Drawing Basics: Varying Your Mark Making

Last time we discussed the idea of switching up art practice techniques. The concept was that, while repetition builds skills, change keeps the mind sharp and the work lively.

I’ve been thinking about ways I personally switch up techniques. The first 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 practice 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 practice, 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.

Drawing of Piera's torso by Daniel Maidman. Drawing of Piera, standing, by Daniel Maidman.
Two drawings of Piera, 10/6/11.

The practice uses subtle marks and focuses on details. It promotes a narrow vision of parts. So 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.


Related Posts:


Drawing Blog
Daniel Maidman

About Daniel Maidman

Daniel Maidman was born in Toronto, Canada. He was raised in Toronto, Jerusalem, Washington, and Chicago.

Since attending college in North Carolina and Texas, Daniel Maidman has lived in Los Angeles and New York City. In Los Angeles, he set himself on a program to learn how to draw and paint the human figure. He attended life drawing workshops 2-3 times a week for eight years. As well, he spent two years working on an anatomical atlas based on human cadaver dissections in which he participated at Santa Monica College, under the guidance of Dr. Margarita Dell. Illustrations from his atlas are currently in use in the United States Army’s forensic field manual.

Since moving to New York, Daniel Maidman has sped up his painting schedule, while continuing to maintain his drawing skills through life drawing workshops at Spring Street Studio. Although he remains primarily self-taught, he has learned a good deal about color from conversations with Adam Miller.

Daniel Maidman’s other interests include filmmaking and writing.

WEBSITE: www.danielmaidman.com

BLOG: http://danielmaidman.blogspot.com/

One thought on “Drawing Basics: Varying Your Mark Making

  1. Shocking the system can be a good idea especially if your stuck in a rhythm you can’t break out of. Now that winter is fast approaching I think the quiet days inside are a good time to do some new exploration. I’ve looked at my plein air paintings and must say that I’m very disappointed. I know all the principles of art like color, form, perspective, etc. but realized that I’m not happy with the type of marks that I’m making. Frequently what distinguishes a quality artist like Van Gogh or Seurat or Sargeant or one artist from another is not their demonstration of knowledge, but they way they put it all together with their medium of choice. The brushstrokes or marks of each of these artists is very distinctive; it is their visual voice.