Making marks in an expressive way

Stage 2 exercise 1
Stage 2 exercise 2
Stage 2 exercise 3
Stage 2 exercise 4
Stage 2 some extras
Stage 3 Looking at artists’ markmaking
Stage 3 exercise 1
Stage 3 exercise 2
Stage 4

Stage 2 Exercise 1

Fast; slow

Hard; Sharp

Soft; Delicate

Bumpy; Smooth; Sensuous

Sad; Happy


Stage 2 Exercise 2

Different areas of tone

Different areas of tone

Stage 2 Exercise 3

watercolour wash; bellringing method in ink

working on brown paper from carry bag

watercolour paper

Canson 160g/m2 recycled paper


paper towel

tracing paper

tissue paper

Fast; Slow; Hard; Sharp; another Sharp; Soft

Delicate; Bumpy; Smooth; Sensuous; Sad

Happy (excited); Happy (contented)



Stage 2 Exercise 4


More rubbings

Watercolour and ink wash over wax pencil, wax crayon and paintstik

Stamping - bottle tops, string, cardboard, comb and cancelled

Below: multiple attempts at fixative transfer were unsuccessful, so as a final attempt I scribbled on the magazine page with crayon and transferred that to the final page.

Failed fixitve transfor; stencil with stippling

Stencil sprayed with diluted ink

Stencil, trying textures from two sponges

Scratching back into layers of wax crayon

Scratching into wet gouache

Rubbing away pencil

Stage 2 Some Extras
I did these as part of my daily sketchbook work, but decided they were really an extension of the stage 2 work. Most of these are based on examples in ArtEffects by Jean Drysdale Green.

crumpled wax paper ireoned on, watercolour wash over; rice sprinkled onto watercolour wash

I really like the waxed paper effect. The rice was underwhelming.


Gouache painted on the page, an acetate sheet smoothed on then lifted off. The lower part is the remains of paint that lifted with the acetate page.

Paper doiley used as stencil, dilute ink spray

Water colour washes, covered while drying. Top: cling film; Bottom: wax paper

I was surprised at the different effects here, and like both of them.

Crumpled tissue paper, watercolour painted over; below: the tissue paper

Another effect I find very attractive. I was tempted to go back into the image with pen and ink to play in the spaces. Perhaps another day…

Gumleaf prints

Another favourite. I like the overlapping and the different effects given by varying the amount of paint of the leaf. This was inspired by a sample done by Claire(although she used inktense pencils and I used watercolour).

Papers used when creating the previous example

I even like the paper used when pressing down the leaves and cleaning my brushes.

Acrylic gloss medium - first over then under watercolour

Watercolour with acrylic matt medium

Pasel scrapped onto paper - top example wet with fixative first, bottom with matt medium

The top example in particular I find exciting. The pastel ran a bit in the fixative, and the layering of dark, medium and light colours of pastel gives great depth – makes me want to clean my glasses!

Detail of scrapped pastel

Mixing pastel colours - the bottom example blended using a dry brush

Pastels - "feathering" at the top; simple Xs below

The Xs was just something I decided to try, using my full reportoire of pastel colours (all 12 of them). I rather expected the result to be muddy, but the size and spacing of the motifs on the white paper allows each colour to sing. I find it a very lively and happy effect.


Stage 3 introduction – looking at artists’ markmaking
I approached this exercise with trepidation. However, reframed to be “extending my markmaking by feeble attempts to see the mark-making of Masters” made it somewhat more approachable. I chose a series of images from Raoul Dufy, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh using the Bridgeman Education Library, only to have concerns about using their images on an open blog. The photographs show the printouts of the images I chose for detailed exploration – given the lousy colour (poorly printer) and resolution they only give a suggestion of the Bridgeman images.

Attempting to see markmaking in van Gogh's The Flower Garden

Attempting to see markmaking in van Gogh's Rocky Ground at Montmajour

Attempting to see markmaking in Picasso's untitled 1933 work


Stage 3 Exercise 1

In this exercise images of objects were used to make marks to create surface texture. I selected two photos taken on a recent walk.

Textures from a photo of wattle

Please ignore the wonky colour of the source photo – a printer malfunction.
I focused on the speckley effect of the blossoms. The first attempt used rice on a wet wash to get speckles. The result was indistinct (possibly the light colours), so I used fixative to keep what I had and tried to add definition using inktense pencils. Dissatisfied with the result, I ironed on crumpled wax paper as a resist and a watercolour wash over. The wax resist wasn’t effective – possibly the impact of the fixative underneath, or not enough drying time.
The second sample used wax paper laid over a wet watercolour wash. Again the light colours gave an indistinct and uninteresting result. I added some print leaves, but feel this is too literal and also moves away from my blossom focus.
The third sample used a watercolour wash base, then flakes of pastel into damp fixative. I really like this effect and the depth given by multiple colours.

Texture from a driveway

Nozzles cleaned, the printer was behaving much better!
The top sample used a watercolour wash base. A wax crayon (I think it may be unpigmented) was used to reserve areas for the pebbles. An ink wash darkened the background. Oil pastels were blended for moss and berries and to add some definition to the pebbles. Some graphite and charcoal added further texture.


I was very pleased with the two lower samples, so have provided a detail shot.
The second sample used a charcoal base, with areas lifted using an eraser to form the pebbles. Pen and ink gave form to the pebbles and added general texture. CarbOthello pencil smudged with a dry brush gave the soft texture of the moss. Wax crayon was used for the hard, slightly shiny berries.
The third sample used layers of wax crayon. The colours in the base layer were roughly in areas appropriate for the image. The black top layer was scrapped back using a wooden skewer and a variety of marks to create different textures.

Stage 3 Exercise 2
In this exercise actual objects were used as the visual source to make marks to create surface texture. The photos of the objects were taken and added to the pages after the completion of the exercise.

Texture from amethyst crystals

The top sample used a gouache wash with clingfilm over while drying. This gave the crystalline marks I wanted but was drab. I brushed over metallic dust which gave some of the gloss I wanted. If I did this again I would try adding some highlights – perhaps using a white gouache and fine brush.
The central sample was an afterthought. It is the clingfilm used in the top sample, collaged onto the page. I think this is much the best result of the four.
The bottom left sample used a gouache wash with acrylic gloss medium dropped in while wet. I like the crystalline tendrils moving from the medium, but they aren’t appropriate for this particular object. A very light brush with metallic dust made the sample slightly less awful.
The bottom right sample is a collage of tissue paper and cellophane. Shapes were overlapped in an attempt to create layers and depth. I was trying to suggest the shine and the angles of the crystals. The result is the most unsuccessful of the group. The clingfilm above was done after this, and while a similar idea is much more effective.

Texture of rolled oats

After the hard crystals I wanted a soft source item. I used some (uncooked!) porridge. I focused on the many flakes, bumpy but fairly homogenised as a texture.
The first sample used a watercolour wash with oats sprinkled on while drying – similar to the rice idea in earlier samples. I like the resulting texture.
The second sample is watercolour painted on crumpled tissue paper which had been laid on the page. If I had more time I would like to work in the result with pastels or CarbOthello pencils to add additional texture.
When dry the tissue paper was removed, then collaged onto the page to create the sample on the right. I think this is the most successful in suggesting the texture of the oats, although the colour is quite wrong.
The bottom left sample used CarbOthello pencils, first smudged to provide a consistent base colour, then the same mark added repeatedly and overlapping in a variety of colours. The result is rather flat. Possibly the distribution of marks is too even, or a little definition should be added – perhaps with a harder, colour pencil.
The bottom right sample was given a base by rubbing pastels over lino. Additional marks were made using CarbOthello pencils, then further texture was added by lifting spots with a kneadable eraser. I think the more varied colour gives a better indication of the texture.


Stage 4
Stage 4 asked me to select areas of texture in work done so far, and use that as a base for further textural drawings. I found the requirement very difficult to understand. Given I had made the marks and knew the techniques used I didn’t know how to draw their texture without simply repeating what I had previously done – which seems pointless, so I must have missed the point. Given they were already reduced to marks and textures it was hard to see how to reinterpret them. In the end I decided to work in monochrome to help me focus on the texture of the earlier marks, to change scale, and to used different media – all of which would help me distance myself from the original process.
I worked from the originals. The small photographs on the pages were sourced and added after the exercise was completed.

Textures from "knitting loom" marks

I chose this area because of the contrast of hard and smooth, smudged and crisp, linear and contained shapes in the marks. The original gouache, CarbOthello and pastels were replaced by charcoal, graphite sticks and wax crayon.

Marks of transparency in watercolour

The area selected has blocks of colour from overlapping watercolours, with additional brushstrokes. The overall impact of the original is based on colour, so this was an opportunity to focus in on the actual marks. I used various dilutions of black ink and a range of brush shapes and sizes to produce these marks.

Watercolour practice reinterpreted

In this example I moved further from a literal reproduction of marks to a more interpretive approach. The original brush “tracks” were replaced by stamping using undiluted watercolour and an office stamp from a closed business. To reproduce the brush marks I used wax crayon as a resist under an ink wash. The result was a bit bland, so I bent my own rules and used a bit of brush work in watercolour – close repeating the original method, but using a drier brush. I like both the original and the new work. I think the use of the stamp adds some extra interest.


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November 2022

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