2020 Topic 5: Mark Making
Hi everyone, Keren here with a topic that's nearly as intriguing as it is simple. From the moment we first held a crayon or paintbrush, we have been making marks. As children we were instinctive and free and as we develop, it seems that mark making becomes more complex and we hesitate often, trying to make the 'perfectly correct' line, dot or dash. When we think about it at its simplest level, it's certainly something that we can all attempt. I suspect that freedom to make marks with spontaneity rather than over-thought might make for more joyous pieces of art.
From early cave-drawings to sprawling graffiti, mark making is not devoid of expression or emotion. Boiled down to its essence, a singular mark may not tell much ( although some artists would beg to differ), but the mark has been described as the 'language' of the artist (Lynette Ubel) and can distinguish a piece of art as belonging to us.
When I consider mark makers from the PaperArtsy family, my thoughts immediately wander to Seth Apter, who is well known for his marks and delicious layering of paint and colour. This photo is actually of one particular stage in the process but you can see the marks so clearly, I thought it was a great introductory visual. Those of you who know the PaperArtsy family of designers well, will know that many of the designers give a solid nod to mark-making among their stamp designs.
One of the first decisions you'll have to make involves how you're going to create the marks. There are many ways of crafting your own 'brushes'. Here's a few handmade ones.
You could create this tool using an item normally purposed for cleaning..
Or this collection of 'brushes'
Once your implement is chosen. What substrate do you use? Are you making marks using quicker movement or some intentional gauging? Rapid short strokes or long gentle swathes of ink? I love this piece by Jacqui Fehl. There is real life in her strokes. So many examples of mark making are often in black and white, so this vivacious piece is a treat.
Instinctive mark making can produce freer responses. This artist closed her eyes and using one hand to feel for the edge of the paper, moved her body slowly down the wall, allowing the motion to guide her marks.
Moving back to implements, I thought this technique of using a leftover mascara wand is a good option for the environment. We'll be stockpiling all sorts of objects now!
Calligraphers make careful marks, often bound by rigid proportional rules. This example shows a freer side to letter creating and using pen and ink can produce angular marks.
Often the marks will be the focus of the piece, but this clever design uses marks to define areas and bring shading. Look closely!
It's easy to think of marks as short collections of lines or dots. Mark making can involve fluid motions that result in spectacular dynamic pieces.
Heading back to the PaperArtsy blog, Emma Godfrey has lots of stamps with mark making in mind. This piece of hers combines lots of different mark making techniques.
Combining different concentrations of colour and direction makes for exciting marks. I love this piece.
This art journal is a great example of different types of marks. The splatters, brush marks, pen work, random painted edges and more.
Changing medium completely, there's a technique in ceramics called Sgrafito that involves scraping lines into clay. This artist has also built up part of the clay after making the marks.
More gauging, but this time into lino. Such beautiful lines and great contrast.
Mark making on fabric can come in different forms. This piece shows making marks through spraying over elements (washers), and using different fibres and stitches. Varying the width and type of fibres results in beautiful soft marks.
If we can use any substrate, what about the human body? Etching marks into skin with ink is the essence of tattooing. Not all tattoos could be described as beautiful marks but this example is an unique style.
We can't forget about gel plates in this mark making topic. Gel plates afford so many ways to make our mark. Whether it's through stencils, texture transfer, marking the paint, adding objects or stamping, this is a versatile technique.
This next piece shows a gel plate print using really effective scratching into the plate.
This next example is one of my favourites. A lively stitched piece using so many marks to build up texture. It reminded me of book binding stitching too.
I hope there is plenty here to get you making marks along with us. They can be simple or complex, tentative or confident, but the main thing is to explore how you express yourself in ink, paint, pottery, fabric or more!