The Layers of Mark Making (& Thought) in a Painting

The adage is that you learn by teaching has proven itself again this week during a 1:1 workshop during which we’ve been exploring mark making and layering. It’s forced me to slow down and ‘unpack’ how I paint, how I decide what I’m going to do, how I wield a brush, why it’s a flat brush and not a round. Things that have become everyday through time, things that are automatic through practise, things I don’t consciously think about yet must have at some point but can’t remember when that was.

Take continuous line. The first time I met this was in a life-drawing class when I was living in London. Was it love at first encounter? I don’t remember. But I do know I love it now, especially for rocky shores.

So explain continuous line, about drawing a line tracking what your eyes are looking at, without lifting up. Except with ink you do lift up because at a certain point the dropper from the bottle (which I use as a drawing tool) runs out of ink.

How do I control how much ink goes onto the paper a dropper? You can’t really, that’s part of the joy of using it, the unpredictability, the irregular line. But you can to some extent by remembering not to squeeze it, and to wipe it on the edge of the bottle.

How fast does it dry? Well it depends on how hot it is, if you’re outside in the wind or inside, plus the weight (thickness) of the paper you’re working on and, of course, how much ink you’ve put down.

How fast do you need to draw? Well it depends on whether or not you intend to spray the ink when you’ve done the first layer of drawing and have it spread. How far will it spread? It depends on how wet the ink still is, how much there is, how close to the surface you hold the spray bottle and how much you spray. Or maybe you just want some wet spots to spread with a brush into washes of grey (Payne’s), then you don’t need to be as fast but still not too slow so that it’s all dried.

And that’s just one layer.

This is as far as we got:

One is the workshop participant’s, the other mine. A3 size.
Layers of acrylic ink, paint, and coloured pencil.
Layers of acrylic ink, paint, and coloured pencil.

My next scheduled workshops are at Higham Hall in the Lake District, near Cockermouth. (Maximum group size is 12, and over four days there’s plenty of time for some 1:1.) Find out more here.

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