I have done a little mark making before but not in this way or to this in depth so understood the theory and the reasons behind the exercises but also found some surprisingly difficult.
What I found difficult was in particular the first exercise when trying to express feelings such as sadness or sensuous although I found expressing words such as soft, hard or fast straightforward. I am fully aware that sometimes I find it difficult to express feelings descriptively in day to day life and was expecting that this would translate to this exercise. However in Stage 4 I suddenly found I understood what I was meant to be doing and enjoyed the feelings that a combination of the marks gave me in the textural studies.
I have never really thought about drawing this way before as it is a looser more expressive form that I have done previously – I have tended to follow the way you are taught at school (or used to be) and tried to draw specific and detailed shapes rather than doing an analogy of what you see and feel. Again this way of drawing only fully made sense in Stage 3 and Stage 4 where I was able to draw both from images and also from primary sources – I think for me being able to feel the object made a significant difference as I could feel as well as see the textures and was able to explore the object in a way that enabled me to use marks to draw it.
I am still not confident that I have a wide range of marks because I was aware, and noted, that I felt comfortable using a small group of marks but in different directions and with different media to create different textures. I do feel that I need to practice or continually experiment with different marks to try to increase my ‘mark vocabulary’. I feel that for me I could very easily get stuck in a comfort zone here and want to use the freedom of expression that marks give to push myself out of that.
However I did enjoy exploring different media – again I found my preferred ones were coloured pencils, sketching pencils, pens and my favourite sharpie felt tip but also enjoyed using ink and paint too. My least favourite is still pastels (I have used them before and disliked) but now I have done some research and learnt how to fix the pastel I am happy to keep trying as I do like the marks produced – I am also planning on getting some oil pastels to try to see if they are a preferable option for me. Conte carre pencils were a new media for me and I just purchased one to see how I could use them and found I really love the softness of the lead which produced some wonderful marks. The other media I really enjoyed was watercolour paint but here I do now feel that I need to experiment further with a wider range of objects to make marks with as the variations are only the limit of my imagination.
I will note here that I purposefully left some blank pages in my sketchbooks so that I could return to the exercises and try more marks. I have been looking a different marks and saved some pages from Facebook that use fruits or vegetables for mark making along with various plants or leaves from the garden or countryside and I am very keen to experiment with these with different media including some acrylic paint as well as oil paints in time (I have never tried oils before so little nervous at this point).
The exercises I enjoyed most were very definitely in Stage 3 as I enjoyed working directly from some images and more importantly to me from a primary source. Primary sources for me make sense as I am able to feel the textures and explore the shapes which then gives me choices to work out how to express these with marks. The idea of understanding the feeling of the textures and not copying exactly but interpreting and making an analogy enabled me to understand what I was meant to do with the marks – I am very used to doing drawing the way I was taught for Art O’level and this more expressive way just makes sense.
The media I enjoyed working mostly with is my sketching pencils in combination with a Sharpie felt tip – I like black and white photographs or sketches and I like that you can express textures and a whole image with just a simple variation of tones. I had noticed that I particularly like Van Gogh’s reed pen and pencil sketches as these speak to me in ways that coloured paintings don’t – I found these were more expressive even than those he later used paint with too. To get down an analogy full of texture needs simplicity and I can see these being my most used media very very easily.
As I have already noted I do really like this way of drawing as it gives great freedom of expression and for the first time for me the ability to express feelings on paper or in the future in textiles. I think I am happy overall with what I have done although less so with the earlier marks than the later exercises but I am a little unsure I have got Stage 3 and 4 right at this point – although I certainly enjoyed the exercises and studies. I did my last textural study on a complete image to see how my approach to drawing has changed and can certainly see a difference even from the couple of sketches in my sketchbook I did initially – it is a freer looser form of art but one based much more on emotions and expression which is incredibly appealing and can see it really improving my confidence as I do a lot more practice and get more experienced and bring in further media as well. That last image was really for my own understanding and trying using the marks with an image I had not studied before which was rich in textures and lines. I felt I played slightly safe with the other images I had chosen – the rocky road of the Kings Highway though looked simple but in fact I found very detailed and full of different rocks.
As to how I think it will enrich my textile work in the future I am not sure other than I could see how some of the studies and exercises I could translate into stitch – I happily have tried kantha and sashiko stitching as well as embroidery so from that point of view I can see how it will work. I think I also have an insight into how by marking marks in art media you can show and get a feel of the textures which again enables a translation into fabric and stitch and over time dimensional construction with different fabrics, threads and yarns. I am already thinking of some of the paper yarns from Japan that would work really well for some of the thicker textures combined with a silky thread as a contrast – the difference between a 5H pencil and my beloved thick Sharpie pen.
Overall although I have found some of this frustrating in trying to understand what is required I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole process – the frustration I suspect comes from the fact that this is the first section of the course and it is also understanding the processes and requirements so like anything new it is a matter of getting used to it all.
One last point is I discovered I love collage – always hated it before but found it was a brilliant way of mark making and expressing very textural objects (bubble wrap is my new best friend!).
Questions I have:
- Have I been able to express feelings in my marks? I struggled with sad, sensuous etc – I have suspected mild Aspergers so this is something I expected. Trying to express something in simple marks does not come easily and I suspect the fact that when I combined all the marks I was able to under the feeling as there were more layers to the marks.
- Did I understand what was required at Stage 3 and 4 ok? I felt happy enough doing them but little lacking in confidence that I achieved what was required.
I decided to come back to this review at the end of the whole module and assignment as it is now interesting look back at the first project having completed everything else. Various questions were asked in the course notes and like my reflections later at the end of Project 2 I will answer the questions as they appear in the course notes:
- Have you ever thought about drawing in this way before? ‘No’ is the simple answer and as a consequence found it both surprising and also at times frustrating but at the same time really interesting. I admit to struggling with many of the marks as I tried to work out how to match marks to expressions or to try to make marks that express say sadness or laughter etc … emotional marks were far harder than descriptive marks but I wonder how much is just a new way of working for me (and is similar to other students) and how how much is the fact that I have suspected Aspergers and so this way of working is almost illogical to my mind.
- Were you able to be inventive about the range of marks you made? In retrospect I am not entirely sure if I did – during the process I thought I had done so and certainly tried to think outside of the box and some marks were slightly tongue in cheek when I used similar marks to those seen in Facebook emotions stickers but in a repetitive format. I am not sure if the other marks I made were as inventive as I would like and there were many ‘expressive words of frustration’ that came from my desk area as I tried to invent new marks and I certainly feel that I could invent more – I intentionally left pages free in that sketchbook so that I can add further marks as I gain experience and confidence.
- Did you explore a wide range of marks? Again I am not sure if I did now looking back but at the same time in many ways I explored more than I think I expected too – I have seen more ideas since completing the exercises such as finger painting marks, marks made with leaves or different house hold items or just different ways and as I continue to experiment and gain the aforesaid experience will, as I already state, add more marks into this sketchbook and even start a new one for reference.
- Are you pleased with what you’ve done? Will it help you to approach drawing more confidently? I think my answers already answer this – I am not as pleased as I would ideally like to be as I feel I could have done more or been more inventive but lacked the confidence as a whole although I do realise that this first part of the course is a huge learning curve and also understand why mark making expressively will be beneficial as I go forward into transcribing these marks into stitch. Looking back through that sketchbook I am now somewhat surprised at what I did too – it is a very different way to draw and without doubt will help be draw a lot more confidently. I understand now that the way I draw something is the way I see it and it is how I interpret what I see and I can drop the feeling that I have to draw it perfectly – I am not trying to be an artist but someone who works with stitch and that realisation has been made due to this method of drawing.
- Which exercise did you enjoy most? why? Stage 4 is without doubt the one I loved – I enjoyed being able to use the mark making lessons and translate them into something I understood. The very last picture in this stage is my favourite – it is the one I later transcribed into one of my favourite stitch samples and that picture works for me because the marks made sense as I felt able to express the emotions and the textures through newly learned techniques. If I narrow this question down to a specific exercise then it has to be Exercise 1 and 2 of Stage 3 where I am learning to make marks that express the textures of objects or images and this I just found really fascinating and enjoyable – I really love textures in life and to try to make the marks that showed these textures was just a lot of fun although again somewhat frustrating sometimes too (… trying to express what I saw was not easy as I discovered!!)
- Which media did you most enjoy with? why? Now this was a slight surprise – crayons. I think I liked them because I was able to do rubbings with them – I got some funny looks from people as I am rubbing fences and trees on a very frosty morning but I loved that it was fun to discover again what marks could be made (it has been many years since I did this) but also on a more ‘grown up’ level found I loved that these marks could then be used for further drawings or parts of drawings if the papers are used as part of a collage. I think I also enjoyed using ink too – I like calligraphy but I enjoyed using the ink with a paint brush and found you could mark wonderfully expressively and it could also be combined with crayon to produce further effects. Happily I tried pastels again and at long last liked them – I had had my pastels for some time and had hated them before but think working the way this course is teaching me meant that I found using them could produce some wonderful effects.
- What other forms of mark-making could you try? I have touched on this above and finger painting is definitely one form and using leaves, fruit, vegetables and generally house hold items could all be used to create a variety of marks – an old childhood favourite would be potato printing but wonder if I could carve different marks and produce very different effects. I think for me it is a question of whatever is lying around and some cheap paint so I can play as I think of ideas or looking at different textures and having a notebook to hand that I can reproduce marks as I see them.
- How will these exercises enrich your textile work in the future? I understand how mark making can be interpreted into stitch and how when I sketch something now I am thinking of what stitches can be used or what yarns and fabrics would maybe work. As I draw or look at images I am constantly looking for the textures and am now taking photographs with a view to the textural qualities as well as the lines and the colours. The exercises have changed the way I draw already as I am less concerned about accurately producing an image or an object and more concerned about my interpretation as I state above – this for me has freed up my sketching and is enabling me to think and draw in a way that I feel is starting to express what I what to in a new way. It is lovely to be able to think about stitches, yarns and fabrics as I draw or after I have done so basing them either on the marks themselves.
Looking back over this first project it is has been both absolutely fascinating and very frustrating as I state above and my concern is whether I have expressed or manage to express the marks for both emotions and adjectives such as hard, soft etc and whether I have subsequently achieved a wide enough range of marks?
I do understand I will gain confidence and experience and therefore my range will increase and become like a vocabulary in which to express feelings, emotions and textures and this will be a wonderful journey of exploration and discovery.