Making Marks

Pencil in hand, I settle into the plush couch and slap my sketchbook onto my lap.  The smell of warm chai sits ready on the small nightstand beside me, and I take a small sip of the peppery tea as I flip open to a blank page.  I set the mug down on the table and hold the pencil to the page…but nothing happens.


– Have you ever started to draw something, but ended up simply staring at the blank page, not knowing where to start?

– Have you started a drawing, only to get frustrated with it partway through?

– Maybe you’re just tired of your drawings.  Maybe you feel stuck and don’t know why.

– Maybe you haven’t tried at drawing since grade school, and have no idea where to start.  Or if you can draw.

I’ve definitely been through the first three at least a dozen or two times.  🙂

I have a lovely little book that’s great to turn to at these times, The Confident Creative, written by Cat Bennet. (I’m not earning anything by saying this, I just happen to own it and think it’s helpful 🙂 )  Cat suggests to make marks, like toddlers do.  She says…

“Making marks frees our hand from the judgments of our mind and catapults us into the space of playfulness and presence.  How can the mind complain when we’re just fooling around?”

It’s surprising how hard just making simple marks on paper can be, so it’s good that there are some exercises in the book.  I also watch my kids draw and take a few clues from them.  🙂

Little Bird has the bold scribbles of a two-year-old.  She presses the colored pencils down hard, and chooses the brightest colors.

Mariel's drawing

3-year-old Bug holds his pencil carefully at it’s end.  His lines are more delicate- thin lines in one corner, a small circle in the center, and he makes a long, winding line around the whole paper.

“It’s a road.” he says. I ask him if the smaller circle is a car, since it’s right next to the road.

“No,” he says, as if it should be obvious. “That’s a puddle.  The car drives around it.”


So I grabbed my sketchbook, nabbed the first color to reach my fingers out of the bag,  and drew a small circle in the middle of the page. I held my pencil loosely at it’s end, like Bug did.  A squiggle around it.  Add a few lines- no end in mind, just drawing squiggle marks, lines, and circles.  Just to see what would happen if I tried on purpose not to draw anything.

Suddenly, I realized a pattern was forming.  So I went with it, and before I knew it I had filled up the whole page.  🙂

flower scribble.jpg

Sometimes even this simple exercise can be pretty daunting to me.  The blank paper can be pretty intimidating!  So when this happens I draw lines and shadows.  Here’s what that usually looks like…

pencil test lines

I never draw with pen, so I tried that out next, just to shake things up. 🙂

pen test lines

Scribbling with mediums you don’t normally paint or draw with is exciting and fun!  No pressure to do it the “right” way, since you don’t really know much about it.  And it’s cool to find out what it can do!

watercolor experiment.JPG

I’m sorry about the quality of the photo.  This is the first time I’ve photographed art, so there’s definitely a learning curve here.  Watercolor on dry paper is on the left, watercolor on wet paper to the right- in case you can’t see what I wrote there. 🙂  Bottom of the left hand column says “water splashed on drying paint.”

Wondering how this can be used in paleoart?

Experiment with what your brush or pencil can do!  Play with soft and hard textures.  What happens if you draw a tight cluster of circles?

These textures are what become scales, feathers, and other elements that suggest detail in a drawing or painting.


Play with color, texture, or even mood, and you may be pleasantly surprised with what appears on the page!  🙂

watercolor play

I’ve got a question for you.  Where are you at in your artistic journey?  Stuck?  Loving your craft?  Or don’t really draw much, but always wanted to learn?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!  🙂

2 thoughts on “Making Marks

  1. Ooh, it’s all very interesting! ^^ I’d like to give that a try sometime as well.
    Hmm…Well, so far I believe I’m making progress, but I feel like my progress is limited to only a few drawing mediums and techniques. I mean, in other words, I want to experiment more. Perhaps this method would be a good way to start!


  2. That’s a neat sneak peak into what’s behind the illustrations. The pen-and-pencil drawings are my favorite! Honestly, I prefer to paint pictures with words. I like my role as an interested observer of art, though it would be great to start dabbling, come to think of it.


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