Project – Making Marks

Exercise – Tonal Studies
In the squares I didn’t at first see ways of grading the cross hatching but managed it with the fibre tip pen which was the thinnest implement.
However I am not sure that this is an effective method of graded shading as it would be difficult to predict where the gradations of tone will occur. However overall it does produce an interesting effect and whilst hard to draw freehand on a measured or mechanical basis some unusual effects could be reproduced.

In the drawings I did not find the hatched shading as realistic as shading with a soft lead. To be a realistic shadow you have to get the dominant lines of the hatching to align with the flow of the light otherwise you will get the “tilting shadow” shown in the ball sketch.
It was difficult to tell the difference between the reflected light and the direct light. The reflections were indistinct, if any. I think there would have to be appropriate colours and a good light source before this could be drawn with certainty.

The application of light and shade to the subject strengthens the effects of depth and perspective in a drawing and the gradation tonal values enhances the finished product.


Project – Making Marks

Exercise – Line and other Marks
The purpose of the exercise was to use different mark making implements in a manner which incorporates the considerations of intensity, smoothness, pattern, length and repetition.

This exercise was likely to incorporate many marks used on previous exercises though makes you think a bit harder insofar that the keywords have to be reflected in the marks.

Accordingly before making the mark you have to ask yourself the question – “Is this tool going to make the appropriate mark?” Often it didn’t – a stick dipped in ink is not readily adapted to “smooth”!

The exercise was therefore more involved or precise than those previous and was quite difficult because, in an effort not to repeat marks it was necessary to take time and sometimes think about it before applying tool to paper. Furthermore, particularly with “repetition” the size of the squares did not give sufficient space for the larger implements.

No one tool does everything though graphite pencils do best overall. The variety of marks one can make with a range of lead sizes and grades of pencils generally surpasses all other monochromatic media.

This exercise and the similar previous exercises have provided good learning as to which mark making implements make the best type of marks. Hopefully the individual marks will be remembered for use in the future but if not the exercise can be used as a good reference point.

Project – Making Marks

Exercise – Using Charcoal (and Graphite Sticks)
Armed with a good selection of charcoals I approached this exercise with a certain amount of trepidation. This was my first significant experiment with charcoal.
Charcoal has never been a media that even the finished product has appealed. I have yet to find a widely acclaimed drawing that has been produced in charcoal but then I am a beginner.

Charcoal appears to me to be a tool for which a use had to be found rather than the tool “we have all been looking for”. Soft pastels are marginally better but only because they come in many colours.

The exercise required the charcoal to be used in many different ways but there is little control and only a small degree of drawing accuracy from even a thin stick of charcoal hence the necessity to draw big.

Expressing tonal variety is also a bit hit and miss. Shading in different grades of darkness is difficult and necessitates  a good knowledge of the different types of charcoal, i.e. vine, willow, compressed etc, and an understanding of how each type might be useful. (I did experiment further on practice paper.)

Lifting the charcoal from the paper worked best on the mark of a medium density grade charcoal using a putty eraser and it was possible to make distinctive negative shapes. In other grades the lifting worked less well and surprisingly hardly at all in the darkest grade.

Smudging/blending was a readily attainable technique using fingers and cotton pads etc. but it was difficult to see “beauty” in the marks which looked just like a grey smudge.

I have some wide lead (ie. sticks) graphite clutch pencils and also blocks which I used to create a similar range of marks to those in charcoal.
Graphite is a cleaner medium and more productive in terms of aesthetic marks and accordingly more to my taste.

As the leads and blocks are graded and labelled it was more possible to be accurate with the tone required. The experiments were therefore more controllable and subtle which will suit my preference and style in drawing work.

Because of the thickness of the leads and blocks the implements can be used in large scale drawings and will make freeflowing marks with good variations in tone though possibly not as visually dramatic as charcoal.

I think I will need some convincing that charcoal is a useful drawing tool when large lead and block graphite appears to have so many benefits.

Project – Making Marks

Exercise – Mark Making Techniques
The exercise requires a range of drawing implements and by employing various techniques producing a variety of marks with different characteristics.

The pencil marks generally were similar in grip and pressure and it was the lead thickness and grade that mostly defined the resultant marks.

The ballpoint pen is a bit inflexible in its application as it has no edge – it’s either on or off. I don’t think it offers anything that other media do not.

I was not comfortable with the dip pen, either not enough ink or too much which affected the finished product though I was quite pleased with some marks and ink flow aside I would like to develop the use of this media.

I enjoyed the fibre tip pens and whilst only two thicknesses were employed a range of fibre tip pens could produce some good textural drawings. The pens can produce dramatic effect with loose and tight marks though not so much with controlled lines, probably because there is no tonal variety in a line.

The felt tip pen was a bit inflexible and cheaper ones do not make quick, solid marks however there were some useful marks and they might well be used in conjunction with fibre tip pens.
The use of charcoal was interesting and a medium to be explored by myself at a later date having never drawn with charcoal before. It obviously needs large areas of paper to get the best out of it and accordingly I must develop my drawing ability to large scale work.

Emotionally, i.e. making calm or frenzied marks, most media can cope with peaceful flowing marks and also aggressive jabs though pastels are probably the least flexible.

The way in which the implement was held often defined the best mark that could be made, i.e. the more rambling marks generally had a looser grip.

Together a good learning exercise and the first time I have laid down so many marks. I probably should have introduced a bit more artistic style into my efforts but that is what I am here to learn.

Project – Making Marks

Exercise – Doodling
Whilst doodling is not a sub-conscious action its function relies on one’s attention or concentration to be mainly directed elsewhere in order for the spontaneity required to stimulate the doodling action. Probably the emotion that dominates the mind at that time will be reflected in the doodle.

Accordingly doodling by design as this exercise requires does not have the spontaneity that a freestyle doodle necessitates. Accordingly some of the doodles are “produced” rather than “just happened”. Furthermore it is probable that the abstract element of the doodles will not be as naturally forthcoming if the doodle has forethought or, worse, is rehearsed!

I struggled with some media particularly charcoal as the mark is rather large and doesn’t allow the control for fine work and therefore left me a bit high and dry with ideas. Also I did not generally find myself “relaxing into the work” as the brief requires. The exercise required considerable concentration though possibly mostly allied to trying to make the doodles different.

Had the doodles been more spontaneous I am sure some could have been generated by emotion rather than studied concentration. Doodles will often reflect the mood relating to the topic that the occupied part of the brain is involved in, i.e. jagged if annoyed, smooth if calm, etc

The exercise of doodling might appear simplistic and gave the initial impression “what’s the point of this exercise?”

Nevertheless it became a good learning exercise as different media produced different results. Probably the best doodles are with the finer implements as doodles tend to be on small pieces or areas of paper and the doodle has to fit into the available space.

With more time available I would have liked to have expanded some of the larger doodles which incorporated contained shapes. I found these elements amusing insofar I was looking for odd shapes to insert. This is an area that can be developed in the future into a topic in itself.

I think a good step though quite a hard exercise, at least for me. I look forward to reaching for a charcoal stick to doodle away whilst on the telephone!

Project – Making Marks 

Exercise – Holding Pens and Pencils

The purpose of the exercise is to identify the most appropriate grips that can be formed to draw a comprehensive range of marks from different pencils, pens and sticks.

The pencil offered the most potential for a useful variety of grips which were identified  and trialled as the –
•    Writing/tripod grip
•    Extended tripod grip
•    Overhand grip
•    Overhand grip Mk 2 with forefinger support
•    Underhand grip
•    Thumb over the pencil grip
•    Vertical dangling grip
•    Obliquely dangling grip
•    Vertical writing/tripod grip

The form of the pencil grips are explained in my sketchbook log, copies below, together with the relevant marks illustrated. The grips identified are not rigid and there will be variances in the manner of the grip to suit the circumstances of the mark required.

Having spent virtually all of my life holding a pencil in the writing grip it was interesting to discover and experience the different ways a pencil can be held and the marks the lead will make at a particular angle and pressure.

The graphite stick has only a limited number of useful grips, probably only the three identified in the sketchbook log, as much will depend on the shape of the stick, i.e. round or square, and the shape of the wear on the stick.


Crayon grips are limited particularly as pressure has to be applied in order to make a significant mark and the size of the stick does not allow support from the crook of the hand. There is not much subtlety to be had in the use of crayons.

The dip pen probably only has one generally useful grip, the writing grip, as that is the grip the nib  was designed for. The pen can make light and heavy marks but these are governed by the characteristics of the nib and the unpredictability of the ink flow.

Although charcoal sticks are often small and misshapen there are about four useful grips which, dependent on the pressure and the amount of movement, give a good variety of marks.

The charcoal pencil, maybe just mine, did not offer any particular advantage to using anything other than the one grip – the writing grip. It appeared that all required marks could be made with such as different gradients and pressures did not appear to make a significantly different mark. Possibly a looser grip on larger paper might be useful.

The pastel sticks only offered me a couple of grips though working in a small area with restricted movement is not ideal for pastels. However experimenting with other grips made much the same marks as the modified writing grip. Like the charcoal stick the thumb and forefinger grip with the stick on its side creates a good shading mark.

The exercises on the A3 sheet taught me a lot and whilst the demonstration of the grips on paper only was contained in small working areas I found that experimenting on larger sheets revealed a variance in use for some of the grips.

On the larger A2 sheet most pencil grips worked well with the gestural strokes, some better than others but standing encouraged more fluid and expansive marks. Those grips that did not require support from the pad of the hand or wrist came to the fore particularly overhand.


A second overhand grip came to light with the pencil completely under the hand and supported at the end by the palm with the first finger extended over the tip. The dip pen also worked well with this grip.

The graphite crayons produced good marks with the grips stated on the sheet.

The charcoal sticks and the pastel sticks  have to be held with good support to the stick to avoid breakage but good gestural strokes were readily made.

The grips listed in the sketchbook log allow varying degrees of support and movement. Obviously if the pad of the hand or the wrist is resting on a surface and thereby supporting the fingers the movement of the pencil will be limited. When support is removed the wrist and the arm can be moved more freely creating more fluid marks but also causing a loss of accuracy.

The variety of grips combined with the angle of the drawing board and also whether drawing from a sitting or standing position will expand the type of marks that can be made by the grips.

A good lesson.