“It’s certainly an exercise in focus and patience,” says Malcolm Trollope-Davis, creator of the newly-launched, newly definitive, Brighton Map. “I don’t think of it as one drawing. It’s thousands of small drawings.”
Malcolm’s map is sprawled out in front of us on a café table – a giant A0 print detailing the many streets of Brighton & Hove and pinpointing its notorious residents, favourite pubs, and dramatic historical events.
It’s impossible not to be impressed with the sheer effort and skilful draughtsmanship that went into this. The Brighton Map has more in common with those of centuries ago than it does Google Earth, in spite of the fact the latter has made its creation possible.
Malcolm drew the map entirely freehand, beginning simply by drawing a line. This became the city’s main artery – North Street and Western Road. Once this was drawn, he worked in concentric circles outwards, a block at a time like you might with a patchwork quilt.
The roads are miniaturised somewhat – a street of maybe 50 houses is reduced to 15 or 20. “I don’t think it’s important to draw every house,” he explains. “If I did, I would be copying an aerial photograph, and those are actually very boring to look at – not the most emotive things.”
This approach, says Malcolm, “makes everything bigger and more visually engaging, and yet everything is still in the right place, so people can look at a street and go, ‘that must be my house.’”
The Brighton Map is sequel to the Lewes Map which Malcolm began after noticing that there were so few town maps around, and those that were, were stylised and inaccurate. “I wanted to create the ultimate, definitive map,” he says. “It’s functional art, which is really important to me.”
“You don’t get projects like this appearing. It took me a year to draw. You don’t get paid during that year, and for someone to commission a project like this, it would cost too much. The last time you would have seen something like this would have been back in the 1700s when manuscript hand-drawn maps were state of the art. These days it’s a much more frivolous, explorative project.”
Now that the art prints, tea towels and tote bags of the Lewes Map have sold in their hundreds, the map’s popularity has made Malcolm’s speculative endeavour more than worthwhile. “It has allowed me to do this…” says Malcolm, “…to commission myself, effectively, which is every artist’s dream.”
“It is almost like an old friend,” he says, pointing at the bottom quarter of the Brighton Map. “When I got down to here, I felt what I can only describe as separation anxiety because it was going to be finished soon.”
Perhaps this is why Malcolm has decided the Brighton Map will be a ‘live artwork’. In time, he will add to it and amend it to reflect the city’s development. He also plans to create limited editions to mark big occasions... Just like the city itself, he says, the Brighton Map, “is going to get busier and richer”.