Rider’s Lens: The Storytelling Maps of Alex Hotchin
An illustrator from Melbourne, Australia, Alex Hotchkin’s beautiful and insightful storytelling maps have consistently blown us away in their breadth, color, detail and scope. She recently released a book, Borderless, inspired by a 17,000km overland bicycle journey from Europe to SE Asia. Stunningly intricate and deeply personal, we can think of no finer way to document – and interpret – the experience of seeing the world on two wheels.
My name is Alex and adventure has always been a part of my life. I grew up on a cattle and sheep station in central Australia, and started creating, making and drawing at a young age, all the while exploring the world around me. And so it was no a surprise that a few years ago I went on a big bicycle adventure with my best friend. We packed up a house, closed down a business, said goodbye to the world we knew, and prepared ourselves to meet the rest of it.
The experience was so overwhelming in so many ways – from the kindness of strangers who fed, sheltered, and told us their stories, to the realization that anything is possible, which grew in us everyday. Along the way I found my freedom. My mind and imagination became as big as the sky around me, and I set out to draw snippets of our adventure in accordion folding books that I carried in my panniers.
Alongside the little books, I carried some pens and a small container of watercolors. I would draw whenever I could – at night while in the tent, while the clothes were drying or while waiting for visas in random cities. Once I’d filled a book I would then post it home. They all made the journey back!
Our trip lasted 18 months and we cycled 17,000 kilometers. I also brought back so many stories – our own and those generously shared by the characters we met along the way. But stories are meant to be passed along. It’s not easy to explain the kind of life changing experience being thrust out into the unknown and unexpected on a bicycle can have on you. I really struggled to do it justice in words and photos so I set out to draw it. It took two more years to make the maps. I chose the medium of maps because I’m interested in the way they can be used to connect a place with its layers of stories.
The maps themselves were all created with pen and ink, watercolour and marker on Arches A1 size paper and were exhibited with the original diaries in Melbourne in July 2016. I also self published the series of drawings into a book “Borderless”.
I currently live in Melbourne, Australia. Since this map making adventure, my way of looking at the world has changed. Now I see drawings around every corner. I see stories everywhere.