Find Mark Making Ideas Everywhere

We have a running joke around here. Assistant Editor Barbara Delaney, a former early education teacher, often looks at a process used by a contributing artist (like marble painting with shaving cream or weaving with torn papers) and says, "We did that in preschool!"

mark making with found objects
Some of Barb's experiments in mark making.

She doesn't mean it as a put-down. In fact, it's a reminder to all of us–editors and artists–that sometimes it's the simple, easy ideas that can make a big impact. And that it helps to approach art with the mind of a child, looking at objects like you've never seen them before and using them in ways other than how they were intended to be used.

Barb herself is good at discovering new uses for objects. A few months ago, she explored mark-making techniques on her blog and interviewed a couple of mixed-media artists on using found objects for mark making. I thought it would be useful to revisit her exchange with book and mixed-media artist Dea Fischer.

Barbara: How do you choose an object for mark making? Do you see it and think , wow . . . this would make a cool mark? Or do you have something in mind and then search for the object to make that mark? 

Dea Fischer:  I invariably have the image in mind of what I want to create and I go hunting for the appropriate tool or object to make it.  I will improvise absolutely anything. Nothing is sacred!

Barbara: Do you have a preferred medium for making marks? Does paint work best . . . ink? Does this vary, depending on the substrate? 

Dea:  I return again and again to gel medium and ink.  I like the textures I can create with different weights of gel medium, and paint can't provide the jewel-like translucency that ink provides me. I just switch up what type of ink I use so that I can use it on everything.

mark making in handmade books
Dea makes artistic marks with paint,
stamps, and ink in one of her tag books,
from her video "Handmade Book Essentials."

Barbara: How often do you use stamps to make marks on a piece of art, over other means of mark making? 

Dea:  I use rubber stamps for many different purposes, from multi-layered imagery, words, numbers, and franking in a piece to imprinting into gel medium or embossing paper. I have stamped on just about anything you can imagine, from fabric to metal to tree bark. Yes, tree bark.

I know my children's preschool teachers told me that "play" is how children learn. I think artists could definitely take a page from the preschool handbook, and play, play, play in order to learn.

Download one of our Cloth Paper Scissors Workshop videos, like Dea's "Handmade Book Essentials," now, and play along with the expert teachers of our other Workshop videos on art journaling, stamping, lettering, and other mark-making art endeavors.

P.S. What are your favorite mark-making ideas? Share them with us below.


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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