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Jenni Sparks

Illustrator Interview

It’s been months in the making and now it’s finally here!! We are especially excited to announce the release of our brand spanking new, hand drawn map of San Francisco by Jenni Sparks!!

Capturing all the cultural highlights and visual delights of the Golden City, Jenni has produced an amazingly detailed drawing of all the famous buildings, landmarks and places San Francisco has to offer!

Available exclusively to Evermade, we took some time out to chat with the delightful illustrator Jenni Sparks about her latest addition to our hand drawn map series!


Hi Jenni, the map looks great! How long did it take you to complete, start to finish? 

The entire map took around 4-5 months from start to finish.

How do you decide where to begin when plotting out each map?

In terms of the areas I start with, I usually compile lists of the most important/well-known landmarks first, then I write them all down onto the map I’m working on. After that I usually create categorised lists featuring cafes, bars, restaurants, cool shops etc. So the map always looks super patchy at the start, then I go and fill in the gaps.




You visited the city as part of your research, do you think your interpretation would have been the same without actually going?

I think my interpretation wouldn’t have been as comprehensive as the map I have created if I didn’t go – there were lots of places I wouldn’t have known about unless I spoke to the locals and got to see it for myself. Also when you’re actually walking on the streets you can kind of see what the most visually striking/important things to include are. Also, being in the city gives you a feel of the vibe that it gives off, for example being in SF made me realise how loud and friendly American people are compared to the British – it’s a small city but incredibly energetic.

What was the best thing you did on your trip?

The best thing I did on the trip was going to Golden Gate Park on Easter Sunday (which also coincided with 4/20) and watching the ‘Hunky Jesus’ competition. Basically everyone throws a big party in the park, everyone’s dressed up in colour, glitter, and fancy dress. There’s bubbles being blown everywhere, everyone’s smoking weed and dancing and then to top it all off, there’s a competition with all these guys dressed up as Jesus. It was a ridiculous and amazing day!


 Which part of San Francisco do you think was your favourite region?

My favourite region of San Francisco has to be the Mission because it fits well with the things that I am interested in – drinking, taquerias, music, art, and it has a big personality. It’s becoming quite gentrified and there’s a big reaction to that with murals painted on Balmy Alley depicting poor Mexican families being forced to move out of their homes because rich ‘techies’ are moving in. There’s also a lot of gang culture and drugs there, which was quite nerve-wracking at times but also made me feel pretty sad and really lucky to be in the position I’m in.


There’s some pretty colourful characters in San Fran, any interesting stories to share?

I met so many colourful characters while I was in San Francisco – I swear that city is full of eccentric, vibrant and unique people. One time I was being filmed in North Beach for a project called ‘One Day in San Francisco’, and a 80 year old man wearing a bright yellow military jacket and cap decided he wanted to get involved. After speaking to him for a while about the city he told me that he originally came there in the 70s while serving in the military and then never left.

While we were chatting he mentioned that a famous lawyer named Tony Serra lived just around the corner, who had represented groups as diverse as the Black Panthers, Hells Angels, Earth First! and New World Liberation Front. He was put in prison for refusing to pay taxes in protest of the War in Iraq and had taken a vow of poverty, living his life frugally and driving a beaten-up car. While we were talking about him, he actually walked out the office wearing colourful casual clothes and, seeing that we were filming, shouted ‘I’M A MARTIAN FROM VENUS!’


What was the most intriguing thing you found out about San Fran that you didn’t already know?

I didn’t know that huge parts of the city on the coastal areas were created out of land-fill, and if there were ever to be an earthquake all of the buildings on that particular area would be destroyed as the land is so unstable there. I also found it very interesting that San Francisco is regarded by some as the homeless capital of the US – I saw so many homeless people sleeping on the streets there, some through unfortunate circumstances and others by choice. The people that choose to be homeless are usually quite young and have run away from home to escape their parents and have more freedom, these people are known as ‘Gutterpunks’ and some of them were holding up signs saying ‘I need beer’ and asking people for beer like they didn’t care!

What do you think are the most difficult and rewarding tasks in creating your maps?

The most difficult task in creating the map is how slow and somewhat repetitive the drawing process can be at times. Every time I make a map I reach a wall where I feel like I can’t carry on doing it, the sheer scale of the detail can be really intimidating and you just have to carry on with it to get past that stage. When you start to see the map coming together and looking on the way to being finished things become a lot easier and I always feel a little emotional when I’m at the finishing stages.


Is there anything you wish you could do differently?

I wish that I could have fully represented the colourful and beautifully built houses in San Francisco – while I was there I was really taken aback by the amazingly well chosen colour schemes. I later found out that SF has it’s own colour consultant for the houses named Bob Buckter! Although if I tried to properly represent each house though the map would have been years in the making and I probably would have lost my mind!

Do you feel like you’ve developed a successful formula for completing each map since the very first London edition?

I definitely feel like there is more of a formula to creating my maps now – I’ve broken down the research process alone into several steps…this helps me manage the scale of the project as like I said before it can get quite overwhelming and it’s good to have mini-goals that I can reach each week. When I first created the London print I had no idea what I was doing and it was incredibly stressful – but now I look back and can see how I went about it and it’s actually really lovely to see how I’ve progressed but also to appreciate the original rawness that the London map had.


What other cities would you like to draw in the future?

I would love to draw Paris as it’s one of my favourite cities, also Tokyo would be amazing, Toronto, Rio De Janeiro, Dubai, Bangkok, Nairobi…the list is pretty endless! I am going to be going travelling next year and I’m going to take my sketchbook with me and explore the world through drawing!

Illustrated map of San Francisco

Check out Jenni in action, during map making mode:

The San Francisco map is now available to purchase from our online store

Take a look at the rest of our hand drawn map series here!

British Hand drawn map of London art print on wallNew York Hand drawn map of NYC art print on wallHand Drawn map of Berlin Art Print