If you’ve skied one mountain, or traveled the world on skis or snowboard, you’ve probably used James Niehues’ resort maps.
Niehues has been painting aerial views since the mid-1980s. He created his first ski resort map in 1988. “Each view is hand-painted by brush and airbrush using opaque watercolor to capture the detail and variations of nature’s beauty,” he explains. “In many instances, distortions are necessary to bring everything into a single view. The trick is to do this without the viewer realizing that anything has been altered from the actual perspective.”
“THE ‘REMBRANDT OF SNOW’ HAS PUBLISHED A HEFTY COFFEE TABLE BOOK WITH A COLLECTION OF NEARLY ALL OF HIS HAND-PAINTED MAPS.”—Los Angeles Times
To make a resort map, Niehues shoots the mountain from every possible perspective, including aerial. The resulting photographs are a baseline for the artist to conceive and visualize how the numerous angles and aspects all fit into a single frame. It is undoubtedly painstaking work.
Launched in 2018, James Niehues: The Man Behind the Map became the highest-supported Art-Illustration project on Kickstarter.
This book chronicles his work and includes background on trail map making, Niehues’ career and impact on the industry. And Niehues has just released a collection of sketches depicting ten mountains across the U.S. These pencil sketches were a key step in the execution of his famed hand-painted maps.
“The sketch is the cornerstone to providing the best configuration of a resort’s slopes, and it’s where the composition for the final painted view comes to life,” says Niehues. “A ski map is first and foremost an accurate representation to guide the skier around the mountain — but it’s also how the trees, rocks, slopes and topography all converge into a beautiful scene.”
Click here for the full collection.