For Mark Making Inspiration, Do Your Homework

My teen goes back to school in two days, so I have been practicing my school year mantra: "Have you done your homework?"

mark making tools
Found objects are great for
mark making in art.

Photo by Lisa Kesler

She just rolls her eyes. But, homework is important. It's where you take what you supposedly learned and put it into practice. And the more you practice, the better you get.

That's one of the reasons why, a couple of years ago, Cloth Paper Scissors magazine started asking contributors to provide a little exercise based on their article for readers to use as "homework." The exercises can be used as practice, as a way to sample part of a technique without a big commitment, or as a way to take a concept further and incorporate it into their art process.

Over the years, several "Homework" assignments have involved mark making ideas and mark making techniques. Artists have offered exercises for recognizing patterns and lines that you can use for mark making in art and tips for how to make marks with unusual items.

For example, in the September/October 2010 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, Patricia Gaignat and Lisa Kesler offer two great mark making ideas.

mark making ideas stitching
Try mark making with
stitching, then photograph
the stitching and turn it into
a Thermofax screen.
Photos by Pat Gaignat

Patricia writes about using her camera for mark-making inspiration:

"Have your camera handy for quick shots of anything with an interesting pattern, i.e. a chain link fence, bare tree branches, air conditioner vents, etc.  These images can easily be converted into dense black-and-white patterns suitable for creating excellent Thermofax® screens for fabric and/or paper surface design.  

"Move the photo into your image editing program. These instructions are from Photoshop® Elements 6, but other programs will have similar steps.

 1.  Make a copy of your picture, File>Duplicate, and then close the original.

 2.  If you want to change the image size:  Image>Resize>Image Size

 3.  Next, go to:  Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Threshold.  To tweak the black-and-white image, move the sliders under the graph until you're satisfied.  

 4.  Save and print.

 5.  Working from the black-and-white threshold image: Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Invert. This will give you another variation of your original picture.  

 6.  Print.

"Keep in mind that after you have your inkjet print it will be necessary to duplicate it using a carbon toner copier before it is possible to make the Thermofax screen."

Lisa offers advice on how to make marks like circles and dots with objects you have on hand:

"I like to keep several favorite items on hand to reach for whenever I need to add some dots or circles to one of my paintings. I have a jar of old-fashioned pencils with rubber erasers in two sizes, a jar of various sizes of corks (available at the home improvement center) and a container with lots of different sizes of lids from tubes and jars. 

"I use the pencil erasers and corks to stamp dots onto my paintings. The jar lids come in handy for embellishing paintings with stamped circles or pressing into wet molding paste to make circle-shaped impressions in the background of my painting."

So, have you done your homework? Using the 2010 Cloth Paper Scissors CD Collection, you can get a year's worth of tips, prompts, and ideas for practicing mark making and other mixed-media techniques.

P.S. Do you use Homework tips for inspiration? Share one that has been helpful to you, below.


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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