Mark Making: From Photo to Stamp Design

An artist I interviewed several years ago told me, “Once you start studying patterns, you see them everywhere.”

mark making art from a carved stamp
My first stamping, in rows.

Boy, was she right. I’m forever taking photos of brick walls, wrought iron fences, floor tiles, and so on to record interesting patterns I see. My family is used to this: I once shot a picture of the disintegrating brickwork on a building in New York City as we approached the George Washington Bridge (my husband was driving).

I enjoy the photos just as they are, but they also serve as inspiration for mark-making ideas.

Recently, on a college tour in a quaint New England town, I looked like a crazy tourist as I held up my phone to shoot archways and street art while the guide talked about dorm rooms and student exhibitions.

At the end of the day I sat down with my phone to assess what I’d gathered and found a “mistake” photo. Apparently I had inadvertently snapped a picture of the sidewalk while hurrying to catch up with the group.

mark making inspiration from bricks
This “mistake” photo lead to mark-making inspiration.

But are there really mistakes in art? I stared at the row of bricks edging the concrete and thought, “That might be useful.” Indeed, I decided to carve a stamp based on the design.

The stamp is very simple. By itself, no big deal. But, influenced by how Julie-Fei-Fan Balzer repeats simple stamp designs to create interesting effects, I decided to play a little.

First I used one color of ink and stamped in rows. Interesting: would make a good background. Then I cleaned off and re-inked my stamp with a contrasting color, stamping over the first pattern but off-setting the stamp.

mark making art from a carved stamp
Gone to plaid–a simple stamp creates a lively pattern.

Wow, suddenly I had a much more complicated and interesting pattern.

The stamp took just minutes to make, and yet by altering the positions, the repetitions, and the ink colors, I can make a wide variety of marks and patterns.

Julie offers tutorials on how to carve stamps and scores of examples showing how to use them in her book Carve Stamp Play: Designing and Creating Custom Stamps. You’ll see how easy it is to turn mark-making inspiration from photos to doodles into art.

P.S. Do you notice patterns everywhere? How do you record them? Leave your comments below.


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.