Make Your Mark, But Make It Different

Artist Daniel Maidman wrote a really insightful article about varying your mark making that I want to share because it seems like so many of us are refocusing our interest to drawing, and this is a great approach to internalize as we do that. Enjoy!

Drawing of Piera's torso by Daniel Maidman. Drawing of Piera, standing, by Daniel Maidman.
Piera 1 & 2 by Daniel Maidman.

I've been thinking about ways I personally switch up techniques. The first one I think of is variation in mark making. Consider these two drawings. Both are from the same life-drawing workshop. The first is a 40-minute pose, and the second is a 20-minute pose. In the first figure drawing, I followed my ordinary practice—the one I use for repetitive skill building. This involves tight drawing, line work as accurate as I can make it, and a patient building up of light and dark values. I have a ways to go with this approach, but getting even this far has been a work of years. These kinds of drawings were really not very good at all when I started.

The practice involves subtle marks and focuses on details. This technique promotes a narrow vision of parts, and I decided to change my mark-making for the next pose. Instead of tight rendering of individual structures, I aimed for catching the entire figure. Accuracy was a lower priority. I wanted to get the feeling of dynamic tension, the overall play of light, and the energy of the model. The pencil marks were correspondingly rougher, larger, and more visible.

As you can see, I'm nowhere near as good at that as I am at the tighter mode of drawing.

But the purpose of these kinds of exercises isn't necessarily to make a presentable finished piece. It's to force your mind, your eye, and your hand to tackle the problem of picture-making differently. By zooming back to the entire figure, I train myself to see the entire figure even in the tighter drawings. By focusing the marks on energy, I import energy back into my native drawing practice. This is one of several ways to shock the system—to encourage yourself to grow faster and stronger than repetition alone allows.


Another way to shock your artistic system in the way Daniel is talking about is to pursue art practice techniques in detail, and a subscription to Drawing magazine allows you to do just that, explore the topics that hold your interest with nothing else getting in the way. Drawing is the gateway to all great art, so definitely give your drawing abilities the attention they deserve. Enjoy!


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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.