© 2020 Chris Muhl Art. All rights reserved.

The Blog

I previously posted about a Grand Canyon map reproduction that I developed with ArcGIS Pro. As mentioned before, I was curious to test ESRI’s new software and to see how quickly a decent reproduction could be produced. I discussed this all in my previous post, so I won’t bore you with the details here. However, I decided to do a full-size print to hang on the wall. This is the final step in the map production process. So, I wanted to share it here.

This is the first test print. If you look closely, you may notice some dark lines in the images. These will be removed and the final map will be printed on fine art paper and then framed.




I’m working on a framing concept. Here’s a simple mock-up.


Hi everyone,

I hope you’re all doing well, learning new survival skills, and finding unique ways to have fun and enjoy life.

This here’s a garden update.


The first garden came together nicely. It is so incredible to watch nature just doing its thing; plant seeds, give them water, and sit back and watch. I also marvel at the thought that these plants are performing the same internal functions, growing in the same soil, drawing in the same water and minerals, yet they produce flavors that are so unique from one another.


I’ve been enjoying gardening so much that I decided to expand. Collecting stones from around the property, I’ve been able to create two garden areas.


The gardens lie on a slight slope, so they are sunken into the earth on the uphill side, and fairly level with the surrounding area on the downhill side. Basalt stones and boulders line the perimeter. Additionally, I trenched the perimeter of each garden and lay slate down vertically to a depth of about 14″. This is meant to serve as a natural gopher and mole barrier. So far it’s working. However, not so much for the cats.

Unfortunately, our furry friends were playing around in the garden and trampling the veggies. So, I had to build a fence around each area. I found a heap of free wood scraps at a local lumberyard. I grabbed a few pieces and ripped them into stakes.


While spending time in the garden, I have noticed that there are ants everywhere. A quick Google search revealed that ants are great for insect control. And sure enough, I see the ants combing the leaves of our vegetables for other insects. Or, perhaps they’re just farming aphids, which I hear they also do. Either way, it’s enjoyable to create a space in which life thrives.

I’ve also planted marigolds and sweet alyssum around perimeter, but they have yet to arrive. These two flowers are supposed to attract beneficial insects to the garden.

All in all, creating the gardens and growing veggies has been a fairly simple project. If you have a little space and some time, I highly recommend the experience.

Again, I hope you are all well and finding unique ways to be productive during these days of COVID-19. Wishing you all the best.

Dear Friends,

What an interesting situation we are in. I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well during these trying times.

While we are separated by distance, we are united in circumstance. We share the same concerns. We share the same hopes. It is not often the thoughts of everyone on Earth dwell in this degree of unity.

I recall a book I read some time ago. The author wrote of interviews with survivors of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and of his surprise in hearing survivors describe the event as one of the most magnificent times of their lives. The earthquake killed an estimated 3,000 people, and ignited fires that burned roughly 500 city blocks and left 400,000 residents homeless. Yet, despite the devastation, an air of unity arose. A community of people united in circumstance came together, bonded with one another, and in caring for the well-being of each other, triumphed over despair. For survivors, the memory of this camaraderie was cherished for a lifetime.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unusual incident in that we cannot physically unite. Many of the traditional ways in which people find solace, such as group exercise, therapy, or congregated prayer, are beyond the boundary of safety. So, it is a time in which introspection and creativity must flourish. We must find ways to soothe our emotional and physical condition and to keep the mind actively engaged. As the old saying goes, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”

Luckily, technological solutions for mediated conversation abound. We can unite with family, and friends, and communities virtually. And the Internet provides a wealth of opportunities for learning and entertaining. But the virtual world has its limitations. Movies, TV series, and online entertainment eventually become quite numbing.

I often think about the transformation of entertainment over time and how it ties into our concept of “progress.” Today’s entertainment is characterized by immediate and effortless, short-term gratification. I am not sure this is “progress.” Today’s entertainment offers little to personal or social development. We watch movies and TV series, we watch hours of YouTube videos, we play video games, but all too often, we gain nothing from them that lasts in the long-term. In fact, often we are actually just watching others who are doing interesting things with their lives, while we are just sitting, numbly watching. There was a time when entertainment fostered personal and social development. I think of the days of Jane Austen, when entertainment was walking in the woods (physical development), reading a book and conversing about its content (intellectual development), and playing music together (social development). Today, many of us are simply watching the people who are doing these things. We are watching the athletes who wander in the woods. We are watching the intellets presenting their TED talks. We are watching the musicians playing their instruments. We are watching, watching, watching, while they are doing, doing, doing. Yet, all of us possess the capacity to be a doer of any skill. We can all wander in the woods. We can all become an expert on any topic. We can all learn to play and sing and dance.

Well, here we are now, confined to our houses. What a wonderful time to reenvision the entertainment in our lives. What a perfect time to be doing and growing. Better still, we can share this experience with those around us, either physically or virtually, and improve the condition of our relationships and social bonds. We can foster camaraderie by encouraging each other to learn and grow and supporting one another as we do so.

While this is a trying time for most, I believe it can be a time of tremendous growth. As a muscle does not develop without strain, the mind does not develop without toil. Struggle is what makes us strong. And strong we will certainly become as we persevere through these trying times.

As for myself, I’m taking this time to learn more about the condition of our world. I recently read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent climate change synthesis report. And I am currently reading the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Future of Food And Agriculture report and a book on the threat of climate change to national security. For anyone who wants to know what we’re in for in the coming decades (including the increasing threat of infectious diseases), I highly recommend these readings.

Here are the links to these materials:

The IPCC’s Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report
The United Nations FAO Future of Food and Agriculture, Alternative Pathways to 2050 report
Daniel Moran’s Climate Change and national Security, A Country-Level Analysis

It has been said that what humans seek most, is the sense of purpose. And I have read that in times of disaster, people who seek and embrace roles of purpose fare better than those who do not. In studies of people who have been stranded at sea or lost in the woods, a common characteristic in survivors is the tendency to assume a role of value to the individual’s or group’s survival. For example, taking on the role of gathering food or checking a lifeboat for leaks every morning. These roles keep the mind focused on the tasks of survival, reduce the mind’s tendency to panic, and create a sense of purpose. This seems commonsensical, right?

With this in mind, I have taken some time to create a garden with my family. It’s amazing how soothing gardening is. And it has been truly exciting watching these little plants grow! In filling up the day with various roles, I keep my mind engaged and provide value to the family, which in turn, creates a sense of purpose.


Watching the growth of plants within our garden, and the beauty of the natural world awakening from a winter’s rest, calls to my mind the words of Richard Dawkins, “Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous-indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”

So, it is that nature has brought the material kingdom to a standstill, while at the same time it provides us with the boundless beauty of Spring. Here in Oregon, the trees are budding and blooming. The flowers are giving their gift to the world; pollen for the birds and bees, and beauty for the passerbys.

Should you find yourself bored, don’t forget there’s a wonderful natural world out there just waiting to be enjoyed.

In sharing the activities my days, I hope to have encouraged you to try something new, to discover new purpose, and to learn and grow, if you are not already do so.

To everyone out there, I wish you the best possible outcome from the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope you and your family and friends are safe. For those of you who have lost loved ones, I am so sorry for your loss. My heart and thoughts go out to you in this time of sorrow.

I hope in the future, those politicians in the highest levels of leadership will respond more appropriately to such events to prevent such catastrophic consequences. Hopefully lessons will be learned from this pandemic, and measures will be put in place to mitigate the severity of similar events in the decades to come.

Recently, I came across Bradford Washburn’s map, “The Heart of the Grand Canyon.” The map was published in 1978 by National Geographic.


Image Source: ICA Commission on Map Design

Unlike cartographers today that have access to mountains of geospatial data to produce maps accurately and quickly, Washburn had to produce the data himself. The entire process of planning, fieldwork, and map production took eight years. The final product is considered the most beautiful map of the Grand Canyon ever created.

I thought it would be fun to attempt a quick reproduction of Washburn’s map using modern technology tools. I used the image above as a reference. The colors in this photo are not quite true to the original map, but I liked them, and so used it as the reference.

Washburn’s original map contains cooler colors that represent the true colors of the Grand Canyon according to his observation.


Image Source: National Geographic

I wanted to use warmer colors that, to me, correspond to the vision of the Grand Canyon that I hold in my imagination. Admittedly, Washburn’s use of tone and contrast produce a far more interesting and beautiful visual experience.

I used ArcGIS Pro, Photoshop, and Illustrator to create the map and elements. Data sources include the National Elevation Dataset, the United States Geological Survey, the National Park Service, and National Agriculture Imagery Program.

Here’s my version below (and in the page banner above).


To conclude, Washburn’s map and the story behind it are sensational. The surveying and cartographic skill that went into producing it are beyond words. However, it is amazing how far GIS/cartography has developed technologically. Washburn’s map required eight years to produce. Today, with ESRI and Adobe products, we can all create decent looking maps in a tiny fraction of the time. Production time on this 36″ x 48″ map was about four to five days.

Below, the two maps are compared side by side. With more time, I would strive to enhance contrast in the color ramp for the canyon area. Additionally, I would increase the contrast between highlights and shadows in the plateaus.

Thanks for reading my post! Best wishes to all!

Update 2/15/2020:

I found a little time and was able to make the changes that I discussed above. I believe that by adjusting the color ramp to achieve more variation and contrast between colors, and increasing highlights in the plateau areas, the map has more character. Here’s the new version below.


I’ve been working on a number of small projects recently, mostly related to cartography. I recently produced an ice-mass recession map of the Columbia Glacier area in Washington state. With this map, I explored ways to depict the loss of ice-mass over time. The ice-mass data in this map was obtained by classifying and digitizing Landsat satellite imagery. Landsat images of this area became available in 1984. The red polygons in the map show the approximate extent of ice mass on August 4, 1984. The light blue polygons show the approximate extent of ice mass on August 5, 2019. In future maps, I will include charts of recession over time with respect to unit of area.

© 2019 Chris Muhl Art

A few years ago I started laying down the framework for a web map called the Human Impact Map. However, after several weeks of coding, work pulled me away from the project. Since then, the map concept has lingered in the back of my mind. From time to time, I have searched the Internet hoping to find a similar project given the value that I believe something like this can offer. I thought that National Geographic or Google or some other company with robust, mapping tools would embark on a similar endeavor. I’ve found that small attempts have been made, but I have yet to see the concept built out into a fully immersive and interactive web map experience. Unfortunately, I lack the Javascript/JQuery knowledge to develop the concept as it is envisioned in my mind, but I have made an attempt. With the functionality mostly in place, I am now building out the map categories.

The alpha release is now available for viewing. Click here to check out the map. Please note that there are still many bugs that need to be worked out. The primary issue relates to the zoom function. Currently, it is best to interact with the map markers and popups from the default zoom extent. To return to the default zoom extent, click the home button or refresh your screen.

Thank you all for your support!

Over Labor Day weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to exhibit my work at West Elm Los Angeles. This three-day event made it possible for me to reveal my artwork and the cause that I promote to hundreds of West Elm customers.

Some people have asked me, why West Elm? Why not place your art in a gallery? It is said that art holds three primary values, 1) aesthetic, 2) social, and 3) commercial. In developing artwork to promote causes, the social value is extremely important me. I want the cause of my artwork to reach a broad audience. With their roster of clients and designed to cater to art lovers, galleries are an excellent place to sell artwork, and I do hope to have my work in galleries. However, foot traffic through most galleries is a tiny fraction of that moving through a major interior furnishings company. West Elm LA’s weekend foot traffic reaches roughly 2,000 people per day. That’s some major exposure for Drawings for Africa!

During the event, dozens of people took the time to read through the materials that I had presented about African elephants. I spoke with people from all walks of life. I met many people who knew about the current poaching crises, but I also met many who did not. An exhibition for elephants in a gallery might draw elephants lovers from far and wide, and I might sell more work. But elephant lovers aren’t generally ivory consumers. In getting my work and its message in front of everyday consumers, perhaps I was able to inform one or more potential ivory buyers of the true impact of their actions.

It means so much to me that a major interior furnishings company has supported my artwork and the cause. Thank you West Elm for this incredible opportunity!!

What I love most about art is the opportunity to develop an experience in which the audience can feel a connection. I strive to create works that have value, both aesthetically and socially. To achieve this, I enjoy merging mediums. I find that mixed media provides me with a broader range of possibilities for expression.

Two of my favorite mediums are wood and metal. For My Life for an Ivory Trinket, I have designed brass, corner accents to accentuate the message of the work. Development of the accents was a multi-step process integrating Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, AutoCAD, and 3D printing and laser cutting technologies.

Created from African designs, each accent contains a primary symbol with a meaning relevant to environmental protection.


In the upper left corner, the primary symbol is symbolic of knowledge, and the human capacity to learn and grow. Resolving the environmental issues of our time will require a continued commitment to improving our knowledge of the natural world and the effects of the material world upon it.

In the upper right corner, the primary symbol represents the importance of Mother Earth and her role in sustaining life. Our planet provides, not only all the resources that make life possible, but also critical ecosystem services that cannot be replaced by human-made systems. To ensure a viable future for all life, we must protect nature.

In the lower left corner, the primary symbol signifies learning from the past. If we are to create a sustainable way of life, we must strive to learn from our mistakes, and move forward with the wisdom of lessons learned. We must act deliberately and consider the true long-term consequences of our actions.

In the lower right corner, the primary symbol represents the importance of striving for the best in human endeavors. The environmental troubles of our time can only be resolved if we strive to be the ideal version of ourselves. This requires an honest evaluation of our individual impact on the world, and the will to change our ways.

In preparation for moving My Life for an Ivory Trinket for shows and exhibitions, I built an art exhibit stand.

My goal was to create a stand that can, 1) withstand the weight of the artwork, 2) be rolled around easily, and 3) matches the visual appearance of the artwork.

The design interates wood and steel to create a strong structure that is also visually appealing.

I want to thank Schlosser Machine Inc. of Hood River, Oregon for welding up the base brackets. They were able to provide a finished product within 24 hours. I am extremely impressed with the quality of their work and the amazingly quick turnaround!

After a few weeks in Portland for scanning and framing, My Life for an Ivory Trinket is now back at home!

Along the way, I have met some extraordinarily kind and talented people. Tekoah of Pearl Gallery and Framing is constantly amazing me with the breadth and depth of his framing and art history knowledge. Justin of Makers Woodworks created a frame that far exceeded my expectations. And David of Pixelpoint Artistry has done an exceptional job scanning and correcting the digital reproductions of the work. I feel so fortunate to have met each of these individuals.

Thank you everyone for your support!!

Transporting big art has proven to be an interesting experience requiring far more labor than I had expected.

I have already posted about the apparatus that I created to contain the artwork during transport. That apparatus has proven to be quite effective. To learn more, check out my block post titled The Art Transport Apparatus.

In order to transport the art from one location to the next requires renting a U-Haul van or truck. So, I’ve been getting familiar with the ins and outs of renting and driving U-Haul vehicles.

Additionally, to move the art and frame around, I have been using a dolly. However, the casters (wheels) on the off-the-shelf dollies available at hardware stores are small, and I have found that they can easily get caught up on small rocks and cracks. The hard rubber wheels also create a rough ride with a good deal of chatter. To get around this issue, I have created The Dali, designed to provide a smooth ride over rough terrain, keeping the art safe throughout the journey.

After completing DFA No. 1, I set out to create a custom frame. In my mind, a frame is an extension of the artwork, enhancing the experience that I strive to present to the viewer.

I know that many artists struggle with the question of whether or not to frame their work, knowing that a buyer may prefer to choose their own frame. As a mixed media artist, I see the frame as another area for artistic exploration and expression.

DFA No. 1 is meant to reveal the extraordinary texture and beauty of an animal. In creating a frame, I wanted to expose the exquisite color and grain of wood. The aim is to create an experience in which the viewer can see the extraordinary nature of non-human life.

After several hours of researching wood colors and grains, and of developing frame mockups in Photoshop, I decided to use Oregon black walnut acquired from Goby Walnut in Portland, Oregon. The Company specializes in salvaging wood from dead and dying trees.

To build the frame, I chose to hire a carpenter. I went with Makers Woodworks, out of Vancouver, Washington. Their work is exceptional and I couldn’t be happier with the final product.

I have also used Adobe Illustrator, AutoCAD, and 3D printing technology to produce plaques made of a bronze-steel composition. These plaques detail the frame maker, the artist, the artwork title, date, location and so forth.

I strive to produce galvanizing works in which every detail is addressed at the highest level of quality. I hope that the audience and the buyer of DFA No. 1 can see the love and passion that went into this piece.