KS4 Art & Design: Mark Making [Lesson 1]

I just began a new landscape painting project with my GCSE art group. We are exploring mark-making techniques in paint, with the aim of creating a landscape inspired by memories. Pupils were given a sheet explaining how artists use mark-making to express movement or feelings and it included some artists for pupils to look at.

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Mark making indian ink art lesson

To start the project off I wanted the pupils to use materials they haven’t experienced before and look at an artist for inspiration. I chose Cy Twombly for his expressive but simple gestural, bold drawings. I asked students to think about what the Twombly might have been trying to convey – I also mentioned that these pieces are absolutely huge!

Cy Twombly mark making art lesson

In the discussion some students mentioned that he could have been painting the sea, or it might have been people rushing for a train – some also said he might have been in a rush 😆 However they did observe that they had been painted or drawn quickly, and that they seemed very energetic.

We are working in Indian ink to explore new techniques and develop skills in using new materials. I asked pupils to work directly into their sketchbooks, splitting the page up into 10 boxes then creating a new technique in each box.

Here are my examples:

mark making lesson with ink

I asked students to think about what the different marks could represent on a landscape, and how they could convey feelings or atmospheres through their use of texture.


Some pupils were weary of working straight into their books and I found this to be a good way to ‘free up’ their concerns about getting things wrong. A couple of pupils created designs which were more illustrative/pattern led so it was important to use examples on the board to make sure their work wasn’t too ‘structured’.

I have lots of mark-making examples on my Pinterest board – feel free to use any of those on your presentations like I did.

The lesson aims were to understand how to use a range of materials to manipulate ink, so we used drawing tools such as string, dry brushes, calligraphy pens, sponges, cardboard and kebab sticks! I asked students not to focus on making patterns or shapes, and, as a challenge, try to create tones:

A great homework task was for students to make their own drawing tool, which they brought in and used in the next lessons!

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Here’s some of the pupil’s experiments – some struggled with the idea of simply making marks, and weren’t sure if they were doing it ‘right’ but it was a good way for them to explore new materials and techniques:

indian ink mark making lesson

Some are a little ‘illustrative’, which wasn’t what we were trying to achieve, so I gave some feedback and suggested the pupil not try to draw something specific, just make marks.

Have you done anything similar? Or thinking about it? Let me know in the comments!


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