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Creative process

Experiments with… window displays

One of the most beautiful things to come out of lockdown life has got to be the rainbows, drawings and displays people have been putting up in their windows. They’ve certainly been brightening up my daily outdoor exercise sessions and looking at the displays on my running route inspired me to create my own window artworks at home.

In the spirit of trying out new materials, I decided to have a go at using paint pens. When the multi-pack of white Posca pens arrived by socially-distanced online delivery on a rainy Saturday morning, I made a start on the window by my desk in our studio room. Despite living in the suburbs of east Bristol, I can actually see a lot of greenery from my window so I started off doodling leaves.

I’m not too proud to admit that my first attempts were hastily (and sulkily) scrubbed off with glass cleaner. It took me a while to get to grips with how the pens flowed, I really struggled to get used to drawing upright (rather than at a desk) and the inner perfectionist in me hated how the lines weren’t perfect. Also our windows were in dire need of a good clean.

About five seconds away from an almighty sulk, I went downstairs to make a cup of tea and glanced up at the window from outside and was amazed at how effective it was. From a distance you couldn’t notice the uneven lines where I was trying to master the chisel tip pen; from the other side of the glass you couldn’t see the pen strokes in the filled in areas. When I came in the room the next day and saw the dreamy shadows cast on my desk, I was totally sold on the idea.

Photograph showing my home studio window display and the shadows cast onto my desk
Dreamy shadows on my studio desk in the morning light

Bolstered with confidence, a week later we cleaned off the windows at the front of our house and I gave the living room windows the same treatment. I found myself almost exclusively using the 8mm chisel and 1.8–2.5mm bullet shaped nibs.

These windows are pretty much directly on the street, so I got a lot of strange looks from passing runners and dog walkers while I was doodling away. One of the unintended positives of using white pen was that it almost acted like frosted privacy glass, meaning that we can leave the blinds up during the day.

The leaf doodles I went with were super relaxing to draw. I had so much fun building up these patterns that they inspired my new greetings card design, which is full of the joys of spring and available online from my Etsy shop.

Product photograph showing my Yay greetings card design on a wooden shelf

Fancy having a go?

Fancy creating your own window display using paint pens? Here are my five top tips if you’re planning on having a go:

  1. Practise on some paper first – get used to how the pens flow and the different types of line you can create with the various nibs.
  2. Don’t underestimate how different it is drawing upright compared to flat on a desk – put up some paper on the wall to get used to it.
  3. Include elements of a range of sizes – smaller circles or stars are great for adding interest and fitting in around other elements
  4. Keep stepping back and looking at your display from both sides of the window.
  5. Remember that text and images will always appear back to front from one side of the glass – abstract patterns and shapes will work best if you want your design to look good from the inside and outside.

This series of ‘Experiments with…’ blogs is based around one of my goals for 2020 – to experiment more and develop my creative practice. This means trying out new techniques, using new materials and making new products. The hope is that I’ll develop as an artist, learn new skills and have a lot of fun in the process. My aim is to try one new thing each month and blog about the process as well as the results.

You can keep up with my experiments in the creative process section of my blog. If you’ve got any suggestions for experiments that you think I should try, please get in touch.