Too often artists produce marks that are not particularly expressive. There is a sameness about them. Perhaps the artist has been thinking of something else and just moving along without really being connected to what they are drawing or painting. Perhaps the artist is fond of a particular tool and uses it to make the same mark again, again, again, and again. That kind of mark-making is the visual equivalent of “elevator music”. It is non-offensive, it is bland, it does not distract – BUT keep in mind – it also does engage.
Knowing that, I make real effort to pay attention to my marks. I want them to shriek and howl, to whisper and sigh, to march along, to waltz, and to stumble. I want my visual responses, to be varied. My goal is creating an A to Z range of marks…does that make sense to you?
If you want to add expression to your artwork, consider changing tools as you make your marks. Or you can find tools that innately know how to make different kinds of marks. If you are making lines, consider their width and length. Are they staccato or languid? Are your lines the thickness of a single hair or do they appear to be a belly-slide smear across the page? If you are working in collage, think about repeating certain forms with variations in size, color, or value changes. Consider mark-making as if you are making visual music – because you are.
Elevator music is boring. It fills space, but no one really pays attention to it. If you don’t want to operate on auto-pilot, think about variety and quality as you produce your marks.
Visual Jazz, © 2011, Joanne Beaule Ruggles, Acrylic, collage, and India ink on paper, 30 x 22″.