PART 3:PHYSICALITY AND GESTURE -project 2 – Experiments with mark making

Project 2 – Experiments with mark making

‘The aim of this project continues the theme of focusing attention on your own physicality and opening up your method to new ways of working.’

I used three different still life images for this project. The first was quite simple – a chair positioned in front of my drawing easel. As directed in the course notes, I took a large sheet of paper which I secured to the floor. Then with a large chunk of charcoal secured to a long bamboo rod I began to draw the image. At first it was very difficult to control the charcoal, except on the wide sweep of the line defining the chair. I loved this line! The straight lines were not easy and I found I had to walk around the paper and attack it from different angles. It became a very physical activity and at the end I was very tired…bending over the drawing and trying to control the stick. In analysing my tiredness, I realised that a lot of this was because I was determined to control the drawing stick and make it do what an ordinary drawing tool would do.


So I decided to experiment with the same image but this time fasten the paper to a board and draw on the easel, still with the elongated pencil. So I changed the still life to include a jacket carelessly thrown over the chair as well as a pair of discarded boots. I began with different pencils, attaching HB, 4B, 6B and 8B pencils to long pieces of bamboo. This was not an easy still life image but I wanted to experiment with different marks, some strong robust as well as more sensitive marks. With the paper on the easel it was easier to draw from a standing position – I found the marks more gestural in that I could get a sweep of marks for the slightly draping object. I also wanted to contrast my marks – I used strong definite gestures for the lines of the jacket in contrast to the soft sensitive marks of the cushion. I deliberately didn’t attempt to complete the drawing of the chair but just suggested it with pencil lines.


I was surprised at how much control I was now getting. The elongated pencil had become quite natural to draw with. When I wanted very dark marks, I trapped the end of the bamboo under my arm to steady it and drew with the whole arm and shoulder.

I wanted to experiment with the suggestion in the course notes, to draw with half a dozen drawing tools together, held in my fist. I felt that the still life I’d used for the previous drawing was too complex for this drawing and so I took a very extravagant tulip head from the garden and experimented with drawing this. First I used 6 different tones of chalk pastels together – I loved the result of this but it was very costly on the pastels as they continually crumbled with the pressure. I particularly liked the effect at the top of the glass bottle.


I then experimented with felt tip pens which was a lot easier to manipulate. The tones of colour held together produced a hugely energetic effect and created the rhythm I was looking for.



Thirdly I used oil pastels. These were also easy to use and produced the most vibrant result. I lost the shape of the flower in my enthusiasm with the colours as they came together.


The last experiment was with coloured pencils.


Normally this would have seen the end of this exercise. However I still felt that I hadn’t really achieved the break between the brain and the marks made in the drawing of the chair still life. So I went back to it again and set up the paper and the long bamboo drawing rods. I really wanted to disconnect and let the elongated pencils suggest the marks. The image itself spoke to me of carelessness, looseness, lack of order with the discarded jacket and boots. I felt that eliminating my sense of control in drawing would convey this feeling in the drawn image.

I drew quickly holding the pencil half way along the bamboo rod. As I began I was thinking about composition as well – decided to position the jacket in the centre of the image, leading the eye in through the turned out angle of the boots in the right corner. The marks were free and energetic and I was working with the whole arm. The marks were put down quickly on the paper and I was looking at tonal values as large areas to be built up as the drawing progressed. I wanted the carelessness to continue in the spaces as well and so I used 5 different tones of grey pastel pencils at the same time to produce a lack of order or definition.


As the drawing progressed however I could feel myself being drawn once again into the detail of the image and even though I was working with the extended pencil all the time, I was becoming so used to it that I was able to work up these areas of detail as I would have with a normal drawing tool. I almost felt as though I needed to somehow change drawing tools again in order to break away from my normal mark making.

I feel that I haven’t got to the end of this exercise yet because I haven’t achieved the break with my normal way of working….



About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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