Welcome to Moment Sketchers

Hello! My name is Candace, and I’m a sketch artist with a passion for helping you connect with the world through art. Pull out your sketchbook and watercolors and find your favorite view — I’m glad you’re here!

The Atlas of Connection

Happy Monday, friends!

I hope you had a wonderful weekend, and I especially hope you’re excited for today’s post — as the time has finally come to share our first sample chapter for The Atlas of Connection. I’ve been looking forward to this day for a while 🙂

It’s been two and a half months since the giveaway post that started it all, and hardly a day has gone by where I haven’t thought about the project. But there’s one day in particular that I remember — a sunny Saturday morning in December, just two days after I posted the second call-out for your stories of connection from Asia.

That morning, I curled up on the sofa with a warm cup of coffee, opened a new notebook to its first blank page, and began to write:

“I want to use these next few months wisely, to bring an idea I can’t stop thinking about to fruition: THE ATLAS OF CONNECTION. It’s an idea that came out of nowhere — but on the other hand, it feels entirely destined to be…that of course it would involve maps, and of course it would involve connection, and of course I just happened to stumble upon it purely by serendipity…

This book is everything I want to give the world, and I love that it unfolded without me even having to try. Isn’t that the way inspiration should work? Shouldn’t it feel like a gift — and shouldn’t it arrive like a whisper?”

The Atlas of Connection

Dreaming and scheming in my new notebook of ideas last December…

*   *   *

I’m incredibly grateful for that first sense of flow and ease, and even more so that it continued to inspire the project throughout December and January, as I brought the next set of maps to life. But before I share some of them with you today, I thought you might enjoy a quick look behind the scenes — to follow the process that shaped your stories into the finished product:

Step #1: Collecting your stories

The first part of putting the sample chapter together was also my favorite — collecting more of your stories of connection.

There were really just two prerequisites for the stories that I included. Firstly, while the sample chapter is devoted to Asia, I also wanted it to have a good geographical mix from across such a vast continent. I decided to focus on three regions — South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia — and include a few stories from each area.

The only other prerequisite for stories was thematic, but again, I wanted to cast a wide net. I simply looked for stories that focused on a singular moment of kindness, connection, or understanding with someone you encountered on a journey — and I was continually moved by the moments you wrote about.

There are encounters with a monk in Tibet, local families in India and Nepal, and a trekking guide with the biggest smile in Malaysia, all of whom blessed you with their time, their homes, or their stories.

There were also many stories I didn’t have room to include this time, but I hope to be able to soon as this project grows.

The Atlas of Connection

The left-brained side of me loved keeping track of contributors to our first sample chapter.

*   *   *

Step #2: Envisioning the layout

The second step in creating the sample chapter was to think about what the layout of the book itself would look like. From early on, I knew that I wanted it to feel like an actual atlas, but what sets the collection of illustrated maps apart are the stories, one on each page. At the same time, I wanted to make sure the stories didn’t get lost on the page, so I decided to embed them digitally on the finished maps, while writing all of the place names and contributor info by hand.

Whether for my own projects or for clients, I’ve always loved this step of storyboarding a project. Working within InDesign, I took screenshots from Google Maps of each country or region, placed the stories on their respective maps, and finally decided on what icons and images I would illustrate to bring the stories and countries to life visually. The resulting document looks like a funny little patchwork of images on its own, but it was exactly what I needed to have in place before creating the final maps.

The Atlas of Connection

Storyboarding your moments of connection from Asia in InDesign.

*   *   *

Step #3: Creating the maps

In my own experience, I’ve found there are two key stages in a creative project. There’s that first heady rush of inspiration, when you race to give a new idea shape; and then there’s the longer stage of steadily doing the work to bring that idea to fruition.

While I spent December either scribbling and scheming in my notebook of ideas or plotting out map layouts in InDesign, I spent most of January seated in the same place every day — at my desk, with a stack of fresh watercolor paper, making maps like there was no tomorrow 🙂 Each map took about a full day’s work to create, and I loved embedding smaller details into them — from the population of each country to fun little facts about some element of its history or culture.

My hope is that readers feel as though they themselves are journeying around the world as they move through the book.

The Atlas of Connection

The Atlas of Connection

The Atlas of Connection

The Atlas of Connection

*   *   *

Sneak peek at our first sample chapter

At last, after one month of scheming and dreaming and another marathon month of map-making, we have our first sample chapter, friends! It’s amazing for me to look back at our first map of connections and see just how much this project has evolved over the last two months, and I will forever be grateful to you all for the original spark of inspiration.

In total, there are eleven maps in the sample chapter — one for each story, and a full map of Asia for the chapter opener — as well as a prototype cover. Today, I’m thrilled to share three of those maps and stories with you from the region of Southeast Asia. The stories are a little too small to read at this page width (especially if you’re reading this on your phone), so I’ve also uploaded the maps as high-res files — feel free to click on the images below and download them for a closer read.

The Atlas of Connection

The Atlas of Connection

*   *   *

What’s next for The Atlas of Connection

Last week, I sent off the sample chapter and a short proposal into the world for the first time, and I’m excited to continue querying agents and editors about the project. It’s always been my dream to bring out a book with a traditional publisher, so that’s the path I’ll pursue first with The Atlas of Connection.

And yet, if the traditional publishing path doesn’t work out for some reason, I’m also open to pursuing other paths and bringing this project to life independently — because I believe in the power of your stories so much. At times, the state of the world today makes it seem as though kindness is disappearing, especially towards those different from ourselves — but for me, your stories are the living proof we all need that kindness is alive and well.

As the world wants to build walls and close itself off, The Atlas of Connection is proof that bridges still exist all around us, if our hearts and minds are open to them.

With gratitude,

The Atlas of Connection

Bringing our first set of maps together! Thank you so much again to everyone who contributed their time and stories.

*   *   *

  • Sunny Christian

    W O W — I have just glanced down the page and am SO impressed. I gotta get some work done, so I will read and enjoy the artwork thoroughly soon….til then, blessings 🙂

    • That means so much, Sunny! Can’t wait to hear what you think of the new maps–and I hope your work goes great this afternoon 🙂 Blessings to you as well!

  • Syowoe

    AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW. I don’t even really know you but Candace, I love you! 🙂

    • Ahhhhhh, I feel the same way, Gayle! I love how this project has connected me virtually with so many wonderful people around the world–and now I only hope we’ll have the chance to connect in person as well soon 🙂

  • Candace – this is GORGEOUS. I can’t wait to see stories come to life around the rest of the world, and will be an eager consumer of this book once it’s available 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Valerie! I’m thrilled to hear you loved the sneak peek, and I so hope I can keep sharing more maps and stories with you soon 🙂


    • Ahh! Thank you so very much, Lola 🙂 That means the world coming from you. <3

  • This is insanely wonderful!

  • Candace, this is INCREDIBLE! And thank you, thank you for the sneak peek! I especially loved how you took us through the process + behind the scenes—that’s usually my favorite part. 🙂

    • Eeep! Thank you thank *you*, Rebecca–and yes! As I thought about putting this post together, it only felt right to share about the process *behind* the sample chapter, too…as I know you love and understand, that’s always the best part, right? 🙂 Wishing you a wonderful week in Italy!

  • Genevieve

    Lovely! And thank you for being a voice towards positive change. =)

    • Thank you, Genevieve! So excited for your beautiful book project this year as well 🙂 <3

  • Veena

    This looks amazing, and I cannot wait to see how this project progresses. Thank you for being such a bright shining beacon of beauty and kindness and hope 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Veena! And thank *you* for continuing to shine your light–I always love seeing your posts on Instagram and knowing you’re out in the world 🙂 xx

  • Aurora

    Looks amazing and beautiful!

    • Thank you, Aurora!! And I seriously owe you an email! Can’t wait to be in touch more soon 🙂 <3

      • Aurora

        Fantastic — can’t wait!

  • Congratulations! It looks like a lovely book. All the best with it. And don’t get discouraged; the world wants it.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement, Keith–they really mean the world. I hope you’ve been great!

  • Treava

    OMG Candace! This is just exquisite. Such beautiful work you do. I love Atlases and maps but this is truly amazing. You really make the world a beautiful and happier place. Thank you! It’s also great to see behind-the-scenes Candace. Not only have the stories connected us, but you are keeping us in the loop in the process of this wonderful Atlas. All the best in the search for a publisher. They should be jumping at the bit for this! Thank you Candace!!❤

    • Yay!! I’m so thrilled to hear you enjoyed this sneak peek, Treava–I loved putting it together 🙂 And yes! I always enjoy it when my favorite artists share behind the scenes of their process, so I wanted to be sure to do the same with this project–especially as it has been such a wonderful work-in-progress within our community. Your encouragement and support always means so much to me, and I really hope I’ll have good news to share with you soon about next steps for the book. Wishing you a blessed and inspired week! <3

  • Kar

    Just woken up with the Jeff Buckley song ‘ Satisfied Mind’, and breakfasted with BBC world news, that was going to set the tone of my day for today…..Hopeless!!!!! Until I opened up your post. As much as I treasure solitude, but at times it felt like I am looking out to the crazy world from a peaceful cave, and the view is mine alone. Since I had discovered your blog, not only it has been a privilege to read about your journey, but also to be on the same platform with the other of your readers around the world. What a community! Today, from my cave I see Hope.!!!
    Thank you so so much Candace.

    • Kar, thank you so much for sharing such a personal and honest comment–and please know you’re not the only one vacillating between hope and hopelessness right now…there is so much happening in the world to make us doubt and fear the direction we’re going in. But for me, the stories that have been shared through the Atlas of Connection project give me genuine hope that all is not lost–that there are still people in the world who desire real, authentic connection and understanding with people different from themselves…so that is the hope I’m choosing to focus on right now. It was also so moving for me to hear that you’re drawing some hope and inspiration from being connected to our community–this year especially, it has been equally fulfilling for me, so I’m very glad to hear that you’re enjoying being a part of it 🙂 Thank you again for saying hello from your cave, and I look forward to sharing more stories with you soon! <3

  • Tahirih Goffic

    What an amazing project, and brilliant concept! I’m so excited to see more. Keep us posted! Good luck with your publishing efforts…this just has to get out into the world 🙂 Cheers!

    • Thank you so much, Tahirih–your support means so much! And please know I’m wishing you the very same with your plans to start a blog for your sketches…the world needs to see them, too 🙂 All the best to you!

  • Nancy Bardos

    There you go being brilliant again. Yes! Whatta great and beautiful project!

    • Thank you, Nancy!! I’m so happy to hear the project resonated with you 🙂 <3

  • Corinne Vail

    Candace, As always you leave me completely inspired by your verve and your works. I love the first chapter. I love that you have shown us your process. Thank you for including me on this journey!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and support, Corinne–and thank *you* for being a part of our sample chapter! Your wonderful moment with Hamza and his mushrooms continues to be a cornerstone story of this collection for me…as simple as it is significant, and such a perfect example of global connections. Thank you again for the honor of sharing it!

  • Amanda Thompson

    I agree with Corinne-you are so inspiring. Your work ties in your passion for travel, the world, people, their stories, etc, etc. I am really enjoying following the creative process. Thank you for sharing. Good luck with the next step.

    • Thank you for your kind words as always, Amanda–they really mean so much to me. It’s taken a few years to get to this point, but I truly do feel as though I’ve reached some sort of culmination, where all the things that mean the most to me have been able to come together and form the heart of my work–and I feel so grateful for that! And it’s an equal blessing to be able to share it with you now and hear that it resonates…so thank you for that honor 🙂 Hope you’re having a wonderful week so far!

  • This is all so beautiful! Congrats on completing the sample chapter and I’m so excited to see where this journey goes next – both for you and your readers! 🙂

    • Thank you, Flora! That means so much to me 🙂 And I hope your own journeys–both in the world and on the page–are going well so far this year! <3

  • Lyn – A Hole in my Shoe

    I love you work and this behind the scenes look is an absolute pleasure to see. I love the process behind planning something. Such an honour for those to be part of it too.

    • Thank you so much, Lyn! I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the look behind the scenes of this project–it was certainly fun putting it all together 🙂 Can’t wait to keep sharing more about the project with you!

  • Absolutely incredible Candace, this looks just beautiful! And as much as I do like the art&work, I also very much appreciate the words at the end of your post! Open minds and open hearts is what we need indeed – in order to see(d) happiness and also to make change happen! We don’t need (more) people thinking (mainly) about walls and wallets. Thanks for the inspiration once again and well done for this amazing project Candace!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and insights here, Oliver! They’ve been so missed here 🙂 And yes–I truly feel the same about this project…while I loved working on the maps and am excited about the idea of basing an entire book around them, at the same time, they’re also just a vehicle for a deeper message that I hope to share with the world. I’m so glad you sensed that, too, and I can’t wait to keep sharing more updates from this project with you soon!

      • Thanks for your lovely words Candace, I missed your sparks of inspiration all the same! 🙂 Looking forward to many more to come… Take care for now and keep in touch!

        • That means so much, Oliver 🙂 Hope you’re having a wonderful, inspired week!

  • Pingback: Travel blog roundup: February – One More Step Around the World I Go()