I’m struggling a bit with the exercises in expressive markmaking for Open College of the Arts Textile 1. I can spend hours making marks – some that I like, some that I don’t, in different media and with different techniques, but I don’t naturally see any of them as expressive of sadness or happiness, even when I am trying to convey these specific emotions. I am making judgments about them, but not related to mood. I see them as interesting, boring, ugly, beautiful, etc, and I don’t have too much trouble with strongly visual words like sharp, smooth, delicate, but I get more doubtful when it comes to words like fast and slow, hard and soft. That is – I can relate those words to the gestures I’m making when I make the mark, but when I look at the mark, it doesn’t seem to reflect the speed of the gesture. Or a softly placed mark doesn’t say ‘soft’ to me.

Not sure where I’m going with this, just getting the thoughts out.

While I was musing and wondering about it yesterday I googled for expressive markmaking, and rediscovered TRACEY, an online journal devoted to contemporary drawing research. Specifically the issue on Syntax of Mark and Gesture. Masses of material here – I’ve bookmarked this to read over the next week or so. Following their links I also looked at Access Art and their online workshop ‘Draw!‘. After that I thought I am just being too precious ahout this and I sat and brainstormed in my journal some other evocative words and visual ideas around what sadness and happiness mean to me.

happy and sad words

During the week I’ll spend some time finishing the exercise by making marks around these thoughts. But today I’m going to go on to the next stage, using marks to create surface textures.

These are some of my favourite efforts from yesterday. I notice they are all paint, except the first which is a candle resist with an Inktense pencil wash. The results I get drawing with pastels, crayons, etc don’t grab me much – maybe an indication that I need to spend a little more time getting to know these media. They work well for me in rubbings, stencils and so on, but not when it’s just me and my bare hands!

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4 thoughts on “expressive markmaking

  • June 17, 2007 at 9:30 pm
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    I found that exercise difficult as well. My tutor said to think in an abstract way – musical rhythm = visual rhythm. I like the colours and patterns you’ve got with the Inktense pencils.

  • July 23, 2007 at 10:46 pm
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    I’ve recently done a similar series of exercises in my Bachelor of Arts (Art) online course through Open Universities Australia through Curtin Uni in Perth. (Sorry, thought I’d better add details just in case.) I did at least a half page of each mark, this way I could see what it looked like when repeated. Then I did three still-life drawings, all the same subject, each one using exclusively the same mark. I didn’t really get it until I’d finished the exercises, but I have learned so much in the doing of them. I definitely think the large amount of repetition of all the marks to start with helped. I now have a valuable resource to be able to look back over and think “I think smearing ink on with shadecloth will get me the look I’m after” (which I’ve actually had the occassion to think since!). Love checking out your blog from time to time. Really interesting. Your course sounds (somewhat) similar to mine. Quite surprisingly so at times. All the best.

  • July 24, 2007 at 9:46 am
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    Thank you for the comments. Jan, thanks for sharing your approach – I think I’ll try and do some more sketchbook work on this now. I especially like the idea of doing a series of drawings with the same subject and different marks. By the way, I had to google to discover what shadecloth is – not sure what we call it here – our protective coverings tend to be waterproofs!

  • December 9, 2009 at 9:21 pm
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    Very helpful I am doing a hnd in graphic design never done any art so trying to get to grips with what they want me to do an this explains alot

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