Sunday, January 16, 2011

Nighttime Map Experiments

Recently I've been trying to figure out how to make compelling nighttime maps. So far I haven't really been very pleased with any of them. I suspect that is because what interests me in drawing maps is the way people lay out their individual lives around geography, and when streetlights and headlights are the only visible features in the landscape, it becomes a lot less interesting in that regard. I still think cities at night are beautiful aesthetically, but that alone is not really enough to make them interesting.

I first started drawing lines of dots with a gold paint pen on black paper. Then I tried using gouache on a tiny paintbrush using the same technique:

The lines of dots start to look more like interlocking spiderwebs than the maps I usually draw. I tried doing one on lighter paper as well, using different colors for the city centers that melded as they got out towards the suburbs:

Then I tried covering a canvas with black paint and painting lines of gouache dots on that. I think this has some potential for interesting topography effects, but that would also make it harder to paint precisely:

So far I had been doing only lines of dots, which is the general aesthetic effect of aerial nighttime cityscapes, but pretty removed from the way I usually draw maps. So I tried using a similar technique with a metallic pen on black paper:

I like the effect (it's super shiny in real life!), but now it's farther from a realistic depiction of either day or night. 

I'm thinking of giving up on this project by now, but would love to know if anyone has any better ideas. Leave your thoughts in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Emily,

    I have loved all of your maps experiments, and I like that you're making nighttime maps. I think that the dots work better than your usual tehcnique if you're trying to depict realism. Maybe you can try clustering more lights (dots) in the city/town centers and spreading them out as you leave them. If you don't want to add dots, you can maybe add some glow somehow that again falls darker as you get far from the town center.
    If you check google images for night satellite images a lot of them show up. I think it's interesting how, for instance, in spain there's lights all around the coast. Or in South America there's a big 'empty' space which corresponds to the Amazon jungle.