Thursday, January 28, 2010

Junior Seminar Investigation: Marks

This is actually Jen O'Neill account is not working for some reason. But no worries, Erin has generously volunteered to let me use hers for this post.

So...the topic of this blog isss...Marks!

When I drew this word [marks] out of the hat, my mind immediately wandered back to my Florence sketchbook. Over the course of the 4 months we were studying abroad in Italy, we were asked to make fifteen minute sketches everyday using only short marks. We could make our 15 minutes one day be a sketch standing alone, or we could spend 15 minutes on the same sketch for a few days, a week, a month, until we felt it was a complete drawing. These are some of my favorites from the semester.

After spending 6 hours doing perspective drawings in a massive, cold, marble church, I was often relieved to not have to focus strictly on a particular subject. I would start with a certain mark, whatever came to mind at the time, and see where it took me. I didn't have a plan. I played with light and dark marks, accumulation of marks, frantic marks, careful marks, etc. I've always been a perfectionist, which gets frustrating when I'm wanting to sketch something specific like a figure or specific object. I get too stuck in the realistic. This exercise was incredibly satisfying and liberating in that I didn't have to worry about it being a "good" sketch. (and, of course, that shouldn't be what sketchbooking is about anyway). It didn't have to represent anything in particular. Yet, I still liked the end result most of the time.

Marks, I learned, are incredibly expressionistic on their own. A long, heavy mark expresses something completely different than a short, fast mark made by the same pencil or pen. Different media create different marks. In accumulation, I found that the way I made one mark could totally change the end result. I experimented with sketching the same figure using different media. First, I sketched the girl in my default mode, with a nice micron pen. Then, I ventured into markers, pastels, pencils, as well as experimenting with the different ways in which each tool could be used. As a result, each figure conveyed a slightly different feeling.

Sometimes I was slow and careful, and other times I was fast and gestural. My first sketch, done in micron pen, I felt focused mostly on the detail of the figure. The green pastel and the blue marker, on the other hand, were able to emphasize the movement and hint at a narrative. The girl in blue seems to hint at more of a sexuality, where as the gestural brown figure focuses on the twirling, dancing, movement.

Furthermore, the mark is an extension of the artist's hand, of his or her own individual expression. Were I to give this subject to a different artist, it may look completely different. It may not even look like a figure. Klimt's highly sexualized and often emaciated figures certainly convey something different than those anatomically correct (but somewhat idealized) figures of Raphael or Michelangelo. Artists in the past few centuries have learned the power of the mark to emphasize emotion and action, and often to go beyond realism as a means of representation.

The way a mark is made can change the effect of the finished piece. The mark, therefore, serves as a microchosm to the greater image.

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