Ontario-based artist creates hand-drawn map of downtown Pittsburgh


Image courtesy of Cam Ojeda

Cam Ojeda’s hand-drawn map of Pittsburgh.

By Serena Garcia, Senior Staff Writer

Cam Ojeda’s passion for geography and drawing maps started when he was a kid. Now at 33, the Ontario native runs an online business, Cam Ojeda Art, where he specializes in ink illustrations and maps, both hand-drawn with a black pen on paper. 

“I’ve been doing maps since I was a kid, since I was 10,” Ojeda said. “I’ve always been drawing maps and cities, and things like that. But I haven’t been doing it professionally since like three or four years ago. Before that it was just a hobby.” 

Ojeda said he started off drawing cityscapes, but now most of his works revolve around hand-drawing maps, whether it’s for commissions or cities that he’s chosen himself. 

Ranging from a map of Edinburgh to Addis Ababa to cities around the U.S., such as Des Moines, Iowa, Ojeda’s website features 19 hand-drawn maps. Recently, Shane Miller, a 25-year-old northern Virginia resident, commissioned Ojeda to draw a map of downtown Pittsburgh

“My map style is pretty much just a bird’s eye or top-down view of the city, just looking straight from above, basically what you would see on a satellite image, but made with just black ink and on paper,” Ojeda said. 

Once he completes the drawing, Ojeda said he also reserves the right for prints to be made, which allows others to buy his art as well. Ojeda posts his art on his website, Instagram and his Reddit profile. Ojeda sells prints of his map art and ink illustrations on his website for $40 to $50. Original maps and other artwork can range anywhere from $100 to $500 depending on the piece.

Miller said he discovered Ojeda through social media. He stumbled upon one of Ojeda’s drawings online, and knew he needed to have a map similar to it, but with the focus on Pittsburgh. 

“I love Pittsburgh, I just wanted to get the commission because I like to have some aspects of it around my house in various degrees and I thought Cam’s art was just beautiful,” Miller said. “I saw it just on a post he made on like a social media for some other city, and I was like, ‘oh that would look awesome with Pittsburgh.” 

Despite never having lived in Pittsburgh, Miller fosters a connection with the city because many members of his family hail from Pittsburgh. His father and grandparents grew up in Butler, and his grandparents owned a shop in Shadyside. Though he now resides in Virginia, Miller still tries his best to visit Pittsburgh a few times a year. Through Ojeda’s map art, Miller said he can have a piece of the city with him. 

“It’s always like a nice little reminder right?” Miller said. “And I’ve always loved maps. I think they look interesting, just like even as an art piece. I think if maps are done very stylistically, they look very good and so it’s just a nice art piece on the wall, and it’s definitely a conversation starter. It’s always nice to just talk about the city with other people, share the fondness of it, so it’s nice to have it around as a reminder.” 

Ojeda said his process of creating his map art begins with searching for a basic street map online, then, using his television as a light source, he begins tracing the map onto paper. Once he finishes tracing, Ojeda uses satellite images from Google Earth to help piece the map together with street and landmark placement. All in all, the Pittsburgh map took around 60 to 80 hours when it came to drawing and another 10 hours for prep. 

For bigger pieces, Ojeda said it can take up to and even more than 100 hours of drawing. 

“When I trace the streets out it gives me good reference points, because you just have to look at what’s in between each street in terms of what you’re going to draw and how to get the scale right,” Ojeda said. “With little houses on the perimeter, you can sort of free-hand it, but with the major landmarks you want to do them properly.” 

Miller also believed that downtown’s scenery would look great in Ojeda’s style, and when he received the map in the mail, he was more than excited. When looking at the map, Miller pointed out all of the places and landmarks that stood out to him or brought back memories.

“When it was first delivered, I pulled it out, I was like, ‘Oh, it’s this building. It’s the UPMC. Oh, here’s the PPG Paints Arena. Here’s the baseball [stadium]. Here’s the Highmark Care Center. Here’s the Renaissance Hotel,’” Miller said. “Just pointing out every single building on the map probably took 30 minutes. But yeah it was a pleasure.” 

Aaron Koelker, a volunteer editor for NACIS Atlas of Design, a cartographic society based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, first discovered Ojeda’s work through social media as well. After seeing his work with map art, Koelker reached out to Ojeda and asked him to see if he would like to submit one of his maps for the latest volume of the Atlas of Design, which is published around every two years to celebrate a variety of great maps from a range of artists. Now, readers can find Ojeda’s map of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, in Volume 6

Koelker believes that Ojeda’s recent map of Pittsburgh is just as good as all of the other ones he’s seen. 

“It’s great,” Koelker said. “He has a really consistent style in all his maps, and I think that one’s definitely just as great as all of his others.” 

Koelker, who spends a lot of time with cartography, said maps can communicate so much, whether it’s for someone who’s never visited that city or someone who’s a longtime native. 

“If you hadn’t been there, maybe it’s somewhere you want to go, it’s kinda like being able to travel through somebody else’s guided or curated vision of that place,” Koelker said. “And for folks who do live there, it might be nice to throw up on the wall because it might be a place important to you.”

For Miller, Ojeda’s map evoked nostalgia. He said he shared that experience with his father and grandmother when he gifted them their very own prints of the map as well. 

“It was weirdly nostalgic because I’ve never lived there, so it doesn’t feel like it should be,” Miller said. “But it feels very nostalgic, it feels like I grew up there almost. I feel so attached to it that it feels nostalgic.” 

Overall, Miller said he thinks that buying map art like Ojeda’s allows for a greater appreciation of a city that is important to someone. 

“When you’re in the city, you can only take in pieces of it at any given time,” Miller said. “You might experience that all individually, but there’s just a different level when you experience it all together — which is why I like map art, almost just because it allows you to experience things on the larger scale.”