Take My Mark-Making Challenge

How is it that with a limited selection of shapes and lines in this world for mark making, we are able to come up with so many different ways to put them together and make art?

I mean, take the circle. A circle is a circle; it's round. That's it.

mark making
Circles made of cardboard and fabric; lines made with fabric, wire, stitch,
and paint. Jennifer Swift in the
May/June 2011 issue.

But that isn't it. You can make the circle bigger or smaller. You can fill it in or leave it open. You can make it raised or engraved. Stamp it with glue and dust it with glitter. Choose any color. Make it out of fabric or string. Change the thickness of the line.

Change the thickness of the line in a way that makes you read the circle as the letter O. Embellish that O and it becomes calligraphybut still essentially a circle. Put the circle in a context, and it can be interpreted as a face, the moon, a wheel, or a community.

In the same way, a simple line becomes a road, a branch, an expression, a journey . . . depending on the thickness, placement, and texture. The juxtaposition of lines-even simple straight lines-can create a fascinating work of art.

For example, on the wall opposite me I have hung two peasant skirts from central Asia. They are there to inspire me, representing my two daughters and my love of fiber, stitch, and color.

paint drip lines
Paint drips create lines in this collage by Nicole Martensen.
Cloth Paper Scissors,
May/June 2011

But with minor exceptions, the designs on both skirts are made up of straight lines. There are thick, horizontal, printed lines; horizontal stripes of stitched-on yarn; and the wide strips of fabric that make up the tiers.

There are the vertical lines made by the pleats and a printed hemline composed of short lines. Even the bands of elaborate cross-stitch patterns really boil down to a series of lines of thread crossed one over the other.

Mark making comes into play whether you're drawing, stitching, art journaling, or collaginganywhere you are writing, lettering, or adding pattern. So I propose a little exercise to help you expand your mark-making horizons. It's free, easy, and you already have all the tools you need.

The Mark Making Challenge

Lettering can be changed in almost infinite ways. By Sarah Ann Dinardo, Love Affair with Letters, May/June 2011 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors.

Take a simple shape, like a circle, square, or line, and see how many different ways you can express that one shape. For example, with a circle, you can use the examples above plus any others that come to mind, like using the end of a toilet paper tube as a stamp and noticing how the impression changes as the cardboard wears down. Or choose a letter or numberor even a wordand see how many different ways you can form the letters, using different mark-making tools.

Record your results in your sketchbook or art journal for future reference.

You'll probably come up with a lot of ideas just by looking around your studio, but for more inspiration, flip through the pages of back issues of Cloth Paper Scissors. You're sure to find a lot of ideas there that you never would have come up with on your ownthen share your ideas with someone else!

P.S. What is your favorite way to make a line or form a circle in art? Share below!


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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