For me, experiments are what create ideas. I like to practice without a fully-formed plan and see what comes up. Often my most satisfying artistic endeavors come from trying to expand on a previous idea and seeing how things can be changed by adding different mediums or changing up some supplies. When I’m playing around with an idea and practicing, I get so much inspiration. It is why I share my experimental learning with all of you; so you can also expand and get inspired by your own trials.

After our mark making class in Module 4, I was ready to take a step forward and experiment further. The first step I took was the abstract, geometric project I shared in the Mark Making Part 2 blog post. There you can learn more about the importance and excitement of making your own tools and see the completed artworks that inspired me to take this next step.

In most of my art projects and classes, I tend to shy away from artistic shapes. That was also true in the last mark making project; the most interesting, and challenging, part for me were the geometric shapes using my hand made blades. I found the movement and image they created to be very architectural, which was not my intention at the beginning of my trials. Through multiple practice pieces, it became apparent that the structural focus was the way I wanted to go.

That previous project directly inspired me to expand into this project. I leaned into the architectural aspect and decided to create a cityscape. My trials were geometric and tight, but slightly off kilter, which gave me a soft, restful sense when looking at the pieces. The cities felt sleepy, which led me to think about setting my artwork at night.

Since I used muted color in the background of my last artwork, I wanted to add some bold colors to enhance my new idea. Watercolor painting is another artistic medium I’ve been revisiting, so creating a background for my inked city scene allowed me to continue easing back into the world of painting.

I liked the contrast between the deep blue and bright yellow, so my decision to create a cityscape at night was cemented. Pulling light as if from lamps in buildings, unnatural sources, through the black-inked “windows” highlighted the darkening of the sky above. Placing the paint on first, in several shades of yellows, served as a guide for my blade work and having a clear horizon line in blue was a big help.

My movements this time were more deliberate, as I was intentionally trying to create a group of buildings with apparent windows. I moved the blade with precision, a bit slower than before.

What I used in this project was:

  • White watercolor paper
  • India Ink
  • Watercolor paint in blue and yellow, with orange to add variation
  • A paintbrush
  • Blades made from flexible craft foam sheets and cardboard stapled together
  • Paint palettes or plates

Optional materials:

  • White tempera paint
  • A broken piece of comb
  1.  I created my blade tools in with varied widths to create different sized window openings. Learn how to make the tools at the Mark Making 2 blog post.
  2. I painted my background using liquid watercolor. Solid blue on top with yellow and orange sections below. I left some white, or negative, space interspersed with the yellow and orange because it added interest by showing another tone of light coming from the windows of my city. Homes and business in the real world have different levels of brightness and warmth coming from their lights, and I wanted to make sure my artwork showed the same.
  3. Once the background was complete, I left it alone to dry. This could take a couple of hours, depending on the saturation of your paint and the temperature of your workspace, so go work on something else while you wait.
  4. With a dry background, I used India ink and my handmade blades to create my mark making cityscape. I used multiple blades because I wanted there to be a variety of window sizes and shapes.
  5. Once complete with my cityscape, I chose to add some stars in the sky using white tempera paint and a broken piece of comb. It eliminated the flat look it had to create a true night scene. You could also use cotton balls and dark grey paint to add clouds to the sky, I think that would look really cool.

As I spent time creating these artworks, I was thrilled at how the evening lights seemed to come on, each a different shape, size, and tone. My idea became a reality right before my eyes and done with my own hands. This was another experiment that pushed me further into the possibilities of my thoughts; what can really be done and how I can do it.

In art, some things are done intentionally with a specific idea and the results are what you were looking for. I got there with this project through my willingness to experiment first. Experimenting can bring you to this level of confidence in creating your purposeful art. Being ambitious and following your instincts will get you there.