Friday, 16 March 2018

Making Marks to Music

Do you ever want to be creative but feel lost for an idea?  Has it been awhile and you need a way back into the creative process?  I've written before about how giving yourself permission to scribble can really help.  Making a mess, making marks with no expectations doing it quickly and just letting whatever happens happen is a good strategy and it's fun too!

I like using charcoal sticks and smudging them all over the paper.  I like the dark black lines I can make with a good soft bit of charcoal and combining it with the hard, silvery lines of a conté stick or a graphite pencil.  I use my fingers to rub, smudge and smear, and experiment making lines quickly, trying not to think too much.  Music helps with this.

Sometimes I do slow down or pause, take a moment to think where I want to make a mark next, but I try to keep that minimal.  I put a stack of paper beside me, a roll of masking tape and I keep going until I've used up all of the paper, making a fairly quick decision about when each piece is finished.  I won't love them all.  Some I won't even like.  For every ten there will be a couple I really like, though grouped together they all look better than they do individual. It looks intentional.  Taping the edges gives it a nice finished look as well as making it look like art instead of scribbles.

I've got a little dish of charcoal sticks on hand as well as various smudgers, though for this I mainly used fingers to smudge.

This is a piece of corrugated plastic that you can either tape or pin paper to for painting and charcoal work.  Regular masking tape works fine on heavy water colour paper, and as it peels off readily I re-used it a few times to tape down new pieces of paper.

I think this one above is one of my favourites.  It can take a bit of time to loosen up and hit your stride so it's often the pieces made last that are most appealing, but surprises can happen.

I spray mine with a fixative after, as charcoal smudges so easily.  It stinks horribly so it's a job that needs to be done outside on a dry day.  Stacking the pages with tissue or waxed paper between can help to prevent smudging as well.

One of my goals with my painting is to get looser and stay loose.  This is a good exercise in looseness so I'm hoping to do it more often.  I've also noticed that music helps me loosen up in painting so I think a specific playlist might be a good idea and sounds like a project to ask Jim to take on for me.  He is the music man in this household.  I am the scribbler.

My music today, provided by Jim, was Beethoven's Egmont Overture, Dvorak's Carnival Overture, The New World Symphony, Khachaturian's Spartacus and Gayane Ballet Suite


  1. I bought a fixative some time ago and charcoal sticks, but I misplaced the sticks. I used the fixative on one of my drawings but the paper got all wet ( then I read this fixative is only for charcoal, pastels and gouache) maybe pencil doesn't need this one but a special one? The paper did dry afterwards and the fixative didn't leave any marks but I think I need a special one. The smell is terrible so yes we need to do is outside. At art course I take they told me to spray my canvas with it after I make my sketch with charcoal so that the sketch didn't get erased when I started applying paint. I didn't know it can be used for that as well.

    I love what you did here with charcoal. The drawings are very expressive and powerful. The last one makes me think of Picasso. Grouped together, they look especially nice. Perhaps framing them and placing them on a wall one next to another would be a good idea.

    Exercise in looseness seems like something very useful for letting our personals style come through. It is a good thing to do, and I might need to try that as well.

    Music is a great inspiration. It can help us get into the moment. Classical music is especially powerful. I think I can see some Spartacus in this.

    1. I made so many typo/spelling errors in this post I'm glad I came back soon to read your comment and reply. I needed to edit! I see what you mean about seeing some Picasso in the last drawing. It has more shapes in it that the brain wants to identify. I see plants.

      I never do a sketch on canvas before I paint. I just launch right into it so I've never used a fixative in that sense. I need to spray my charcoal pages more than once to really keep it smudge free. I think I sometimes forget to pay attention and lots of spray is carried off in the wind.

    2. I think I only make sketches when I make reproductions, otherwise I tend to just start painting, or I will make a sketch with paint...but that is how they teach it at the course, first sketch, then fixative, then paint.

  2. Miles has just drawn a world map on his bedroom door, as well as the British houses of parliament on his wall. We sprayed with matt varnish...peeeyew!!
    Nice choice of music. Is Jim a classical buff?
    xo Jazzy Jack

    1. Well done, Miles! I hope you have all survived the spray. I had quite a headache yesterday from mine.

      Yes, Jim is passionate about classical music, although he tells me that 'classical' is a very specific era and there is other serious music that most of us call classical and which isn't. He is particularly a Mahler fan, which he learned from his father. I have noticed Mahler tends to appeal to males, rather like Wagner. I am more a Beethoven woman myself though that feels a bit cliche. Who doesn't like Beethoven? xo


I love comments; What blogger doesn't? If you take the time to comment, I will take the time to reply.

Over 50 Tall Gamine

Sometimes I reflect on everything I’ve worn over the course of my life.  Does that sound odd or unbelievable?  I have a good memory for t...