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The World's Largest Hand Drawn Maze

on Sat, 01/05/2013 - 00:00

Joe Wos, founding executive director of the Pittsburgh-based ToonSeum, always wanted to make the Guinness Book of World Records. When he realized that he was fast approaching the age of 40, he knew it was finally time to make his dream reality. “All the records were sports records, or things like standing on one leg for a long time,” he told The Wall Street Journal in September 2012. “I knew I could create something.” Having doodled mazes in his youth before evolving into a nationally acclaimed cartoonist, Wos decided to return to the favorite pastime of his childhood for his shot at fame and immortality. He contacted Guinness and upon receiving their acceptance of his proposal—despite the fact that they had no formal category for it—and then began work on July 27, 2012, on what would eventually become the World’s Largest Hand Drawn Maze.

After over 30 hours of on-and-off work, which amounts to approximately one hour for each foot of the 72-inch long drawing, Joe Wos finally completed his maze on January 2, 2013. The finished creation made its public premier two days later as part of the Pittsburgh Remodeling Expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, where it remained on display for the duration of the three-day event. In addition to the zig-zag paths of a traditional maze, the record-making labyrinth of Joe Wos also contains numerous illustrations, many of which were created on behalf of paid sponsors such as StarKist, Guardian Storage Solutions and VisitPittsburgh. The Steel City-based Schell Games, meanwhile, is the official sponsor of Wos’ achievement, and its logo is prominently displayed in the center of the drawing.

“I can’t do it at hour-long stretches,” Joe Wos told the Huffington Post while the maze was still under construction. “I need complete concentration to do this.” That does not mean, however, that Wos was in total isolation as he worked on it. The ongoing project visited Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, for instance, and spent considerable time at Pittsburgh’s ToonSeum. In addition to hearing poor puns regarding how “a-maze-ing” his creation was, Wos also solicited ideas from those in attendance that were then woven into the maze as well. The visit to Geppi’s coincided with Shark Week, so a large shark was added, while a five-year-old boy who liked trains served as the inspiration for a train with the number five on it.

“It’s not easy,” Joe Wos explained to the Huffington Post. “One path has to remain open, but I have to keep about five paths available just in case I draw myself into a wrong path. And that will be terrible for the person who actually solves the maze because they may spend up to 30 minutes going down a wrong path as well.” At the moments when Wos would inadvertently reach a dead end, he simply added a new illustration to the maze and moved on to another section. An “Out of Order” sign that appears on the drawing was the result of one such misstep, yet it hardly seems out of place next to the puppy, chicken, elephant, mouse and hockey-playing penguin that likewise appear.

As difficult as it was to draw the maze, finding someone willing to solve it appears to be an equally challenging task. During the Pittsburgh Remodeling Expo, Wos jokingly offered a passer-by one dollar if they could complete it in 15 minutes, but the solution would obviously take hours and not minutes to successfully uncover. The Wall Street Journal asked numerous maze experts if they would be willing to make the attempt—including Adrian Fisher, author of The Art of the Maze, and Richard Brightfield, who has created over 2,000 mazes—but each of them declined as well. “Let’s face it, it will be a pain,” Wos himself remarked before adding, “I’m 99.4 percent sure it can be solved.”

Regardless of when or how long it takes someone to work their way through the tangled web of black lines, Joe Wos’ creation is a remarkable achievement worthy of entry into the Guinness Book of World Records, as well as one that is capable of standing on its own as a new form of art. “You’ll see pancakes in the drawing, or a nice juicy steak,” Wos says in regards to certain illustrations in the maze that were sketched during moments when he was hungry, adding yet another dimension to the World’s Largest Hand Drawn Maze. “I think that mazes can be a form of graphic storytelling,” he explains. “They just traditionally haven’t been.”

Thanks to the efforts of Joe Wos, that may soon change.

Anthony Letizia

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