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A Dunner stunner: Artist puts Dunedin on the map

Most of the world uses some form of app to navigate around these days, but there’s a magic in the old-school paper maps that technology just can’t emulate. This is what inspired artist Frank Gordon to spend nine months illustrating a guide to the city of Dunedin.

“I've always loved maps,” Gordon says. [I] drew them as a kid. Make believe places. You could just invent your own city if you wanted.”

So he decided to get to work creating an illustration of Dunedin city.

Gordon says he spent about nine months tinkering on the drawing as a side project around his day-to-day work, adding buildings and landmarks in here and there at a leisurely pace.

“I had no deadline and it wasn't for any specific purpose so I was in no hurry,” Gordon says.

“I'm used to tight deadlines, biting my nails and working late into the evenings. Whether that's a painting or an illustration commission. Drawing the map was very much my little happy place.”

Once he’d finished it, he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it next. ‘Would it make a nice wall print?’ he pondered.

He got some printed, then realised it was actually quite an accurate depiction of the inner city.

After teaching himself how to map-fold via a YouTube tutorial, Gordon took the now conveniently-sized pocket map out into the open to see who’d be interested in it.

“I showed it to my friends Sarah and Patrick at the Perc café. Immediately they said, ‘We want this!’ So I put them on the map - a little mini-zoomed in picture of their café. Then we asked six other locally owned businesses if they wanted to be on the map. So it was now a map, and a cool way of advertising local businesses,” he says.

“As soon as they hit the shelves, they sold out. Ex-pat Dunedinites were sending relatives and friends in to the Perc and the other businesses to get the map.”



He says the demand for his creations meant his map-folding skills were hitting “Jedi master” levels, to the point where he had to enlist the help of his wife Trudi to fold.

The Dunedin City Council also got on board, endorsed the map and ordered a bunch more.

Gordon says there’s something inimitable about having a city illustrated on paper.

“I think people love them because they're real paper maps...but they're like little pieces of art. You can take them away, find your way around, scribble on them, colour them in. As for the businesses, I think it's a great vehicle to advertise. Having a presence on social media is great but people get in to a kind of ‘scrolling fugue’ state sometimes. These are tangible, paper! Real, homespun Dunedin.”

Check out more of Gordon's work on his site here.

Are you a current or ex-Dunedinite, or just a general fan of the city? Idealog has 10 of these maps to give away - just send us an email at [email protected].