Saturday, December 2, 2017

Making Marks

I usually need a break after my busy teaching season, which ended this year with a workshop in Pensacola, FL the first week of November. Then there is Thanksgiving, for which I take time out to see family and cook.  Getting back into the studio for any kind of regular painting practice always takes some time and effort. It's a shift from teaching-traveling mode to more inward-looking, solitary, exploratory mode. The key is to align my expectations with the reality that this is a transition. As enthusiastic as I am to get into my studio after a long season of teaching, it's never easy.

I've been laying pretty low this week with a bad cold, and just poking my head into the studio to push paint around for an hour or two each day.  Works In Progress are great for this: I can just do one or two things to a few pieces with no pressure to finish them, but just to move them along somewhere.

Yesterday I did a little Mark-Making exercise: on a stack of cut-offs from my paper cutter, which are all about 5"x8", I used limited tools to make lines and patterns, paying attention to creating variety and leaving some breathing room.  Here are some of the results:

You can see from these that there is some overlap in the kinds of marks I made. For example the arch or half-circle shape appears in four of them, with variations in a couple of the others. The awkward scribble makes an appearance in a few of them. There is a pattern of irregular dots and dashes in some of them... And yet each one is unique. Each one has something - a color or a mark - that it does not share with others.

I think this kind of working-in-a-group, WITHOUT trying to make anything specific, often reveals some of our default marks, suggests new combinations, and generally greases the wheels for visual exploration. To me it is important that these "studies" have no pressure on them to BE anything other than the result of a process. If they went directly into the wood stove now, it would be fine; their purpose has been served. I've made them, and I've looked at them.


  1. GREAT! I love this thinking. ;o)

  2. This is exactly it! I couldn't agree more: yes, it isn't easy to get back to painting after a long break; yes, paintings in progress are great at that time to add a few touches here and there; and yes, making marks or some similar 'exercise' is a great way of getting back into the 'spirit', of finding painting self and training our eyes. But you say it all so much more nicely than I do ;-)
    I guess knowing it is only the normal process of getting back to work makes it easier, well at least, that's exactly the way I function too.

  3. Making marks to start the creative process - I think, that will work for me. Must try it, because I want to have more Variation in my work.
    I think, it's like playing around without thinking too much.
    Thanks für your Inspiration.


    1. Thanks for your comments, Uta. YES! Make marks, but pay attention, don't just doodle. That is what, for me, fosters some growth.

  4. Love this - what materials did you use for the mark-making?

    1. Thanks. Graphite, pencil, watercolor crayon, and oil pastel.


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