For years I had a burning desire to paint yet was too scared to give it a go, fearing the unknown. Once I gave myself permission to be crap at it life got a whole lot easier. I bought a box of paints and some brushes for my birthday and sat looking at them for weeks.
Eventually I built up the courage to give it a go. It took the support and encouragement of a Tasmanian artist friend, Mel Hills, for me to find the courage. Mel’s advice was simply to play with the paints.
And she was right.
By playing with the paints I got to get a feel for them, that each paint is different, behaves differently and feels different. The same for my paint brushes, they make different marks, have their own weight and balance in the hand, move across the paper in their own way. It was fascinating.
I bought books to learn how to paint water colours and tried some of the exercises. The best book was the one that Mel made for me. It was a surprise present that arrived in the post and had me instantly in silent tears at the sushi bar when I opened it. The beautiful Japanese waitress came over to see if I was alright and when I showed her the little hand painted book she was nearly in tears.
This wonderful book is one of my most treasured possessions and inspired me to dive into painting with the make a mark a day routine.
When I started thinking about the make a mark a day approach to art I was intrigued and scared by it. So I realised I had to do it. Like all of us my days are rather full and I needed to be able to actually do what I commit myself to. So I decided to give myself a broad scope. Ideally I would want to be able to settle down and paint for at least an hour each day but that wasn’t going to happen. If I had that level of expectation of myself I would fail within the first week and beat myself up. That wouldn’t work.
Instead what mattered was making a mark each day, if that meant basically a scribble in a sketch book at 10pm then that was good enough. If it meant having an hour or two of painting time that was great but I couldn’t pay forward, nor catch up. It was daily activity that mattered. But, if I missed one day in a month or so, then that was forgivable.
And this is exactly what I did.
And it worked.
I kept a sketch book with pencils by the lounge and often my daily mark was made in front of the TV after I’d had enough time to decompress from the day. Some of those marks are dreadful, others were surprisingly fluid and free. One night I was sketching in front of the TV with my great big XL Derwent Graphites and up popped Bunny, based on my beloved soft toy bunny I was given when I was three years old. It felt like saying hello to an old friend.
One day when playing with the paints Lord Tasman arrived, the handsome fella he is. I instantly fell in love. I still think he is one of the most gorgeous wombats a girl is ever going to meet.
I painted hundreds of birds, trying to capture that sense of soaring over the ocean that so enthralled me when I was watching them from the sea cliffs in Tasmania.
The kangaroos took the longest amount of time. I painted so many variations of these girls, trying to get that look of wonder and wariness that they had when they are figuring you out.
Della the Platypus was surprisingly easy to paint. Figuring out how I wanted to represent her took more time, playing with the design and how she would fit within the porcelain itself was tricky.
Some days I made just one or two sketches. Other days I painted over 20 characters. I went through one of those big pads of 200 watercolour sheets and half filled two sketch books all in three months.
Next month – tomorrow – I’m starting my second three month make a mark a day experience. As part of it I’ve booked in for my first water colour painting class, it’s an eight week course at a local gallery. I’m very excited about it. Imagine, three hours of painting at a time! And having face to face guidance.
I’m feeling really curious about what might come from this make a mark a day season this year. How will it effect my range? What sort of skills will I develop? Who will emerge and say HELLO! this time? Oh, I just want to jump in! Maybe I’ll start a day early…..
Tips for Starting Your Own Make a Mark a Day Project
- be bold and just start
- think of what will realistically fit with your lifestyle, yes, stretch yourself a bit, but make it so it is doable. I didn’t want to always make that daily mark but by starting with having very loose definition of what was a mark doing that little sketch was always possible.
- set a timeframe for yourself, from a month, 2-3 months, half a year or an entire year.
- my logic was that if I was using my art materials I was allowed to buy more within reason, as long as I started using them quickly. This resulted in some really fun drawings and paintings coming through because I was playing.
- don’t over complicate the whole thing, keep it simple and doable.
- sketches are allowed to be done anywhere, my market notebook ended up having some interesting ideas in them and it turned out my customers thought it fascinating to see me sketching away. I was also able to ask for feedback about designs there and then – that made a big difference too.
- some people like to instagram their daily marks and while there’s a lot I like about that I wanted to start the project with something just for me.
- don’t bother about perfection with the marks. It is the doing that matters. Most of the marks I made were just that, marks. I was focused on coming up with a new range for my jewellery and specifically worked on getting a dozen to choose from. I’m sure the marks made my work more free and natural.
- tying it into a particular project was very helpful for me to keep doing it. I wanted only some of them to go towards something and I figured it was a bit of a numbers game, that the doing in itself would hold the secret and it did.
- the tools that you make the mark with are as varied as you and I are, some will be online, others colouring in books, permanent marker pens, any manner of paints, in a graphic designs tool, whatever you want to work with. Mine were mediums I could move about with a wet paint brush – whether they be pencils, blocks, paint. It’s the doing that matters.