Leaving our marks on the world

Leaving our marks on the world

Catching Health/Diane Atwood

I’m a fine arts student at the University of Southern Maine. One night after class, I went for a leisurely stroll along the Presumpscot River in Gorham.

My drawing professor, Michael Shaughnessy, had told us to be prepared to spend our next class making as many marks as possible using graphite on a large piece of paper. At the beginning of my walk, I was contemplating the array of marks and textures and designs I might create. Suddenly, as I came around a bend in the trail I realized that I was surrounded by marks and texture and designs.

Everywhere I looked, there were marks created by nature. Rushing, foaming water. A splintered post. Tree roots. Pine needles. I was mesmerized — and inspired. I grabbed some closeups with my phone and kept walking.

A few days later in class, we took out our graphite pencils and sticks and little bags of powder and hunkered down over our drawing paper and made our marks.

We made lines and splotches and circles and splashes. Patterns emerged and we made new discoveries. Adding a little water to the powder does this and dipping a paintbrush into the wet mixture and splattering it does that. Hmmm. What if I put down some strips of tape and draw lines across them or dip the tape into the powder and press it into the paper. Wow! I never thought of holding a graphite stick that way. What an interesting pattern. I wonder what would happen if I held it sideways or broke off a piece or …

After experimenting with lots of mark making, Michael instructed us to tape off a small piece of Bristol board to make a border and create a pattern on the inside using one or a few of the marks that struck our fancy. When we were done, we taped up our work and were amazed at the results.

All different. All inspiring.

• Paper covered with graphite powder and portions scraped off.

• A combination of lines and cross-hatching and splatters of wet powder.

• A wet paper towel dipped in graphite powder.

• Splattered wet graphite.

• Thumbprints

• A piece of well-chewed gum dipped in graphite powder and pressed into the paper. Tendrils pulled out with a paper clip. Enhanced with yellow paint.

How about you? Feeling inspired to play with graphite? Get your fingers a little dirty maybe? Go for it. Leave your marks on the world.

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