P17 – Exercise 1 – Making Marks

One of the things which appealed to me about the OCA Level 1 courses was the fact that they started at the beginning. No assumptions about what students could or could not do. The first exercises of the drawing course do not involve drawing anything at all. They are about mark making. What kind of marks do you get if you hold the implement in different ways? What about using different implements? I like that approach!

I investigated an HB pencil, a softer 6B pencil, an 8B graphite pencil which did not have a wooden sleeve, two fine liner pens – 0.8mm and 0.1 mm, a compressed charcoal stick, a similar hard pastel and, finally, a willow charcoal stick.

I want to investigate applying ink in different ways – traditional dip pen, reed pen (as used by van Gogh), feather quill, fine paint brush, wrong end of a paint brush and so on. But I will do this as a separate exercise.

I held the pencils in different ways – in a “normal” grip about 2 cm away from the point, several centimetres from the point, loosely by the very end (approx 15 cm.), and positions 1 and 4 in the notes which used more of the side of the pencils. Some of the results were as expected but others were a surprise.

Marks made with an HB pencil. Quite a bit of variation possible just with different amounts of pressure in the normal grip (see top). I like the shading obtained by using the pencil sideways with Position 1. Position 4 I found awkward.

The marks with the 6B pencil were better because the pencil was softer and blacker. Very pale shading was possible with the pencil held about halfway along so less pressure was applied.

The 8B graphite pencil produced some lovely soft black marks. Shading was easy especially when the side was used (easier since there was no wooden sleeve). If anything it was difficult to get very light shading. Perhaps I should have tried holding it half way up the barrel.

The fine liner pens were a surprise in that it was possible to get some variation in mark with different pressures. I had anticipate that the marks would have been uniform governed only by the tip size. Obviously there was substantial difference between the 0.8 mm and the 0.1 mm pens. A drawing using different pens for different parts would be interesting.

I found the compressed charcoal stick gave very black marks. It was messy and a lot of powder flaked off the stick as I was using it. It seemed to be much softer than the 8B graphite pencil but harder than the willow charcoal which I’m more used to. Having said that, it did break when I was using it to make expressive marks in the second part of the exercise.

The hard pastel was very similar, though brown not black. Unfortunately I had mislaid my soft pastels so could not use them. The willow charcoal which I enjoy using for drawing was much greyer than the hard charcoal. It was also much more brittle.


The exercise included an invitation to “sweep across the paper in big gestural strokes”. These are all on A3 paper and photographed. (The above were on A4 and were scanned.)

This was with the 8B graphite pencil held in a normal position.

Here the side of the 8B pencil was used by holding it as position 1.

Here I held the 8B pencil near its end. Most is poor as it is difficult to apply much pressure, but by chance the pencil started to bounce around and I was pleased with the stipple effect produced.

This was produced with the compressed charcoal stick and the hard brown pastel. As mentioned earlier the charcoal broke.


About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website johnpindararts.weebly.com
This entry was posted in Art, Drawing 1, OCA, Open College of the Arts. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to P17 – Exercise 1 – Making Marks

  1. Pingback: Exercise 1B – Making Marks (contd.) | The Milkman Goes To College

  2. clinock says:

    I’ve gone through your course backwards and at a fairly rapid pace and have really enjoyed sharing the research and assignments. As an art teacher I’m always interested in how others teach courses such as this – methods are surprisingly similar across the board differing only in intensity of expectations. Your course seems to be well organized and very thorough with high expectations. I’m sure that you have mined the offerings deeply and discovered many valuable seams of learning. Is it over now or still continuing? Was it what you needed?…Thank you for sharing your journey…Cheers J.

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