Artist’s Journal: NUMBER 88

The What Versus Where of Marks.


Invention, it must be humbly admitted,

does not consist in creating out of void,

but out of chaos.

Mary Shelley


Marks are marks. But, what is a mark? A mark is a line, symbol or representation that stands out in contrast to its surroundings. They may, in fact, be something that does not belong.

Marks are not images. Marks are used to create two dimensional illusionary images. Picasso said that, “every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” A mark or series of marks, in the beginning of every painting or drawing destroys the virginal two-dimensional field. 

DRAWING 5G – 2012

The “where” a mark is, is important. Very important! The “where” is factual and based on proximity and alignment. The “mark” is either in the center of the focal plane or in any of the four quadrants.

The brain interprets marks lower on the picture plane as closer and, those above, further away.

The “what” is interpretive, associated with sensation and perception based on experiences. It’s important because “where” something is found usually determines “what” it is – guilt by association!

One of the greatest associations is a horizontal line. The brain immediately “sees” it as a landscape horizon. So that’s why the proximity and alignment of marks are important. 

The “what” is based on contrast and repetition. While, the “where” creates visual groupings (associations), compositional structure, tension/stasis, focal points, animated directional flow… Marks that are repeated are important to structure and create pattern and rhythm.

All marks have a purpose. There are intelligent marks and not so intelligent marks. What’s the difference? Intelligent marks have life, stored up kinetic energy. They can mimic movement, direction and so much more. Less is more – too many marks spoil the composition!

Only the marks that have something to say in relation to contrast such as in near or far, big or small, light or dark and so on, belong. All other and extraneous marks are just visual noise.  Van Gogh said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”




Posted on: 09/02/2017, by :
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