Mark Making: Final Explorations (WIP Part II)

In this WIP post, I would like to share mostly about the methods and explorations I did while working on my final 18 strips. The techniques I used in my final work are loosely grouped into: Cotton wool dabbing, Salt in ink, Water in ink/Paper Marbling (and the ones with additional pen work), Dry brush, and a little bit of Mono-printing.


This was a continuation from the initial explorations I did in the other post. There were improvements made in my technique to counter the problems I met previously. The issue was that the amount of ink in my palette had to be very little in order to coat just the surface of the wool. However, it was impossible to control the amount I pour each time. Therefore, I thought of painting a plastic surface with ink before coating the wool on that surface. That way the amount of ink would be appropriate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPrevious attempts of hate

This was the print I visualised to represent hate. I wanted the entire piece to have a slightly darker value. I realised the trick to do so would be to re-coat the plastic surface each time I do the print, which was what I did in my last attempt.

Another emotion I did with this technique was loneliness.

Initially this was the print I visualised for tenderness. However, due to factor differences in coating of ink, I was unable to get the same effect I did in the previous times. Instead, the result I achieved reminded me more of loneliness. Tenderness and loneliness shared similar intensities, in terms of small ebbs of positive and negative emotions respectively. The difference lay in the nature of the mark. To me, tenderness should be portrayed by patches of faded dots, but this print had defined thin web-like lines, which was more suited to the more negative emotion of loneliness.

In addition, I was considering using this technique to create the emotion of longing.


However, because I did it in inverse, white paint on black ink, I felt it was too incoherent with the rest of the strips, and abandoned the idea.


There was two main methods I used in this technique. One was to paint the strip with plain water first, drip ink into the water, then sprinkle the salt in. Another was to paint the strip with ink mixed with water, then sprinkle salt in.

The first method I used to express the emotion of anguish.

A few problems I encountered in these attempts was accidentally dripping too much ink resulting in the salt not being able to create the mark effectively.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExamples of my other attempts

However, I had to be careful not to drip too little or too apart. As all the ink drips in water created circular marks, and I did not want a polka-dotted print. So it was crucial to find a balance between the amount of ink dripped and the distance in which it is done so.

For the second method, I was very excited when I discovered it because it involved less variables as compared to the first method. I chose to use this second method to convey both esctasy and anxiety.

The only things I realised I had to be careful about was the amount of salt sprinkled and the duration in which the salt is left on the paper.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExamples of my other attempts

Esctasy was a beautiful mistake, the original print when the salt was just sprinkled did not have so much negative space. However, I was inexperienced and left the salt on the paper to dry. It was then I learnt that the longer the salt is left on the paper the more the ink would be absorbed by the salt, thus leaving even more negative spaces behind.

I had better control over the salt while doing anxiety, but not so much over the distribution of inky water. However, I think the affect turned out desirable.


Longing was the emotion I was trying to convey. I wanted to create spaces of lighter value within spaces of darker value, but did not want the salt effect. Thus, I decided to use a dry brush to dry up certain parts of the strip.

While for disgust, I created small dips of ink in water reminiscence of trypophobic inducing images.

I had to be very cautious while dripping though, as the water would flow which results in the concentrated ink spots to dissolve and dispersed, ruining the effect I was going for.


This was one of the emotions I had the clearest image of what I wanted it to be. I was convinced that the curvilinear pattern could best represent arousal but did not want it to be the only strip fully done in pen. So I decided to incorporate ink within it.


Regretfully I did not manage to capture the process of creating delight (as seen above), but it was using similar techniques of ink and water with pen.


This is one of the new techniques I tried. I did not think it would produce good results, as to my knowledge, paper marbling requires a certain kind of paint to make extremely distinctive marks. However, I felt that the light swirls of paper marbling could help me bring out feelings of tenderness. Thus, I decided to give it a try.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExamples of my other attempts

The first few attempts were really bad. I tried really hard to control the ink swirling within the water on plastic, making sure it was neither to sparse nor too diluted. It was also really hard to ensure that the shape of the water could fill the strip. Thankfully I did manage to get a pattern that I was satisfied with.


I documented the process of creating this mark this time round. This is because I wanted to document how in creating thrill, a sense of fast motion strokes, my process of creation was filled with speed too. Thrill was one of the rare ones where the mark created revealed the process of mark making.

Tenseness was another one of such. While painting the strips out, I held my arm out unsupported, trying to draw a straight line as accurately within the strip as possible. I felt that the tenseness of my arm used to draw really reflected the emotion in the resulting mark.

Meanwhile, ease was a good example of how the process is different from the resulting mark. The process of creating ease was not slow, but brisk and precise. The required accuracy of the print made me really tense while making it. The brush had to be dry enough, but not too dry, to ensure a consistent and light print throughout.

For other emotions like hysteriaidlenesscontentment, and depression, I used the same techniques reflected in the last post, so I would not elaborate further, but instead talk about their characteristics in the final post.


Even though I said I would not be doing mono-printing previously, I realised that the print created by a foam piece really helps created the feeling of irritation with the irregular dense specks.

With this, I am almost done with Project 1 and my journey of mark making. Look out for my next post about my final presentation and basic summary of “My Line is Emo”!

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!!