Experimental Mark Making With

Try to approach this without any preconceived ideas about what the marks should look like, as there is no formula or recipe for this way of working. It is a way of making a personal vocabulary of marks that can be used as references for future drawings. I can explain how I made my examples but it is very important that you expand upon these and discover your own natural method of working. You can use any type of ink; I used Indian ink. The implements used were chosen at random, just to give you examples.

1/ A feather or quill

The first few marks have been made by dipping the pointed end (ie the non feathery end) into the ink and applying it to the paper. Drag the end of the quill across the paper, applying different pressures and moving the quill in different directions. Then try to make dots with the quill end. You will find that you need to replenish the ink quite frequently for these procedures. Now try dipping the feathery end of the quill into the ink and work the ink across the paper by dragging allowing the ink to naturally thin out from very dark opaque marks to lighter thinner textured marks.

Technique Mark Making

2/ Shaped piece of stick

I chose a planed piece of wood about an inch thick. At the end of the piece of wood I've cut three channels with a sharp knife making a row of jagged teeth. I dipped the teeth into the ink and then made different types of marks with the wood by dragging in different directions and with different movements across the paper. You will find when you first apply the stick that, as with the feather, you will make a more opaque line. This will gradually thin out to a series of lines that become less dense in tone as the ink thins.

Mark Making Techniques

3/ Piece of dowling or a circular end of a piece of wood

Simply dip the end of the piece of wood in the ink and imprint it onto the paper, creating a sequence of dots. You will notice the dot impression fade as the ink runs out.

4/ Stippling brush

This brush is designed to make a mark known as stippling, a technique used in ceramics, painting and decorating as well as by fine artists. Dip the brush into the ink; then wipe off the excess on the edge of the bottle. Holding the brush vertically, dab it onto the paper.

Drawing Mark Making TechniquesHand Drawn Cotton Bud

5/ Cotton bud

The cotton bud is a very useful tool for drawing with ink. Strip the cotton wool off one end of the bud and, using a pair of scissors, make a diagonal cut across the stem to give a pointed end. This end can then be used for making marks smilar to the type you would get with a regular dip pen. The hollow stem of the converted cotton bud will hold a certain amount of ink, just like the reservoir of any pen. However because the ink in the stem is very free flowing, this implement can be used to achieve a splatter effect, by making a stabbing motion. You can also use the other end of the cotton bud. Dip this into the ink and you can make thicker heavier lines or tonal areas varying from black to grey.

Mark Making Tonal

6/ Toothbrush

Take an old toothbrush and dip that into the ink. Aim it at the paper and then pull your thumb over the bristles of the brush, firing speckles of paint at the paper. In this way you can build up areas of tone out of this speckled effect. You can also use the brush to apply the ink as though you were drawing with it.

Brush And Ink Drawings

7/ String

Take a frayed piece of string. Ensure that the frayed area is quite tough and resistant. Dip this into the ink and apply it to the paper, using different hand motions to create a variation of marks.

Experimental Drawing Exercises

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  • Cornelia
    What is experimental mark making?
    10 months ago

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