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Canton native draws illustrations with GPS while bicycling

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CANTON - A Canton native has discovered a new hobby for himself by drawing illustrations on city maps with his bicycle.

In search of a creative way to exercise, Michael J. Wallace, an 8th grade science teacher at Gilman School in Baltimore, started sketching pictures on city maps, using the streets and roadways as boundaries for his art.

“I started doing this four years ago,” he said. “It began as me trying to spell my name. I wanted to see if it was possible to spell ‘Wally’ across the streets of Baltimore.”

Mr. Wallace then uses his sketched images as a bicycle route for him to track with a GPS system while riding.

“What I’ll do is print out a map of the area I’m going to try to create in,” he said. “Once I have something I really like, I’ll look at it in satellite view to confirm that a pathway even exists in the places I’m trying to go.”

After determining his ride plan, Mr. Wallace said he rides his bike “like a giant etch-a-sketch,” mapping out his drawing through a GPS on his phone.

After each trek, the GPS shows him where in the city his workout took him, which appears on screen as the shape of animals, fisherman, rollercoasters or whatever his drawing was. He then saves the image and downloads the picture he’s created.

“It’s a perfect fit for me, blending creativity with technology and exercise,” he said.

Mr. Wallace said he graduated from Canton High School in 1990, and after years of college, graduate school and teaching middle school science in North Carolina, he went to Baltimore, where he’s been for the past 11 years.

Although most of his 250 illustrations were created in Baltimore, Mr. Wallace mapped out five different illustration right here in his hometown, including images of a shark, a rat, a dog, the digits 13617 and the word “Bears.”

He also created an illustration in Baltimore of an owl in honor of one of his favorite places in his hometown, The Hoot Owl, 40 Park St., Canton. He also tracked an image of a train that he named The Hoot Owl Express.

Mr. Wallace said that he’s not always sure how long the rides will take him, especially the bigger routes.

His longest route left him with the image of a spider web across the city of Baltimore. The 44.69 mile route took him nine hours to complete.

Some of his drawings take him through parks and tennis courts that sometimes have fences. In order to ensure the picture turns out, he said he puts his phone through the fence, throws his bike over, jumps the fence and continues on his way.

Mr. Wallace said that he is very careful to avoid private property while on his routes.

“The other day I went through a market in Baltimore where I had to lock up my bike, run my phone through the market, hide it on the other side, run back through the market, unlock my bike, ride all the way around the market, pick my phone up and that kept the line straight,” Mr. Wallace explained.

Mr. Wallace said although he was not the first person to use this technique as a form of exercise, he encourages others to be inspired by the illustrations he’s created and create their own.

“I disclose the entire process on my website so anybody else can do it,” he said. “I encourage other people to try it because it’s a great form of exercise.”

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