North Smithfield-based illustrator makes focus the unique, romantic & fine art of maps

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – An artist since childhood, Stephanie Esther of North Smithfield illustrates children’s books and engages in fine art.

Her fine art specialty is map making. In fact, Esther says she’s “obsessed with maps.”

Esther remembers her European grandmother, “was very good with maps,” and “studied them with a magnifying glass.”

Family history brought Esther to the art of map making, which she explains is, “an intricate process that involves several steps.”

She uses vintage paper and treats it to look antique, then she applies a layer of graphite to the paper. Next, Esther applies a layer of ink.

Her fanciful creations often feature nautical themes.

“I love pirates, mermaids, anything regarding the sea,” Esther said.

The artist taught school in Budapest before coming to Rhode Island, and says she fell in love with the beautiful state.

“There’s something so wild,” Esther said, describing the Ocean State as, “the right state for sea tales.”

The first map the commissioned artist created was of Block Island. The intricate creation even has a sea monster.

In days of old, such sea creatures – fanciful or real – seem to have been standard on maps.

Cartographer-historian Chet Van Duzer at a United States Library of Congress lecture, told of a, “medieval theory that every land creature had an equivalent in the sea.”

“This is why you may come across an old map depicting hybrid land and aquatic animals,” according to a report at rareprintsgallery.com.

The next map Esther created was another place surrounded by ocean – Hawaii.

In this age of GPS and relying on a device to provide directions, when it’s likely more than a few folks would find reading a print map a challenge, Esther is creating elaborate, artistic maps.

And she notes a market exists for such a type of map – even in the fast-paced world of 2022.

“People enjoy looking at it,” Esther said.

“They slow down; they relax; that’s my theory,” she said, adding that maps “fascinate” her.

“I love that you can locate things,” she said.

More recently, she was commissioned for a map depicting trails and walking paths here in the ocean state.

The artist also illustrates children’s books, and one of her inspirations is the work of a Scandinavian artist.

It’s a unique family tradition that seems on track to continue: the artist’s four year old daughter is also fascinated with maps.

View more of the illustrator’s work at https://estherimage.business.site/

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