Project 1 Exercise 1 Experimenting with expressive lines and marks

For this exercise I used a variety of media.

Fear/Anxiety: I chose this as my fifth emotion but did it first as that was what I was feeling at the time.

  1. ink. I poured the ink then used the flat end of a paintbrush to push it outwards.I thought fear was so overwhelming I’d have to cover the whole area but as I pushed the ink it felt like fear spreading out and dissipating.
fear – ink

2. oil pastel. I felt the loopy, circular nature of anxiety as the pastel looped and knotted, I pressed really hard.

fear – oil pastel

3. ballpoint pen. The constant scribble and lines were like the constant nagging chatter of anxiety. It was interesting that the noise made by scribbling very heavily was like a grating nag going on. That felt like the noise of anxiety.

fear – ballpoint pen

4. charcoal. I only had charcoal left and couldn’t see how something so soft and cloudlike could represent fear. As I drew, the charcoal marks formed themselves into a knot which I recognised as the knot of fear just below your rib cage when you wake up anxious or lose a child in a shopping centre. I also discovered you can lift charcoal with a dry paintbrush if the mark is too heavy. I was surprised that I could start with no idea what would happen and let the drawing develop as I went along.

fear charcoal

Joy: it was a beautiful, sunny autumn day so feeling joy wasn’t hard. I always feel a tinge of sadness when I feel joy as I know it won’t last very long. The exercise worked its way out in a very different way from anxiety. I chose blue media because I didn’t feel convinced I could feel joy while drawing and painting in black.

  1. watercolour. I started with watercolour and painted loops and swirls.
  2. oil pastel. I used oil pastel and drew loops and swirls
  3. ball point pen. ditto
  4. pencil. ditto.

I then felt it would be good to add more solidity to the pencil loops and swirls as joy, while being bubbly and fizzy is also a profound, deep emotion. I coloured the shapes made by the pencil loops and swirls, then went back to the oil pastel painting and drew over my original drawing with circles which ended up making ripple shapes. I went back to the watercolour picture and added spatters and use a straw to blow the watercolour dots. I added more loops. I went back to the pen drawing and added different lines and tones through pressing harder so I had a variety of tones giving the image depth. I did the same to the shapes in the pencil drawing.

Each step fed into a different development in a different picture.

joy – watercolour
joy – coloured pencil
joy – oil pastel
joy – ballpoint pen

Calm: I meditate regularly and used this to get a feeling of calm. I found that a feeling of calm did not translate into a calm image. I drew meditative undulating lines with a brush and ink but the finished drawing was very “Bridget Riley” – it vibrated unpleasantly and not calmly. The loops I drew with a ballpoint pen seemed weak and I didn’t know what to do with them. The oil pastel was lopsided although I liked the combination of formality and loops. The charcoal looked like a doughnut. Again, it was off centre in a not calm way.

first calm sketches

I turned the page over and the ink had caused the paper to ripple. This was an interesting effect and much more evocative of calm than the first side. I decided to experiment with different textured media. I was drawn to the idea of painting and drawing white on white. Although I knew it wasn’t in the brief, it was something I wanted to explore. I used white oil pastel, white, acrylic mixed with pumice to give a rough texture, a sharp end of a paint brush to create marks. I thought I could bring in the coloured mark to reveal the image using ink over oil pastel and oil pastel, charcoal and coloured pencil over incised lines. However, I didn’t feel the effect was particularly strong.

calm – experimenting with scratching into media and wax resist with ink and watercolour

I decided to use some of what I learned in my final calm drawings:

  1. I drew a rectangle of oil pastel then scratched into it. The scratches extended onto the white paper.

    calm – oil pastel
  2. I used a small piece of charcoal to do very slow, controlled circles. I loved how this turned out – it looks like a sketch of a ceramic or brass object.
calm in charcoal

3. I wanted to use ink in a meditative way. I placed the bottle of ink in the middle of the picture¬†then put John Cage’s 4’33”¬†performed by William Marks on Youtube (it is 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence apart from the noises in the concert hall). As it played, I put the brush in the ink, lifted it and moved it to the edge of the paper and back again. The brush usually dripped a drop of ink. Then I returned it to the pot and repeated, moving in and out in a clockwise direction. John Cage’s piece always makes me smile but as a meditator I know it is a sincere exploration of meditation and the nature of music. The ink continued to spread and eventually took a long time to dry. It is interesting that my son commented it looked like blood spots. Again, feeling calm doesn’t necessarily translate into a calm image.

calm – ink

4. Ballpoint pen. I like to doodle with ballpoint pen and I produced a series of lines making up a formal arrangement on the page. It was quite tedious to do but it is a meditative practice. I felt the final image should have been more interesting or at least orderly to communicate the idea of calm.



  1. I cut into a piece of thin white card with a craft knife. Cutting and lifting the paper was careful but also aggressive.
anger – knife cuts in white paper

2. Oil pastel. I scribbled with oil pastel working shapes into the scribbles.

anger – oil pastel

3. charcoal and pva glue. I crushed and smeared the charcoal with my fingers. As it was mainly resting on top of the page I poured pva glue into the centre and used a pestle to crush the charcoal into the glue and cut lines into it. I liked the spatters of charcoal and the texture of the charcoal mixed with glue.

anger – charcoal