A rainbow of tiny furrows spreads across a map of the contiguous United States, the lite-brite hues popping against a black backdrop, giving the appearance of roots or a vascular system.
To the casual observer, this is undeniably a work of art. But the image’s creator, Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs, sees his work as primarily scientific. “You can call me an artist if you insist, but it still makes me smile a bit,” says Szucs. “I’m definitely still getting used to that.”
Rather than art, Szucs has a background in digital cartography and geographic information system (GIS) analysis. With a master’s in geography and GIS from the University of Szeged, Szucs has used these skills for everything from mapping orangutan movement and changes in Indonesian forest coverage to monitoring whale behavior in Alaska. “GIS is a collective name for all things geographic, spatial and mapping related,” he explains. “It's basically a tool set, and I've used it for widely different things.”
Szucs didn’t make artistic maps until a decade into his cartography career. While volunteering at a marine environmental research NGO in Portugal, he began to experiment in his free time with open-source software commonly used by cartographers to generate data visualizations. Through trial and error, Szucs learned how to create maps that are both informative and visually striking. Szucs works under the alias “Grasshopper Geography,” a reference to his Hungarian nickname, “Szöcske,” which translates to grasshopper.
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