About The Project

“Where on Earth is Waldo?”

The following review was written by Nancy Strider :

Melanie Coles, a young web designer and artist, has set out to stimulate an intriguing viral game. She has hidden a huge painting on a rooftop somewhere in Vancouver, in hopes that it will appear on Google Earth.

Coles’ contribution to the Emily Carr 2008 Grad Exhibition is the process documentation of her long-term project “Where on Earth is Waldo?” “My addition of a Waldo figure to Google Earth, in a way subverts the whole earth into being part of my game; each rooftop or field then becomes a place where Waldo could be hiding”.

Why Waldo? The widespread delight, experienced by readers of all ages, in picking the illustration of the nerdy-looking young man out of a crowd, has resulted in the phrase “Where’s Waldo?” becoming embedded into the lexicon of popular culture. Melanie is publishing “how-to make a very big Waldo” instructions on her website http://www.whereonearthiswaldo.com/ “My hope is that, through making Waldo open source, and by having the template and concept open to everyone — Waldos could begin popping up throughout Google Earth … People will be looking to find their friend’s house online, and say ‘I just found Waldo!”

She is keeping some key information a mystery. The rooftop location will not be made public, to ensure that the viewers’ experience remain mediated and indirect, limited to photos on a computer monitor. It is also unknown exactly when Waldo’s photo will be showing up on Google Earth, as they do not disclose their photography schedule. The essential drama of this participative piece lies in the preparation, the anticipation, the patience, and the faith.


In subject matter, style, size and point of view, Melanie’s painting resonates with the huge ancient Celtic chalk drawings carved into hilltops. Both types of figures are laid out so as to be unreadable from the ground. They are meant to engage a celestial eye. The gestures, however, indicate different approaches to the deities. For example, the priapic 2nd Century “Cerne Abbas Giant”, near Dorchester in Dorset, brandishes his club at the gods, in a competitive assertion of human fertility and potency. The giant Waldo, on the other hand — as though responding to the coffee-break question “Is Google God?” — simply waves his cane cheerfully at the sky, and sends the confident message “Hello, up there”


Coles seems to enjoy playing with scale. In early 2007, at the Petri Dish Gallery, she showed a series of miniatures in her exhibition “All the Small Things”. “I went from making art works I could fit in my hand, to an art work that can fit me in its hand.”

To paint the fifty-four foot long figure, she applied the traditional “Renaissance grid” technique. At weekend painting parties, her friends and classmates transferred small sections of marks from her original drawing onto two-foot squares drawn on long vinyl strips. Even before she sewed them together, the jigsaw pieces of red and white shirt and thick glasses brought instant recognition.

She cites inspiration by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. On their website they explain their “temporary large-scale environmental works … have elements of painting, sculpture, architecture and urban planning.” For Coles, too, the process is at the heart of her final product. However she differs from Christo and Jean Claude in the spatial relationship of her work and its audience. Theirs are in plain view – seen from accessible locations on the ground. Coles has chosen instead to situate hers in “plane view”.

Melanie also sees herself as part of another current art movement. “Google Earth has been stirring up a lot of interest, and blogs such as http://googlesightseeing.com/ have been a launch for users to discuss bizarre findings within the application. With this interest a new wave of art is being imagined: one that eliminates the accidental and creates work specifically for the medium of Google Earth. These projects have created a lot of buzz on blogs such as Boing Boing (boingboing.net) and are becoming a new obsession for the tech savvy generation”.

While influenced by both ancient and modern environmental art, Coles connects her real painting “Where on Earth is Waldo” into the Internet. She adds her own humourous twist by using a popular icon. “It contextualizes my Waldo in not just a new emerging art form, but situates it in something that has been going on since the beginning of man. Proof that no ideas are truly new! I read a statement in MacLean’s last year that said that the Internet creates very little that is truly new, it just creates new ways of doing things. I would agree with that, and my whole project restates that point. You can take Waldo from print to the web but its still the same game and the same Waldo.”

Review by Nancy Strider

Contributing Artists Include: Ryan Dyck, Nancy Strider, Jay Martiniuk, Andrew Frose, Sandy Yee, Jordie Yow, Lisa Elgert, Keith Catton, Nicole Obidowski, Alison Benjamin, Amanda Thomson, Becky Ferguson, Emiliano Sepulveda, Ryan Ling, Victoria Cruz, Caroline Walker and Stephen Jersak. Thanks also to Cloverdale Paints, Zulu Records, Club Card, Peg Campbell, Mo Simpson and Rock Whitney.

Contact Melanie: melaniecoles@gmail.com

49 responses to “About The Project

  1. Susie Gee

    Dear Melanie,

    What a great idea!! This brings back memories of when my kids were young. We use to play this game most nites before bedtime. Everyone will have so much fun playing this game. I saw your story in the Vancouver Sun and heard about it on the Beat this morning.

    Good Luck and Happy Graduation

  2. Francesca

    I can’t believe this! You’re a genius! ^_^

  3. So, where exactly is waldo in vancouver? It would make it easier to pin point waldo if i knew where it was… vancouver is a big place.. i know thats kind of the point now that i think of it to find him, but vancouver is a pretty big place so any hints?

  4. I can not tell you where he is! But there are hints that can be found within the images of the blog. Good luck!

  5. Helen

    You’ve made the news in the UK too, although he’s known as Wally over here.


    Love the idea, please let there be more, so we can all play “Where’s Wally?” all over the place!

  6. PK

    You were just mentioned here in Detroit, Michigan on radio station WOMC-FM. What a great idea!!

  7. moderntypewriter

    This is such a great idea! I am in middle school and I still love Waldo! I will be making many posts on my blog, The Modern Typewriter, about your project. This is just so cool!!! I live in the United States and I just found your blog and I say, good job with the whole project! I really do hope you get on Google Earth!

    -Captain Crunch

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  9. Linko7

    wow thats really original!!
    i wish i could put a waldo out there myself lol that’d be cool.

  10. forgewrite


    I have been a Waldo fan since I was a child. I love this idea, it’s creative, fun, and contemporary.

    SO COOL.

    You will have to do Carmen San Diego next.

    Thanks again,

  11. You’ve made the news in Brazil! And, such as in the UK, he’s known as Wally over here.


    Congrats! Your idea was really awesome! =)

  12. Hello from France.
    I heard of your project on the Internet and I couldn’t resist to speak of it on my website .
    In France we don’t call this boy “Waldo” but “Charlie”. (The game is called “Où est Charlie”).
    I find your project interesting and funny. I wish you good luck for your exhibition on May 3, 2008.
    (and sorry beforehand for the mistakes I could have done in this comment…)

  13. Browsing the roof tops in Vancouver I think I’ve found where he will be.

  14. Didgiman

    Hi, just to let you know you’re in the newspaper in Belgium as well: http://www.hbvl.be/nieuws/in_de_rand/default.asp?art={8045C973-F602-4D38-8155-7294DF92B083}

    Big in Belgium!

  15. Hi,

    Your “Where is Waldo” was featured today in the “Gazet van Antwerpen” which is a national paper here in Belgium (link below).

    When u have the pdf for Waldo, pls send me a copy as maybe I’ll put him on my roof as well (me & my kids are big fans of Waldo).


    Steven, Antwerp, Belgium



    Waar ter wereld is Waldo?
    Melanie Coles, een Canadese laatstejaarsstudente mediakunsten, maakte een wel zeer opmerkelijk eindwerk. De hele wereld gaat op zoek naar haar reuzengrote Waldo, die ze met de hulp van internetbezoekers op daken overal ter wereld wil verstoppen. Dankzij de nieuwe satellietbeelden van Google Earth kan iedereen weldra op zoek gaan naar het figuurtje.

    Op 22 maart verborg de Canadese studente Melanie Coles haar ruim zestien meter grote Waldo ergens op een dak in Vancouver. Het werk is niet gemaakt voor de toevallige voorbijganger, vermits Waldo enkel zichtbaar is vanuit de lucht. Melanie hoopt dat Waldo snel zal verschijnen op nieuwe satellietfoto’s van Google Earth, een geografisch zoekprogramma.


    Melanie beschouwt haar kunstwerk als een spel waar de hele wereld aan kan deelnemen. Wanneer Waldo op Google Earth verschijnt, kan iedereen op zoek gaan. Op haar website, http://www.whereonearthiswaldo. com, kan je tips bekijken om een Waldo te maken. Melanie hoopt dat Google Earth zo een internationaal Waar is Waldo? –spel wordt. Lang zal ze niet moeten wachten, want ook in Phoenix en New Orleans zijn Waldo’s in de maak.

    Melanie noemt haar idee niet innoverend. Ze geeft een humoristische draai aan een populair icoon. Het idee op zich is immers niet nieuw. De Waldo –boekjes bestaan al jaren. Waldo zoeken op het internet is geen nieuw spel, gewoon een nieuwe omgeving voor die goede oude Waldo.


    Melanie hoeft zich alvast geen zorgen te maken over haar eindexamen. Ze kan de jury imponeren met krantenartikels van over de hele wereld.

  16. Wato

    Hey, Just letting you know that you also made it to the nes in the Herald-sun in Melbourne, Australia.

    Genius idea – congratulations!



  17. That was a really great idea. You’re buzz’s not going to slowdown ’till a good moment I guess.
    Don’t you wanna do it for my brand?🙂

  18. Pingback: » Mais où est Charlie ?

  19. Pingback: Digital Marketing Blog | Cybercom, The Digital Marketing People » Blog Archive » Google Map’s artistic licence

  20. Well done Melanie, you’ve made the Irish blogs!

  21. I love it! Great idea! Good luck getting on Google Earth.

  22. Pingback: Where on Earth is Waldo?

  23. alicee

    wicked idea, mate.
    you are very original.

  24. Nico

    Hi I’m from Argentina.
    It’s the most fresh idea i found probably in the last year.

  25. wow I can’t wait to find waldo! It’s a great idea! Hope more people follow your idea and start making waldos!

  26. Greg

    on French TV too !

    Great silly idea (those are the best!)

    cheers from France

  27. Pingback: GRAFFITI FOR GOD » Blog Archive » Da wäre Waldo.

  28. Pingback: Poetikon.no » Hvor er Willy?

  29. Andrea

    Hi melanie
    Congrats on the project, great idea. Wish I hadthe time to go waldo- hunting on Hoogle Earth. Anyway, this is is to let you know that your project was featured in radio program on the Italian national radio.
    Here is the link to the program website:

    The program is an evening talk show about everything new and original.


  30. Pingback: ¿Dónde está Wally? | linmod

  31. Nils

    Great work!
    Recently I spotted Waldo at the “DISCO INFERNO”:

  32. Manuel

    I would like to know if somebody has finded Waldo because with my friends we search him all night long. Sorry for my english because i’m french.

  33. Pingback: mightypop » Blog Archive » Where On Earth Is Waldo

  34. Gilson

    Brasil…eu achei o predio, mas nao tem o desenho atualizado ainda. Procurei no proprio Google Earth. Parabens pela ideia. Beijos!!!

  35. Really fun idea ! Congrats !

    I hope we will see Waldo on Google earth soon!
    I wish I had my own house to made my own Waldo on the roof !

    Cheers from Marseille, France.

  36. Victor

    Great great great ideia!!!!

    That’s what criativity is all about.

    It might look simple now for everyone but ur the only one who tought about it.


    from brazil

  37. MarcT

    NICE… a really good idea!

    Denmark (here he is called Holger)

  38. Pingback: DIS.PLAY » Blog Archive » Where’s Waldo?/ Where’s Wally/ Wo ist Walter?

  39. Morgan

    What a fantastic idea.
    I to, have had waldo appear in my artwork.
    However, nothing as extreme as putting him on a rooftop for a wolrdwide search.
    I can truely say.
    “It’s the cats pajamas.”
    I hope to see more corky work from you in the future.
    Everyone in the world will remember you as
    “Where In The World Is Waldo?”

  40. Wacko

    Great work!

    I’m searching about him now !
    But i don’t know if he will appears on that roof yet.
    Google map’s pics are updated with him?


    Frenchie guy

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  42. carlandz

    Great idea!, who doesn’t know wally?

    Good luck!

  43. me too ! saw it on the program of perez hilton !

    Keep up the good hard work man, this article has really blown me away ! Good stuff, recommended.


  44. Ryo

    This is so cool that you came up with something like. Mad props to you.

  45. Chilean girl

    OMG! you’r awesome!
    Congratulations from one of the last places on earth.

  46. Gatoman

    Hi Melanie! I’m a big fan of Wally since i was a child. Now i want to be an artist too and while seaching for Martin Handford, i found this page and your idea. I really think your idea was brilliant and your A deserved. I’m now my 2nd ehxibition(it will last a year) and i was thinking of spreading your idea for my country, Portugal. Of couse, my friends will help. Can i do it? Thank you!

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