Check and log: Mark-making

How did holding your pen or pencil in a different way affect your drawing?

Holding the pen or pencil near the bottom gave the greatest control.  Holding them at the top end gave hardly any control, but produced less predictable marks, which could be interesting.  Holding pencils or charcoal in the middle, especially at a slightly lower angle to the paper, gave the greatest combination of ‘control plus looseness’, as the movements tended to come more from the shoulder than the wrist, which promoted a wider range of marks.

Which drawing tools suited the different mark-making techniques you used?

Best for fine detail: pencils (graphite, charcoal, and pastel), pen and ink, ballpoints (especially following my recent breakthrough with biro at life drawing).

Best for tonal work: charcoal, soft pastels, ink, water-soluble graphite sticks, graphite pencils, pens (for stippling and hatching).

Best for colour: pastels (hard, soft, & oil), coloured pencils, coloured inks, felt tips.

Best for expressiveness: ink (especially used with water – literally looser and more fluid), charcoal.

Did you find that any marks or tools you used matched particular emotions or feelings? Did one convey calm and another frenzy for example?

Calm – pencils (building up tone and doing line work), pens (hatching and cross-hatching), washes, charcoal tones, fluid marks (waves, swirls, spirals)

Chaotic – ink (splashing, blowing), charcoal, short, broken, and stippled marks

Happy – ink, charcoal, swirling marks

Assertive – charcoal, ink, hatching

Meditative – line work, stippling, hatching, ink washes

Responsive – charcoal, ink (both are highly expressive)

Energetic – ink, charcoal, zig zags, staccato marks

Bold – ink applied with brush or broad nib, charcoal (especially on a large scale)

Melancholic – charcoal (the shadowiness, I think)

Anxious – pen/biro

How did the introduction of colour (soft pastels, Conte crayons) affect your mark-making?

I found the colour distracting, as I focused more on it than on the mark. I need more practice at building layers of colour, rather than trying to get it all in there at once.  I like pastels, but again feel practice is needed, as I struggle not to ‘muddy’ the colours.  I think it will take time to learn how to create tone using colour – it’s much clearer with charcoal, graphite or ink.  Felt happier when combining different coloured inks, though.

Which of these experiments have you found most interesting and rewarding?

All the mark-making that involved using ink – I love the responsive nature of it.

Similarly with charcoal.  It seems to encourage experimentation and has a wide range of applications and possibilities, which I’m looking forward to exploring further in future studies.

The line marks exercise was an eye-opener – the sheer range of ways in which line can be used.  Also, I found it helpful to study line in other artists’ drawings, especially in Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing.

The doodling exercise was a surprise to me, as I’m not a doodler by nature – perhaps it was useful for that very reason.  It encouraged me to work more loosely and freely.

I loved the exercise in trying new media!  Mixing media, seeing ink colours bleed into one another, using bleach, blowing ink, the verdigris effect brought about by applying bicarbonate of soda and salt to ink, using sticks and string and a variety of other unfamiliar tools – all inspired me to being more experimental.

Copying the van Gogh drawing was very helpful – attempting to work in another person’s style prompts you to look at their work far more closely than you might do otherwise.  Particularly at this early stage, I think making copies of other artists’ drawings would be a rich source of learning.

Additionally, I found it helpful, at times, to consider the words I would associate with the various mediums I tried, as it helped me gain a deeper understanding of their character and application.  This was especially useful with charcoal.

At the end of this first stage of the course, I am left with a greater awareness of the range of marks that are available with a relatively small selection of tools and mediums. Also, I now see marks as part of a language, a visual language – in learning this language, I am developing new ways to describe what I see around me and what I feel inside.