Draw Your Own Maps: Jeremy Collins and the Art of Adventure

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Drawn: The Art of Ascent by Jeremy Collins

Drawn-jacket-250At age 32, Jeremy Collins had it all: A loving family and a successful career as an artist and illustrator whose work had  graced the cover of National Geographic magazine. He also had the bug to climb large rocks, and had pioneered new routes up hundreds of peaks across the United States. But he was nagged by a sense that he was leaving at least some part of his life unlived, or at least unseen in ways he wanted to see it.

Following the death of a close friend in an avalanche, Collins reset his priorities, setting out on a four-year series of adventures radiating out from his Kansas City home in the four cardinal directions: east, west, north, and south. Drawn: The Art of Ascent (and the accompanying film) is the result: filled with material from sketchbooks documenting his travels, it's a one-of-a-kind adventure book that's equal parts art, inspiration, and personal exploration, as well as a moving tribute to his lost climbing companion.

Drawn: The Art of Ascent is a May 2015 selection for Amazon.com's Best Books of the Month in Nonfiction. Enjoy these images from the book (click for larger versions) and commentary from the author.


Author Jeremy Collins on Drawn: The Art of Ascent

All of the art in this book is hand-crafted, pulled straight from my actual field sketchbooks created during my travels, a mix of watercolor, pen, and pencil. Every character is a very, very real person.

People told us that once we were married and had kids, our adventures would be over. We’re told it’s good to get comfortable, settle down, buy a bigger house and a better car, and start stockpiling the 401(k). But that’s not necessarily right for everyone.

When my close friend died in an avalanche, as a successful artist, rock-climber, husband, and dad at the age of 32, I felt ungrounded. In high school, a teacher had gifted me a copy of Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, yet somewhere between college and mortgage, I had lost sight of what I was capable of. Could I search for new perspective through mountain adventures while at the same time maintain a strong connection to my home life? My wife gave her blessing, and I broke out some maps and started planning.

Drawn: The Art of Ascent follows the journey as I made trips in the four cardinal directions of West, East, North, and South. I wanted to climb spectacular routes that no one had before, to truly challenge myself, and to fill my sketchbooks with the experiences and the stories.

From Yosemite’s Middle Cathedral with Mikey Schaefer, to China’s Keketuohai valley with Tommy Caldwell, Mark Jenkins, and others, down to the howler monkey-filled jungle and yucca-choked towers of Venezuela, all the way up to a wildly remote, 2,600-foot mountain wall in the Yukon, this is all a true story. Not just of first ascents, portaledge dreams, broken-down ankles and trucks, but also of exploring the important and artful balance between wilderness adventure and my love for my home and family.

The journeys came together organically over a duration of four years, and I didn’t really understand the story until a year after the traveling ended. The original idea had been simple: go places, see things, and climb things while making art. It wouldn’t cure cancer or impact the planet in any definite way, but what began as a flicker had burned inside as something I felt fully drawn to.

We are born to explore and pursue our own firsts, however we define them, whether that means the outer limits of the known physical map, the inner chasms of our imagination, or our own identity.

I think adventure is when you leave your comfort zone: putting yourself on the line, traveling to other countries, giving back to other communities, and hearing other people’s stories. The reality of being out of your comfort zone forces you to create something new, and to find what is true and worth telling.

Remember who you wanted to be.

Remember where you wanted to go.


"Finally planes began flying again and we headed to Yunek."






"'Let's get out of here now,' he said.

"We unraveled. We quickly put our helmets back on, adrenaline pulsing through our systems, and headed down our spindled and exposed veins of rope. Miraculously, no debris appeared on the route, and the shrapnel was all to the left of us."



"After a long day on the wall, sleep came easy in the yurt, and I fell asleep dreaming of my son and me growing old together."






"Accustomed to the high snowy peaks of China and Pakistan, Pat would be climbing in South America for the first time. He and I wanted to find our own line up the abrupt flanks of Acopan Tepui, an immense golden shield rising near the village of Yunek.

"Neither of us speak Spanish, however, so our Venezuelan friend José Miranda joined us as our interpreter and manager of in-country travel logistics. José, too, had never been to the Gran Sabana and had dreamed of climbing his first tepui via a new route."






 "Many Shot, Siksika (Blackfoot)
First Nations, Canada"



 "Suddenly the helicopter felt very far away, and the knife on my belt felt like a soggy used toothpick. I helped Bruce restack a fallen portion of the woodpile and top off his gas tank. Then the weather cleared, and we headed toward the Phoenix."



"Gravity. Momentum. Terror."



Collins at work in Yosemite


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