Saturday, August 27, 2011

marks presentation

Mineral Point, WI
I have ten panels underway, far more than I can finish, but I want options. This morning I gave a small presentation about marks and mark-making to the workshop group.  Here is an outline of what I said, for the record.
Talking about marks – not the how, but the what, maybe the why -- independent of all other aspects of a painting

Why focus on marks?  I encountered marks as a challenge when I began to move away from representation, and have written about them on my [this] blog.  I was very conscious of marks when painting representationally, and find them fascinating as I move into abstraction.

Quotes – you don’t have to be an abstract artist to think about marks!
  • Dave Dornan, in a markmaking class: marks as “the language of the imperfection of the human hand” that help us “stay fascinated with ours errors and our vulnerability”
  • Mark Tansey (postmodernist), Visions and revisions:  “The game in a sense is to invent or find a tool that has a tactile resonance with the object it will be used to denote”
  • Forrest Moses, about his process:  “The path … is ongoing,  it takes constant vigilance with moving ahead and slipping back.  There is no set formula and is different for each of us.  I make marks, developing an image with a field of marks, and some I keep and some I remove and I stop before there is complete resolution.”
  • Steven Nachmanovitch, Free play: “The painter-calligrapher must treat space as though it were time.  The single-minded impulse from belly to shoulder to hand to brush to paper leaves its once-and-for-all trace, a unique moment forever frozen on paper.  The peculiarities and imperfections, which are there for all to see, are the mark of the calligrapher’s original nature.” “A blank canvas or piece of paper is ‘without form, and void’ (Genesis 1:2) but a single mark on it sets up a definite world and poses an infinite series of creative problems.”
Let’s back up to the basics: What do marks do?
  • For our purposes, they are the basic unit of visual expression: a line, a dot, a smudge, a curve
  • Marks alter the surface of the canvas
  • Marks cause eye movement; especially, linear marks create movement in a composition
  • Along with color, value, marks determine how the eye moves around the surface, and so they greatly affect how the viewer sees the painting
Some thoughts about marks
  • A continuum: marks : gesture : imagery : symbolism (things that stand for other things) : patterns : motif
  • Drawing is composed of marks; they are the visual expression of the human mind and spirit
  • Marks constitute visual thinking and interpretation of ideas
  • Symbols touch our inner understanding and subconscious knowledge
  • In a sense, every mark we make is a symbol, meaning something different from and more than what it actually is
It is through context that the meaning of a mark is interpreted, understood
  • Its pictoral, visual context
  • Its cultural context
Marks can be random or controlled, in their placement and in their creation
Marks can be rational and pre-planned, or they can be intuitive and organic

Creating a  visual and psychological vocabulary that both expresses the intention of the artist and affects the perception of the viewer
                      Sharon Wheat
                      Antoni  Tapies (see his "cracked White", 1956, above)
                      Fernando Zobel

Some exercises:
  • names written repeatedly as signature and used for mark derivation
  • designing letters of a concept word in a grid
  • draw a circle;  stand up, breathe, and draw a circle from your shoulder

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