit in October, the first major outcome of the residency thus far.

I'd been planning the some kind of interactive mapping event, similar to what I had done on a previous project with stamps placed around a locale where people completed a composition by finding the stamps and filling in the blanks. For the Big Draw I decided to focus on drawing, something I have become reacquainted with myself.

So I created an illustration of the area (above) which contained a route and doubled as a map to navigate by. I got Workhorse Press in Edinburgh to Riso print 2 versions of the illustration - one of my final artwork, and a template version missing the final layer.

Participants received a print with the first layer of the composition - complete with blank areas to fill.

They were invited to follow this route through the area surrounding House Of Illustration and find a series of 'urban' cairns I had made to mark the path.

The idea was to fill in the blanks with drawings made from observations in the landscape at each corresponding cairn.

The cairns were placed next to official 'You Are Here' maps on the Kings Cross development site, which I mapped in an earlier visit. From these I had observed features in the landscape I found interesting due to their form, placement in the landscape, potential for narrative or symbolic properties. Features and information in the landscape which were not on the official maps but which represented my reading of the specific place at a given point in time.

Participants would be following my route to complete their maps, but the intention wasn't to end up with a copy of mine - rather the potential for a unique version of the composition to emerge, based on the participants' observations, experience and use of the pencil.

I was really happy with the response, with some really interesting and insightful feedback from around 50 participants. Here's how some of them mapped King's Cross:

I have some templates left, so will be offering people a chance to take part at my upcoming work-in-progress exhibition and open studio, which starts next Thursday 5 November and runs to Sunday 8 November.

I've been gathering my thoughts and developing some ideas that have emerged from my research, so will be showing some of that work alongside the this project. I’ll also be setting up my desk in the space and using it as my studio for the duration, so there will be the chance to come and say hello as I work in situ.

Hopefully see you there!