in My Work, Process, Project 1 - Emo, Research

Mark Making: First Explorations (WIP Part I)

We have finished presenting our first 2D task in ADM “My Line is Emo”, and I’ll like to do a little looking back on how I started my mark making journey in these weeks.

On our first lesson, we started our venture into mark making by learning mono-printing. I brought a lotus root for printing, as I was fascinated by the organic shape of the vegetable and thought that the creases on its flesh might make an interesting pattern.

Lesson 1

Lesson 2

However, the resulting effect was not what I expected due to the limitations of mono-printing. I was hoping for the ink to capture more texture of the sliced lotus, but the prints turned out to be a rather solid patch of colour.


Next, I decided to try to print a netting and a binder. Both of which created really interesting results. However, I felt that none of the prints were what I was looking for in terms of the project brief in “My Line Is Emo”.



After realising that mono-printing was not the technique I was looking to do in my project, I decided the best way to continue was to try out some mark making techniques. Some techniques I explored were the dry brush technique, cotton wool dabbing, water with ink, and salt in ink. In exploring these different techniques, I had important takeaways that would eventually define my final work.

At first I was just trying out different strokes of the brush. As I continued, I realised there was a specific way I approached this mark making, I would constantly work on and improve the same print I did if I felt that the result I got was not desirable. Thus, I had a lot of pieces done in similar methods, but had differing resulting effects.

Here are some examples:

Comparison 1

This two pieces were created using short brisk dry brush strokes that were done by flicking my wrist. However, after doing the first piece, I felt it was too messy and wanted to see how it would look like in a neater format. Thus, I immediately did the second piece.

It was then I started to realise how the contrast between the two brought out different emotions. For the first piece, as it was brisk and messy, possibly suggesting emotions of hysteria or agitation. In comparison, the second piece looks calm and the illusionistic feathery texture it created gives it a feeling of lightheartedness and ease.

Comparison 2

While for these two, they were both created using cotton wool, repeatedly torn to ensure consistency in texture, then dipping into my almost dried-up ink palette before dabbing onto paper. The difference in this two prints was actually an accidental creation. I wanted the prints to be light, but after dipping the wool in ink, the first dab would definitely be too dark in value. Thus, one piece of paper was used for the first dab, before dabbing the second piece of paper. After doing so, I observed that the piece lighter in colour in photo two brought out emotions of tenderness and love. The piece darker in colour in photo one, in contrast could possibly evoke feelings of hatred and loathing.

Through this exploration I had my first takeaway: Drawing contrast and difference in prints can better bring out the emotions the mark is trying to present, and this would be something I would like to use in my final project.

Here are some other marks I tried that did not really resonate with me:


Some evoked emotions, while others were just pleasant to look at. I also tried contrast within compositions but I did not really like it.

Next, I tried a more directed approach in trying to form emotions. One experiment I did to attempt to create the emotion of surprise was to ask my friend to “surprise” me at random intervals. I would start off by drawing a continuous line and each time she said “change” I would flick my wrist upwards.



The results were an interesting pattern albeit a little messy, but I felt it did not really present the emotion of surprise to the viewer.

I also tried to create several patterns of anger by physically imitating the body language of anger.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMaking harsh angry strokes across the paper

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJabbing the brush violently into the paper

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAggressive and frantic swirls on paper

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATrying to “shake in anger” literally while drawing lines across the paper resulting in jagged lines

These were process-centric prints whereby the process in creating the mark displayed anger but the results on the paper did not. This was something I wanted to avoid.

Through this directed approach, I had another important takeaway: I prefer a result-centric approach instead of a process-centric approach as I wanted the viewer to be able to feel the emotions I was trying to portray in my mark.

Other than these two main takeaways, I had other smaller observations.




By reducing the negative spaces of the mark in the first two photos, it will evoke a more sombre mood as it has an overall darker value. This is as compared to the piece in the last photo with a lot of negative space.

Also, I really like the effect of water with ink and salt in ink as it produced marks impossible to recreate using the brush, and I felt it could express emotions of anguish.

Water 1



However, as it was my first time working with salt in ink, the marks I produced was not very successful. I would definitely have to continue working and improving on it.

To sum up, my first experience with mark making was really eventful, and it was really a journey of learning for me. It forced me to start to observe qualities of the prints, like the thickness of lines or value of the mark, something I do not usually take into consideration. Furthermore, I realised that mark making, especially the ones made with more experimental methods, was actually really hard. It made me look at mark-making artists with ten times more respect now.

Continue reading more about my mark making journey in my second post. See you there!!