Thinking about making marks

picasso1I am required to think about how some artists made marks during the course of their work and I have decided to start with an artist I never have ‘got’ – Pablo Picasso and the first painting I chose was Bathers which was done in 1918 in Biarritz.

The first thing that struck me was the strong and definitive lines of the painting – there is particularly clear definition between the sea, sky and sand and the bathers and the strong colours used add to that too.  It is clear that the painting has been planned and drawn with a very definite idea in mind and was done at a time when Picasso was a newly married and spending his summers by the sea.  What is unusual with this painting, in contrast to his usual style, the women are slim and sensual whereas Picasso normally portrayed women more voluptuously.

The sand in the foreground has been done very softly with very deliberate and soft shading perhaps using a soft brush and there are no noticeable brush marks so the colours are blended but the black rock, on the left, in particular is very dark and strongly outlined and gives the impression of a hard sharp texture due to the careful shading of the colours.  When it comes down to the sea and sky these look as if they have been done with 2 different brushes – I wish I could see this in person as I suspect the brush marks for the sea would be more defined because the sky looks as if it has been done almost with a dry brush with just a hint of white for some of the clouds and more loaded for the other clouds but still softly done (and with a lovely soft cloud going in front of the lighthouse – again it looks like an almost dry brush).   The sky, sand and sea seem to have quite different textures – my favourite is the way the clouds as it portrays the soft ‘wispyness’ that you would expect.

When it comes to the bathers they have been done with a realism that is for me unexpected with Picasso but the ladies still have the surrealism that you would expect.  He has painted the figures with quite definate lines in places outlining their slim figures but with soft shading and brushstrokes still giving the effect of curves and the softness of the texture too of their costumes. The ladies skin tones are very slight but their hair dark and defined.

Overall the effect is of generally softness and peacefulness of an afternoon at the beach created by defined lines but soft use of paintbrushes with no obvious hard or large paintbrushes in use but using what appears to be soft pencil lines and softer smaller brushes and careful blending.


In contrast Bather with a Beach Ball is the same theme as the Bathers and could almost be in a similar location – this is of Picasso’s mistress Walter though and was very much painted in the cubism style that he is famous for and one that I didn’t think I liked.  I say didn’t think I liked but maybe because I am looking at it more closely I actually really do – I love the strong vibrant purples, blues and yellows along with the oranges and a hint of green the background which contrast so well with the greys of the skin and hair.  These colours almost have a textural quality in themselves as the purple and yellow in particular are very rich and almost velvety.

I also love the defined and abstract lines – it is almost as if the imagination has gone wild. The lines and marks are very deliberate and definite with only a few that are softer (between the sea and sand where the line is wavy and seems painted rather than drawn in originally).  The triangles on the costume are beautifully contrasting with the purple and remind me of the ‘flying geese’ patchwork pattern. The architecture is strong and simple but realistic too – it portrays what it intends.

… and then there is the figure … what I thought I disliked but love!  The shape of Walter is voluptuous and quite erotic with soft shading in the greys to show the curves of her skin but the simple defined lines outlining her body and the style and shape of her face and flowing hair – the brushstrokes on much of the painting seems softer than on her hair as that has clearly been painted to show the texture and then strong dark grey lines give a sense of movement. Walter stands out as the main subject whilst taking into account her surroundings so that the painting comes across as wonderfully playful and joyful.

Pablo Picasso – 25 October 1881 to 8 April 1973 born in Spain and died in France

       Main styles were cubism and surrealism

I fully admit I did not expect to like Picasso which is why I did the research on him first but now have a desire for further research!

My next study is Paul Klee who I instantly liked – again I am not a huge fan of abstract art but something about his style appeals.

paul klee1

I chose Twittering Machine which is a watercolour and pen and ink transfer on paper done in 1922 just purely because the pen show the simple style of Paul Klee that had started off with a needle on a blackened pane of glass.

There is no hiding on this work – simple straight pen lines with loops and curves to portray the twittering birds on what looks to be a line with a handle of some nature  above a table or the rest of the mechanism.  The watercolours are soft and done very much as a wash but also looks as if it has been done partially on wet paper as you can see a water mark (which I really like here) but there is clearly the ink transfer over the top of it all probably when it was dry – this ink adds a smudged effect almost as if Paul Klee meant to make it look aged or deliberately damaged but it also adds interesting marks and could be translated as texture in a textile piece (It looks as if the work has been done in an old print-works or factory which adds to the mechanised theme).  The mechanical birds themselves are very simple and have a fantastical quality that fits in with the surrealism and expressionism that Paul Klee excelled in.

What I do like about Twittering Machine is that I can see how it could translate into a textile piece very easily – either machine stitched or embroidered and on a hand painted silk background or even a more textured fabric such as hessian or calico to add contrast and with textured or metallic yarns.

Paul Klee’s marks are the simple but straightforward and effective.


Cat and Bird – chosen just because I liked it!  Paul Klee painted this in 1928 using oil paints as his chosen media.

The marks and main lines are simple and definitive with no over complication – the marks that outline the cat and the bird clear and concise and there is literally nothing in this painting that doesn’t need to be.  It is a deceptively simple work. The colours of the cat’s eye, nose/mouth area and the bird bring life to the painting and add a lovely richness too which could very easily translate texturally.

Apart from the pupils of the cat the colours have been added in a smudge-like fashion as if you were stenciling without a stencil but I suspect on closer inspection (and ‘in the flesh’ so to speak) there would be definite brush lines too as it seems to be a large brush.  Although the paint looks smudged Paul Klee has very deliberately chosen his colours to outline the cat and the bird and the features too and I do wonder if there is a very light pencil sketch underneath the paint as it looks almost as if he has scratched the outlines into the oil afterwards – bearing in mind how he started with a needle and glass this would not be a surprise. The colours do give the painting depth in the way that they have been clearly layered and the placing is not accidental – the areas around the cheeks, nose and eyes and tops of ears give the impression of the curves of the cat’s head.  The bit that is curious for me is the bird’s tail as it looks as if the paint may have been carefully scraped away or whether it is just off white/grey paint with the little dotted marks that highlight. My favourite area is the eyes without question – again there is either a pencil line down the centre of the pupils or maybe a needle has been used but either way the eyes with the lighter jade around them certainly have an intensity in their gaze that draws you in.

Paul Klee for me was unknown but his use of colour and simple lines is intriguing but when you look at other works of his can some simple lines much more complex paintings.

Paul Klee – 18 December 1879 to 29 June 1940 Switzerland

    Main styles – cubism, surrealism and expressionism


Vincent Van Gogh – the biggest surprise of all for me because of the above drawing … I guess this goes to show that even an artist you do not think you like there is always at least one picture and this for me is it because of the mark making itself.  It is titled Quay with Men Unloading Sand Barges.

When I think of mark making I think of what is ahead of me in the course – making marks on paper and such like with pen, pencil, ink or other media that can be built up to create a picture or textile design and this beautiful drawing done using black and brown ink with pencils, reed and quill pens on Whatman paper demonstrates it perfectly.

The water is done with what seems to be a series of dashes in different media and some of them done slowly and deliberately and some more rushed which gives the feeling of movement along with some slight curving particularly close to the key and the feeling of calm further away (plus the use of the different media and hard and lightness in the use of the pencils and inks give the depth and perspective in this painting … it sets the scene before you even look further). In the foreground if you look closely you can see where the quill pen or reed has had to be refilled with ink as the start of some marks are stronger and where the ink is running out it is lighter – I am only aware of this because I love calligraphy and no matter how carefully you load your nib this is something that is very difficult to control consistently but in this painting that slight inconsistency adds to the changes in tone of the ink and therefore on the water.

The buildings in the background and the bridge are done with mainly straight lines with some crossing and the odd jagged to show the roofs and the bridge and the boats in the distance the same – drawn darker to show the distance.

The quayside in the foreground again seemingly simple but mainly straight lines but using the different black and brown ink and the different pencil, reed and quills to great effect with hard and soft lines and some clearly done quickly to create both the detail and give the impression of the texture of the cobbles and buildings (the stone and the wood).  Just to the right of the building the men look to be pulling something out of the water and the sand or mud has just been done as dots whilst the figures of the men are outlined and with their bodies filled in with what looks to be an ink wash (probably with the quill or reed).

The boats is where the detail is most apparent and the mark making comes into the best effect – the sand done in dots near the water is repeated in the boats and the combination of lines done in black ink and brown ink create the impression of the grain of the wood of the boats hulls and also the wheelbarrows.  Again the figure is kept as a simple line drawing but with no further colour and this enables him to stand out without getting lost in the drawing.

The sails and flags on the boats simply done with long and short curved lines which create a feeling of movement as they flap in the wind.

Van Gogh has used combinations  of the inks and the lengths of lines including dots as well as different directions and the different tools used (the reed, quill and pencils) to build up what on first glance seems a very simple drawing but on closer inspection is full of depth, complexity and movement and also texture (I love the way he did that wood grain and the water) by just using combinations of marks and the different tones created by the inks and pencils.


The style shown in my first example of Van Gogh’s work is also demonstrated in the second image  I chose called View of Saintes-Maries with Cemetery.  The piece is done with pencil, reed pen and brown ink on laid paper and is very similar in style and the types of marks used.

For the fields Van Gogh has simply used a series of dots and lines to give the illusion of the texture of the crop and grasses and the buildings done in a similar manner using the reed pen and pencil to create the different tones and build up the picture as a whole. Where some of the crop is flattened in the foreground the lines seem to have been made quite quickly and lightly which gives a sense of movement and life to the picture. Lastly the simple marks have also been adapted by either being closer together or smaller and also directional have helped with the perspective as you look into the distance – they draw your eyes along and into the sketch towards the cemetery. This strikes as a quick sketch that may have been used further in a later painting.

What is apparent is that the types of marks Van Gogh has used in both painting is actually quite limited but the manner in which they are used demonstrates how they can be used with skill.

Vincent Willem Van Gogh  – 30 March 1853 (Netherlands) – 29 July 1890 (France)

   Main style – post impressionism


As a final piece of work I decided to look at something I own – this portrait was done around 1972 or 1973 in Plymouth, UK by the artist Robert Lenkiewicz and the little girl is me.  Mr Lenkiewicz drew these very quick sketches and watercolours to enable him to buy art materials and his other great passion of books.  My sketch is reproduced here with the kind and direct permission of the Robert Lenkiewicz Foundation who hold the copyright.

It is clear he worked quickly and with skill drawing in the main features with what appears to be a soft pencil (I am thinking at least a 3B but possibly 5 or even 6B) to do the outline of my hair, eyes and more gently nose and mouth.  It is clear he has used different hardnesses of pencils and shaded using some short and long strokes with maybe the pencil on the edge rather than the point.  When you look closer it is obvious he has effectively scribbled the background around my face very very quickly and quite darkly in order to make my face stand out more.  On my face itself he has shaded my skin using much lighter strokes and in some areas going over with heavier strokes to create depth and different tones.  My hair has been done with a loose long sketching and again seemingly quite quickly but changing either the pencils or how hard he pressed as he drew and this gives both the impression of the lightly coloured hair and also the softness in texture you would expect in a child.

My eyes are where even though the marks are simple and like the majority of the drawing the strokes going diagonally apart from around my eye and pupil he has really caught the intensity of my gaze – Mr Lenkiewicz used what looks like a 3 or 4 B pencil with the marks very close together around my eyelids and eyebrows in particular to convey the shadow caused my fringe and he applies this also to create the contours of my face too.

As a point of note the portrait is very accurate – I was a green eyed blonde little girl and the slightly fearful gaze was common with many children Mr Lenkiewicz painted as he had long straggly hair and a beard and it seemed was a little scary!

Robert Lenkiewicz – 31 December 1941 (London) – 6 August 2002 (Plymouth)

This has overall been a very interesting exercise to do as I have looked at the work of artists that I have never been that keen on but now realise that was through naivety and fully admit I have discovered works of both Van Gogh and Picasso that I really do like. I had heard of Paul Klee but did not know any of his work and really love his style and the way he started drawing with a needle on glass fits well with what this part of the course is teaching – a simple start that starts with basic lines that can become so much more.

I am not a fan of many of Van Gogh’s works but his drawings changed that because those drawings almost certainly became some of his masterpieces and for me demonstrates the process to great effect – his use of mark making is inspiring. I feel the same about Picasso too – I never particularly ‘got’ cubism and surrealism but analysing the lines and colours and shapes and how he did the marks has given me a new understanding and appreciation.

All 3 men started with simple lines and used those lines and marks to create their works and this shows me how learning about these can be used to develop my own style of drawing and techniques and also I can see how these marks can be translated into textile pieces too (as stated above Twittering Machine I would love to see how it would translate into fabrics and yarns).

Lastly studying the mark making of artists has let me look at the way Robert Lenkiewicz drew me  – he  used his style of marks to develop a fast way of sketching portraits that was accurate and conveyed the personality of the person too.

UPDATE:  Please note my reference list was done before I was aware of the Harvard referencing system which I have duly used from Part 2 in the correct manner.



google images

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