Project 1: Stage 2: Exercise 3 – Marking expressively

For this exercise the idea was to use a broad range of media, papers and also using different objects to make marks with – in theory this sounded quite simple but when things sound simple you know they won’t be!!

I decided from the start of this Stage that any work on different papers I would glue into my A3 sketchbook both for neatness and for clarity now and in future with leaving odd blank pages so that I could add further samples/experiments when I have more ideas.

Initially the idea was to effectively play and try out different marks using the different media and different papers to see what effects I can create.  I have a reasonable selection of papers building up and this will be added too as well as getting myself some decent felt tips and also more conte pencils – I would like to add more colours and some graphite pencils too now as can really see how they are going to be useful in the future.

The media I used included:

coloured pencils, coloured crayons, pastels (without fixative which need to buy) varying drawing pencils, gouache paints, acrylic paints in black and white, conte pencil, calligraphy pen and ink, biro, Sharpie felt tip, fine felt tip pen.

The papers I used included:

my A3 drawing paper, coloured rough (scrap book style) paper, metallic paper, scrapbooking patterned paper, cream heavier paper (cannot recall the weight or exact name but will be checking when near a stationers as would like to get some more), large brown envelope (front and back used as shiny and rough sides), foil (both for printing and for painting on), photocopier paper, freezer paper (as used in quilting), an A4 card file (the pink card used), pink tissue style paper (slightly waxy or shiny in comparison to normal tissue paper but same weight).


For this first sheet I just used crayons to play with a variety of different marks in different colours and how hard I pressed.  I struggled somewhat with the marks because they seem very similar to the marks in the last exercise but at the same time looked very different due to the different qualities of the crayons as opposed to the pencils.


I next felt slightly braver and tried the pink A4 file card and also some pink tissue paper in combination with crayons and a black Sharpie pen – really not happy with the effects of either of these. The card maybe a little shiny as very difficult to draw the crayons on but worked well with the Sharpie although had to be careful if I didn’t want smudges. The pink floral tissue paper again was great with the Sharpie but maybe too patterned for me personally and the slightly shiny (feels slightly waxy) surface barely took the crayons at all unless I pressed very hard.  However as can be seen (just left of the green coloured pencil towards the left of centre of the next page) there was an unexpected bonus as the Sharpie bled through the paper and marked the paper underneath so decided to leave these marks as part of that sheet – useful to know when I can track down a supplier of this paper (it was part of gift wrapping) because can use both the marks on the patterned paper and get a ‘tracing’ too on plain paper.


Again keeping things relatively simple I just played with a Sharpie, coloured pencils, biros and also using tracing paper and pencil to create marks directly onto this my sketch pad – this gave me an idea of the qualities of all the media further and just trying out more marks which some are more expressive and effective than others as started to enjoy the process. I do love the Sharpie felt tips as easy to make a wide variety of marks and can be easily expressive with them.


I had 2 different types of paper – both sold as tracing paper but one which has more in common with tissue paper (very cheaply sold and works wonderfully as quilting foundation paper) and the other more expensive tracing paper.  The left hand marks were accidental when I started making marks using a piece of corrugated card to lean on so just played with this a bit further.  The centre one was trying different marks on the more expensive tracing paper – the bottom one was used in a reverse way to how you would trace as children (i.e. I scribbled the pencil over the back and then marked in heavy pencil on the front to create the design on the sketchpad underneath). The right hand strip was again the heavier paper but using a Sharpie – I found this combination worked because of the smoothness of the paper but rubbing the pencil on the cheaper paper over the corrugated card also created a lovely textural mark too.


I tried marks on both a rough scrapbook style paper and also my A3 sketchpad with crayons – trying to be more adventurous and expressive but seem to be stuck on fairly similar marks again so felt a little frustrated at this point.  I have been playing with what are called Zentangles (trademarked) and Tangles in a sketchbook (will add research point to back up my sketchbook sketches) but they feel more like patterns rather than marks so tried to take inspiration from them with varieties of marks. Fully admit am not keen on rough paper and crayons!

OK so this is the point where I used the one media I really do detest – pastels … had them for years, tried them and never have liked them!!  I am asthmatic so maybe in part I am not keen on the dust but have also just been advised by another artist on Facebook there maybe a fixative that would solve the problem.  I do understand their uses and have total respect for artists who create amazing works in them but I knew trying mark making would either change my mind or reinforce my hatred but as the course encourages using different media would give them a try ….


… for mark making purposes I absolutely love the black and white and the blending and the marks you can create with them using either sharper edge, blunter edges or blending with fingers or similar – I felt the marks were more expressive than I had done so far so maybe the problem with the previous samples was the combination of rough paper and crayon because rough paper and pastels was successful for me (felt slightly freer to do).  The patterned paper does not work for me – just too patterned for the pastels and to do additional marks on.  I do love the ease which you can create marks that in biro, pencil or felt tips would not work so well – these do give wonderful design properties and fabulous marks but definitely need that fixative as covered the right hand page in cling film to prevent smudging. The black and white ones for me express dark feelings but confusion too whereas the brighter blues and greens and style I have done the marks are more joyful and fun with one or 2 being quite sensual … some are also smooth, sharp and bumpy so much to my surprise these 2 pages are 2 of my favourites!

The next 2 pages I decided to incorporate paint and calligraphy ink into the marks along with crayons too combining with colour paper, brown envelope, cream heavier paper, metallic paper and scrap paper….


Initially I tried crayon with ink and and paint – lighter crayon and darker ink worked much better than the paint and showed up the marks beautifully but again seemed stuck on simple un-expressive marks.  I also tried ink dripped on the wet paper and salt added and particularly like where the ink separated and spread a little at the top of the sample on the left bottom hand corner – an accident am trying to work out how to recreate!  I re-read the instructions at this point and decided to drip some ink down part of a sheet of paper and as it was so wet I folded the paper in two so that the ink smudged (remembering school art classes I guess) and the result was is wonderfully free and obviously symmetrical.

The second page I played with an old toothbrush and splattering paint in 1, 2 and 3 different colours onto different papers – simple marks but with different colours I feel can be sad or happy or even angry or bumpy particularly when done with different papers (at this point I am noting that the same marks in different colours and on different papers can convey different expressions).  I also tried using the toothbrush in a more sweeping stroke in 2 different directions and dipped in black and grey – bottom right in the right hand photo – which produced a very different mark and effect. The other experiment on that paper involved scrunched up cling-film dipped in paint and splodged on the paper – some bits I smudged a little too.  The green cling-film marks show fading and I think are very cobble stone like in appearance and I feel are quite happy or relaxing in expression … not sure if overly successful but interesting.


Here I just played with a combination of paint and salt on wet paper then ink on wet paper – both haven’t produced definitive marks in a pattern although I feel they are expressive in themselves.  The sample on the orange paper was a bottle top dipped in paint on the top and dragged across the paper and then turned over to just use the rim to print with – it immediately feels angry and dark particularly the dragging as no definitive marks again but where the paint had  rubbed off gives a textural effect.


For these I had some fun with a paw print sample dipped in wet gouache but rather than just using the paw print part I used the edges of the stamp and the corners too which produced very different  marks that could be used in a variety of different ways (thinking fabric paint on different fabrics in the future) and then tried more definite printing with the bottle tops (and a last attempt at making dragging marks with the edges which seem angry in appearance). I like some of the effects produced and I wonder here whether they would become expressive if used in a specific drawing or design and thinking ahead, having done quilting, I can see how these marks could be incorporated into a textile design.


These are marks I don’t feel I like or not successful – more will no doubt  be added but now looking at them (1 day after doing them) one seems happy, two are bumpy to me but in different ways, one slightly sensual and the last explosive.

The second part of the exercise was to try using the words from Exercise 2 and to work again expressively in relation to them.  I felt more comfortable working to the scale of my stencil  but didn’t obsessively use the stencil for every try-out.


These are my ideas for fast and slow using variety of calligraphy ink and pen/nib, Sharpie pen and paint plus one very unsuccessful pink penciled mark.  The calligraphy ink is fast becoming a favourite when used with my pen as I am aware of the benefit of using nib for think and thin marks and marks can also be done slowly and deliberately or very quickly (with an old nib for me). The ink can also be used with different thickness of paint brushes too. Most of these marks I am happier about and in particular I also liked the two on the bottom left of the paper that were done in paint and using my fingers to create a ‘fast’ effect mark within the stencil.


Smooth marks were something I felt able to really use a variety of media for – I combined crayon and ink straight on to the sketchpad with painted paper (and over painted too) with paint on tracing paper and freezer paper (the latter in black on the right reminds me of the smooth rock in The Bathers by Picasso and that may have been subconsciously at the back of my mind as I used the shiny side of the paper which was also creased slightly too).


Bumpy – the expressive marks I absolutely loved doing!  The marks on the rough back of an envelope and metallic green paper were made using the scrunched foil at the centre bottom which was painted with black, red and white (first red and then black on the envelop and then adding white to print on the green paper) – the marks produced are bumpy and textural too.  I also tried more cling film on gold satin effect paper and scrunch pink tissue paper rubbed over with black paint which was not successful for this exercise but left in because think areas could be isolated for their textural effects. I tried a couple of further bumpy expressive marks in pen too on the paper.  I finally used a toothbrush and fine brush dipped in paint within the stencil and also my calligraphy ink and pen too which all worked really well and I think certainly portray the word well.


These next marks i.e. sharp and hard were in many ways the easiest and I started to like the pink card because when used with a biro it produced the required expressive marks. I tried the same with the green metallic paper keeping within the stencil.  For this page I mostly used pen, Sharpie felt tip and pencil to give me the fineness I required to create the sharp hard lines and points and also used the Sharpie and pencil to create thicker harder lines that are still expressive.  These are marks that should have seemed easy but as I have discovered throughout these exercises trying to mark expressively and convey words is a skill of its own.


Now for the two I have outright struggled with – happy and sad!  In the middle top of the page are the words ‘Happy what makes me happy – marks with colour’ because this is the question I had to ask myself again.  I decided to mark expressively in ways that make me smile when I look at them – leaves as outlined marks, paw prints stamped, flowery petal style marks within the stencil, shallow ‘u’ shaped smiley marks,marks within the stencil that resembled a balloon and simple curved lines in rainbow colours and finally crayon dots that reminded me of sweets!  The leaves as marks I am not happy about ironically or the paw prints but the dots, petal shaped marks and smiley ones I am – simple but happy.  Then the ‘sad’ marks I asked the same question silently ‘what makes me sad’? and it came down to dark raindrop shapes, harsh black lines in crayon and paint (all within the stencil), big dark splodges with a large paint brush that even on metallic paper seem sad or angry and finally rushed heavy lines on bright paper along with the edges of my stamp -before I think sometimes it is easy to ‘over think’ or try too hard and I realised if I thought of a child’s drawing their marks to convey ‘sad’ are done in similar ways.


Soft and sensuous – one easier than the other. The ‘soft’ stencils came down to soft dots, and delicate lines (both ‘soft’ and ‘sensuous’ combine ‘delicate’ for me too)  in soft colours or tones and blurred edges.  ‘Sensuous’ was the more difficult but like in Exercise 2 it came down to curvy, wavy lines with some soft and delicate – the curve of a body or the lines of a beautiful plant or even just the gentle waves of the sea.


This page has other words – Angry, Joyful, Sleepy, Quick and Mad – more will be added as I think of them.  Some marks are inspired by the ’emotions’ that are commonly used in emails and texts and some marks are based on my own childhood doodles that I remember doing when I was happy or angry.


Lastly I was having a think and remembered that in history when someone was illiterate they would sign their name with a cross i.e. their mark and combined with my love of calligraphy decided to try doing some expressive marks using the letter of the expressive word i.e.  H for happy, or B for bumpy etc and combine this with say a ‘happy’ colour or writing the F for fast very quickly etc.  I also added extra marks too where I thought it helped the expression. Ultimately the mere act of writing is mark making and when thinking about calligraphy each curve or line is an expressive mark in its own right that builds up to make a letter.

I have left a few blank pages at the point of writing this on 18 January 2015 to add further ideas or samples of expressive marks as I think of words or how to do them or as I do further research.  I have also done research throughout this exercise which I am noting in Research and Reflection partly because I want to add some further notes too throughout these next few days – this has intrigued me.

As stated at the very beginning this looked a simple exercise but in fact it was like Exercise 2 more frustrating that I would have expected – I understand what it means and how this way of drawing will improve my visual drawing language and also that it is a very big learning curve too.

To end this post a quote comes to mind ….

   A line is just a dot that has run away (author unknown)

…. and now I add to it …

   …. and a mark is just a line with expression…..

This entry was posted in ASSIGNMENT 1, ASSIGNMENTS, Coursework, Part 1, Project 1, Stage 2. Bookmark the permalink.

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