expressive markmaking

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!