How to Make Your Mark in Your Work Work

What are the  marks you make with your work? Do you have symbols, shapes, lines or an approach with color and pattern that you integrate into your art, no matter the exact "content" or "theme" or story? Can your audience see your hand in your work? What a human thing to do. What a connection making such marks is to our amazing history of being human...

Markmaking is our language, private, personal, universal and iconic. The marks we make over and over in our work -- be it visual, kineasthetic, tactile, audible -- constitutes a piece of our personal unique style, and the more we work at those marks, finding mastery of our own special language, the more distinctive is our work, the more recognizable. 

Markmaking is part of style, part of voice, part of what makes my work, my work and yours, yours. Taking time to find, polish, elaborate upon, distill and play with our marks is an important aspect of finding our voice in the medium we choose to use to express our ideas.

The Mark-Making Workshop at El Cielo Studios is coming up in about a week and a half  (June 10, 11,12). I'm hoping to fill this little extra slot with a few folks who want to take the time to find and polish and master their own set of marks for fiber art prints, applique and other surface design. While the activities are designed with fiber artists in mind, they are also of value to any mixed media or visual medium who would like his or her work to become more distinctive and distinctly unique.

Markmaking is a distinctly human activity and one that we have been exploring as humans for millenia. Consider the new documentary by Wilhelm Herzog, Cave of the Forgotten Dreams.  We just saw the film (in 3-D) at Austin's Violet Crown Cinema, a new and snazzy space downtown on 2nd.  This adventure (part of Linda's and my CAMP AUSTIN this week) was stunningly beautiful, evocative and a powerful reminder of what it is to be human, to make marks and to leave our handprint behind.

The week in Austin is also work time for me. I'm part of the New World Kids' Training Team that is working at Ballet Austin with arts educators from three different arts organizations in the city. We, too, are looking at markmaking (among other expressive tools) as teachers move and paint and sound their way through the Sensory Alphabet. Seeing the differences in our minds at work as they play out on the page is just another dimension of this markmaking work. I'll share more about the workshops later this week on the blog, but meanwhile, here are a few playfull markmaking experiments to fool around with:

1. Look at how you doodle. What kinds of lines and shapes and symbols do you play with "when noone is looking?"

2. Take one kind of simple symbol and play it out across a wide variety of media -- paint it, draw it, make it in clay, look for and photograph it in nature and on the streets, sing it, rattle it, make it move. make it into a movie, write it into a story.

3. Carve or cut or otherwise create a stamp of a favorite mark of symbol. Experiment with it on fabric and paper, with repetition and size, change the scale and layer it one upon another. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

4. Look at a favorite artists' Insert Image work and see if you can find examples of marks made over and over. How are these distinctive marks part of the artist's "fingerprint?"


5. Make a slide show of images of a mark or symbol or sign or shape that is interesting to you. How many places can you find it? How many ways can you make it show up?

6. Try your mark in electronic media and on software apps that allow for special kinds of markmaking. Print out these marks and see how they could be used in your work.

Some to try: Zen Brush:


Also: Finger Sketch Paint

Express Sketchbook

OR, you can come out to El Cielo Studio next week and do these and many similar activities with the group!




June 10-12

Markmaking can be what distinguishes one person's

work on paper or fabric or any medai from another's -

their personal style. Using color, line, shape, rhythm

and textures, students will explore traditional and new

media as well as techniques for personal markmaking.

Techniques to be covered include deconstructed

screenprinting, stamping, using paint

sticks and monoprinting with gelatin plates. No matter

what your experience level, you'll gain confidence

in working with layered media and find your

strongest media for the marks that make your work

unmistakably your own.  

$160 plus accommodations, free to $30 for both nights, Friday night potluck is optional but encouraged!