There’s plenty of sights to see as you wander along the bustling foreshore at Honeysuckle. But there’s one view in particular among the busy working harbour and it's increasingly cosmopolitan surrounds that is bound to catch the eye and give you pause for thought: a giant map.
Of course, this is not your garden variety tourist map that proclaims “you are here” and then tries to direct visitors where to go as they explore the unfamiliar surrounds of the city.
Instead, it is a story of the harbour’s past and present, a pictorial representation of what goes on in and around the Port of Newcastle wrapped up in personal recollections and industrial facts.
The massive map, measuring almost 4m wide by 3m high, was created in 2013 by Newcastle-based illustrator Liz Anelli and hangs proudly on one of the outside walls of the Newcastle Maritime Museum.
Richly detailed with hand-sketched pictures and diagrams, the large-scale artwork includes everything from the industry of Kooragang Island and Carrington to the seaside suburb of Stockton, Newcastle’s East End and suburbs such as Wickham, Maryville, Tighes Hill and Mayfield.
The project was born out of Liz’s curiosity about her new home after she and her husband Mario Minichiello moved to Newcastle from Essex, England in February 2012.“I’ve always been very keen on drawing cityscapes, especially industrial scenes, and I was doing some volunteer work at the Newcastle Museum and also going out and about with my sketchbook drawing what was happening around Newcastle Harbour,” she said.
“I was asking a lot of questions about the area and it occurred to me that a lot of visitors, tourists and also residents had important questions about what things were in the area or had happened in the area. I like knowing what’s going on, so I got to spend months being nosy for a good reason!
”So Liz approached Newcastle City Council with her idea for the map and was awarded funding under the Community Assistance Program. With additional support from Newcastle Museum, The Maritime Museum, Newcastle Port Corporation, Hunter Development Corporation and Port Waratah Coal Services, Liz spent many months riding around the region on her bicycle, sketching, talking to people and taking tours of everywhere from the coal loaders at Port Waratah to the Mission to Seafarers on Hannell Street, Wickham.
This even included a tour of the deck of a grain ship bound for Belgium! She spent hours taking notes from books and museums, ran workshops at the Museum to help create the map and spent a day with a busload of children from Carrington Public School as they showed her their favourite sites – giving her a whole new perspective on things as she saw the harbour through their eyes.
“Even if I’m desperately curious I can’t possibly find it all out. A lot of people contributed to it, and a lot of the contributors to the map were elderly and were very generous in sharing their memories,” she said.
Following her months of research, Liz spent a long, cold winter on the floor of her Newcastle studio pulling all the pieces together as she drew the huge, annotated map.
Liz crossed checked the geographical details using a number of modern maritime maps, which included information about navigational aids and signals as well as positioning the suburbs in relation to the water. She also cross-references historical maps stored within the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collection and at Newcastle’s Regional Library, as well as the wonder of the modern world - Google Maps - to get the shape of the areas right and position the roads in more or less the correct places.
However, the map isn’t completely geographically accurate, with Liz changing the scales somewhat to ensure she could fit in the more interesting landmarks and include more information in the map’s busier areas.
After the outlines were completed the hand-drawn map was scanned into the computer and a further three weeks were spent colouring in the details using Photoshop. It was finally printed out onto two panels of a robust, all-weather product and hung on the walls of the Maritime Museum in October 2013."The Maritime Museum seemed to be the perfect place to put it, where you could see the map and also look out over what it was about. It’s really great when you see people taking photos of it and what’s lovely is that a lot of local schools use it for their local studies," Liz said.
“I’ve been past, and there’s been a whole class of kids standing there with clipboards, and I think ‘Well, isn’t that neat.'”
It’s not surprising the author and illustrator appreciates the map’s appeal to children, with much of her other work involving creating children’s books and school resources and hosting workshops. She said creating the map was just like completing any other illustration and was informed, like all her designs are, by her love of reading and writing.
“For me the map was not that different (to my other work), it’s still a visual narrative that tells a story,” Liz said.
“When I was a kid I did a lot of art but mostly I read and wrote stories, I was always making up stories... I took art at school and did go to Art School in England, but I always still wanted to include literature and text in what I did. For me, (the way I create art) does definitely come from the story writing and reading.
”While the Port of Newcastle design was her fist map, it certainly hasn’t been her last, sparking an interest in the area that has also seen her create some others.
“I’ve done one I really love, it’s more of a collage but it’s also a map, of Circular Quay in Sydney. I’ve also done one for Newcastle Now, it was an East End walking map that they printed as a concertina paper fold-up map, which they distribute free through their volunteers,” she said.
“I find tourist maps that just have loads of names of places on them to be very boring, and you can quickly get lost, so mine are more visually interesting and use landmarks to help guide people.”
“The next one I‘m doing is for a new design company in Newcastle that will be twice the size of the harbour one, about 10m long, taking in the East End westwards through Newcastle West and out to Hamilton.
“It’s not going to be on public display, it’s for the people who work in the office, but I very much hope that it will also be reproduced in paper form.
”For more information about Liz Anelli’s work visit her website at www.lizanelli-illustration.com