They help us find our way, explore new places and now they can help us see the places we thought we knew in a different light. Artist, Levi Mills blends geography and fantasy to feed our wanderlust culture and unknowingly find a new appreciation for cartography.
With a pen, watercolors and restlessness to boot, Levi crafted his first fantasy map of his home state of Wisconsin. The purpose was to fill a space on a wall in his apartment, but after posting a photo of the map to Reddit, he inadvertently found his future clientele.
Just following the inception of Facebook, Reddit jumped on the scene connecting people and ideas. The archaic interface – that still stands today – says a lot about its users: they care more about the content than the aesthetic. Though a simple concept, the world of Reddit is vast. It truly is the ultimate platform as users have been known to collaborate on books, bond over film culture and even share their talents, just like Levi.
Growing up, Levi was intrigued by the marketing and advertising industry. He wanted to “create things that people would see.” Though he didn’t directly pursue advertising or end up in the industry, he certainly found a roundabout way to create things that people would see – and now thoroughly enjoy!
By creating and sharing a personal project with the world, Levi has had various opportunities to create for others. He has designed custom maps for HI-TEC – a manufacturer of outdoor, adventure gear – and for Friends of the Smokies, which is the nonprofit partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He has also been contracted for private commissions, which he prefers as he gets to create a singular, custom map that cannot be duplicated.
Hobby-turned “side hustle,” Levi has found a way to do what he loves without the pressure of necessity. He has brought more light to a less traveled path of distribution and customer acquisition and thus created hope for the aspiring ‘artist-preneur.’ Levi continues his work as a freelance copywriter and draws maps as a pastime. He sells prints of fan-favorites on Etsy for a relatively passive income and has no intention on making it a full-time job. For others looking to make money with their artistic talents, Levi encourages, “Trust the people who are buying the things you make. If you like what you’re doing and people are buying – don’t question it!” After all, the customer is always right.