Research on Mark-making

Time to share what I have learnt so far about mark-making. Let’s start with defining what is mark-making! According to Mick Maslen and Jack Southern in their book, The Drawing Projects: An Exploration of The Language of Drawing, marks are defined as “the alphabet that forms the words that make the prose, and are the elements with which the drawing is made” while mark-making as “the broad term used to include all marks that are made visible a a manifestation of applied or gestural energy”. Simply put, mark-making describes the dots, lines, patterns and textures created in an artwork, regardless of the material used to create the mark or the canvas on which the marks are made.

Different marks have different meaning and usages. According to, different lines have different meanings. Below is a quick summary of what is written in their article, “The Meaning of Lines: Developing A Visual Grammar”.

  • Thin Lines – “suggest frailty and convey an elegant quality”
  • Thin Lines – “suggest strength” and “make a statement”
  • Horizontal Lines – “suggest calm and quiet” and “a restful peace”
  • Vertical Lines – “suggest stability, especially when thicker” and “may give the impression of dignity”.
  • Diagonal Lines – Describe as unbalanced and  could “convey action and motion” therefore “create tension and excitement”
  • Curved Lines – “express fluid movement” and “can be calm or dynamic depending on how much they curve”
  • Zigzag Lines – “create excitement and intense movement” as well as “convey confusion and nervousness”

The article also touches on how lines can feel natural or artificial depending on the texture of the line. A straight and perfectly even line feels artificial while a line with slight variations in its thickness feels more natural.

While doing this research, I came across this artwork by a British artist called Bernard Cohen, titled In That Moment. Bernard Cohen In That Moment

His usage of curving lines and bright colours caught my eye and the way that the lines seem to have two tones to it, reminds me of neon lights. According to the, this artwork is “a single line which Cohen continued till the whole surface was covered. Changing the colours a random intervals, he painted it one stretch at a time, first by brush, in oil paint, and then by overspraying with an emulsion of oil and egg. This yielded a line with two distinct textures, each immaculate.”. I thought the method that he used to create this artwork is quite interesting. I mean, who would have thought to spray a mixture of oil and egg over oil paint? Or maybe I am just not that familiar with painting techniques hahaha.

This concludes my research on this topic. Off to the next step of self-exploration!


Title image is taken from

Mark-making Process

update (5 sep):

Here are some photos from the process of producing the final marks for submission:

Testing out mixture for Grumpiness
Testing out mark-making tool for Guilt
Update (29 aug):

Finally got around to picking out the 6 emotions that we were supposed to work on. Here are the emotions, their dictionary meaning (taken from Merriam Webster) as well as my own interpretation of it:

  • Grumpiness: the state of being moodily cross
    In my head, I see grumpiness as this black viscous liquid, matt black and sticky. How I would see it being represented in marks would be to have like a kind of viscous liquid being dripped onto the piece of paper. As the drips move towards the center, the drips will either get bigger or much closer, representing the growing discontentment. Then, as we move towards the end of the strip, the drips will slowly be placed further apart, representing the change in the person’s level of grumpiness. I thought of using candle wax initially but did not know where I could find black candles being sold. After the having the consultation with Shirley, together with Alena and Yu Ruo, I was given the suggestion of using toothpaste and black paint. I thought that was pretty interesting and might try it out during the weekend.


  • Guilt: the feeling of deserving blame for offences
    For guilt, I kind of already had this idea in mind when we were first given this project brief. I wanted to use cigarettes to leave behind burn marks on the paper. Personally, when I feel guilty, I will constantly think about what went wrong and what I could have done different that could potentially have changed the situation. This behaviour just serves to make me feel even worse about the whole situation and in a sense, is like inflicting harm on myself. This, to me, is similar to smoking. My final year project at Ngee Ann Polytechnic was to come up with an anti-smoking campaign for the Singapore Cancer Society. Through the project, one of the things I learnt is a lot of smokers actually feel guilty about smoking. They know about the negative impact that smoking brings about to their health but still continue to do so while feeling guilty about being unable to stop. Through these, I thought that it would be appropriate to use cigarettes to create the marks for guilt.


  • Anxiety: Apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill
    I associate anxiety with spirals partially because of the phrase ‘spiralling out of control’ and also because I really do feel that way. Whenever I feel anxious and am unable to get a grip on my emotions, it really does feel like the problem is multiplying, that they are growing and that I am losing whatever control there is over the situation. As such, for this emotion, I wanted to just create layers of spirals and playing around with the size, texture and opacity of each spiral.


  • Adoration: The act or state of feeling or showing great affection and devotion
    I find it quite hard to find a visual representation of positive emotions. While it is true that usually circular patterns represent positive emotions, I did not want to go down that route and wanted to find an alternative. When I think of adoration, I think of puppy love and from there I think of paper hearts, fluffy things like stuff toys or cotton candy or clouds.


  • Contentment: The quality or state of showing satisfaction
    Positive emotions are going to be the death of me. As mentioned earlier, I am not sure how to present positive emotions as visuals and have to think about it through (weird) associations. In my head, I see contentment as this long fluid line that goes across the strip of paper. As just simply drawing a long wavy line across the paper seems too simple and because I like textures, I thought I could create a line, using strings of different thickness and material woven together, representing the different things that make me feel content, to symbolise contentment.


  • Surprise: The feeling caused by something unexpected or unusual
    Somehow I associate surprise with balloons so I am thinking about doing something with balloons.

[Note to reader: The formatting for the paragraphs is, as a friend would put it, no go man. I am sorry that the gap is so ridiculously huge but I don’t know how to format it proper 🙁 ]


Experimentation was really fun but at the same time, I felt like I had no purpose in mind. Initially I was going to decide on the emotions first before starting to think about the marks that I wanted to create but a friend pointed out to me that by doing so, I would just be limiting myself. And I do see his point. If I did not experiment, I would not be able to discover for myself the different ways I can use different objects to make different kinds of marks (I used the word different thrice or maybe four times in a row now woohoo). We will see how it goes.


update (21 Aug):

I thought of a whole bunch of objects that I would want to play with for this mark-making tool project but I totally forgot to bring them with me when I came back to hall on Sunday evening *facepalm* Guess I have to run out of campus to pick up some supplies this evening.

Initially I wanted to use cigarette butts as a mark-making tool. Like literally light the cigarette up and press it onto the paper. Or take used cigarette butts, apply some ink and smear the whole thing onto paper. I kind of still want to try out this idea but maybe not in class because my classmates just pointed out to me that used cigarette stink and that the classroom, my bag and whatever else the used cigarette touches is going to smell like that as well. Yikes. An alternative would be joss sticks or incense sticks but we will see how it goes and whether I can actually procure these items before class tomorrow.

Another object that I wanted to use as a mark-making tool is charcoal pills. Or just pills in general. I thought it would be interesting to apply ink on 1 side, place it on a piece of paper and run it through a press just to see what kind of effect it would have. For all I know, it might just leave a blobby mess but I guess it is worth a shot and besides, this is a time for us to explore so I am going to explore to my heart’s content.

Other objects that I plan on trying includes cling wrap (I have some that I used to wrap up my clay models for transporting from my house to school. Not sure if the dust on the surface would affect the print it will produce but again, it might produce some interesting results so why not), scrunched up scotch tape, scrunched up oil blotting sheets, straws, stuffing or loose cotton wool, various plastic cutlery and maybe a random piece of harden clay. Or maybe even soft clay. Because I have quite a bit left over from my Foundation 3D class. Let’s hope I am able to get the objects I need before class tomorrow.


I got lost trying to find my way to class today BUT I STILL MADE IT SO YAY accessed on 15 August 2017

Was thinking of using leaves as my mark-making tool but I should probably decide on the emotions that I want to work on first before actually deciding on the objects.