Markers’ Explorations


They are in almost all our homes, schools and backpacks. They are attractive and easy to use. It is not necessary to “draw something”, that is to represent something recognizable. Just to remember for those who get stuck with I can’t draw or I don’t know what to draw. How many types of points, lines and marks can be invented? In how many ways and patterns can these signs be placed on the sheet of paper?

How many ways can we cover an area with color or create a shape?

Try to explore all the possible movements of your wrist, hand, arm and observe the traces left by the marker during the movement. You can also move or rotate the sheet of paper below.

Each sign can be repeated creating various kind of textures, according to different degrees of rarefaction or thickening. What is gradually taking shape in the sheet of paper, will probably give us new suggestions for continuing the work.

How many ways can points and lines interact? A point is a moving line, or as Paul Klee said, “a line is a point going for a walk”?

What is the difference between drawing through colored lines and drawing through patches of color?

Who leades: the eye, the hand or the idea? Does a color “call” the other one?

In my studio, next to the markers, there is a small box full of white papers, all the same, and next to this box, some drawn papers (of the pictures above). These drawn cards can be joined on one side to form an accordion booklet, otherwise left loose, so that they can be individually taken (very useful solution in a group). In some situations, this kit was a useful support, providing a starting point easier than a large white sheet.

The setting and the way of presenting materials is an important aspect that can affect the creative process as well. How are the various color shades presented? Are they all visible? In case of a groups, how do members have access to them? Also the container itself can influence the perception of the content. From which container would you prefer to take a marker (between the ones above) and why? If you are interested, in the post “Container and Contained” by Nona Orbach you will find more about this specific issue.

I noticed that sometimes, in groups where the markers were placed in jars in the center of the table, the colors were not carefully chosen and the markers were not put back, scattering all over the table. By offering the markers in the center of the table, on a long folded strip of paper, these inconveniences disappeared by themselves. The paper strips are also very easy to fold or carry. If the markers are displayed on a shelf or used by one person at a time, shorter strips can be available for placing the chosen colors.

As Nona Orbach e Lilach Galkin wrote in “The Spirit of Matter”, The main characteristic of markers is that it is possible to achieve a nice result without much effort. They offer clean, aesthetic work, and are suitable for ornamental and decorative purposes. There is repetition in the workflow by opening and closing the marker and filling surfaces with short contiguous lines. This is significant for people who are intrigued and organized by ritual and rhythm. There is not much need for hesitation when working with markers; they afford pleasure from an easily created aesthetic outcome.

I would add that a marker’s sign can not be erased: this could be a bit frightening for some adults or older children, that want to obtain a “nice” work, especially at the beginning of this kind of exploration. But then, it can be very liberating and releasing, precisely because no way to adjust what you did… so just let it go!

And now I think you are looking forward to take a marker and start your exploration… Enjoy!

Would you have a walk with a line?

Going for a walk with a line

In early life, the graphic development spontaneously goes on according to consequential phases. It is an organic, archetypal process that only needs a welcoming and non-judgmental environment in order to flourish, respecting individual paces.
In adults, however, spontaneity is no longer enough. Is it possible to restart drawing again in later life, just for the sake of doing it, without performance anxiety, without necessarily having to represent something in a realistic way? Here are some playful “strategies” I experienced along with the artist Michele Ferri. I hope they will be useful for all those who – at some point in their childhood – stopped drawing and now think they are no longer able of it.

Going for a walk with a line

Let’s begin by warming up your hand with a walk on the paper sheet. Draw two small signs of different colors at any point: one will be the starting point and one the arrival point. Then start going with the black pen, freely exploring the space of the sheet without interrupting the path, in any direction, at the most comfortable speed. If you no longer know where to go, just slow down, slower and slower, but keep going on. This activity can be repeated in different ways, for example by changing the travel speed, the tool “for thewalk” (a pencil, a marker), the positions of the starting and arrival points.

Now you can create more interesting environments to explore on other sheets of paper, by placing cutouts and small objects here and there. Then go through these spaces, even trying different grades of pressure if using a pencil.

Interesting shapes could be hidden through your random paths: let’s try to find them… Repeat another free exploration of a sheet, tracing a path that intersects in many points, preferably using a pen. Then identify the closed shapes originated by the lines and choose the ones you like.

How about dressing your shapes with a nice texture? How do they look? Trace them on a colored or textured cardboard and cut them out.

Each shape can be transformed in many ways, creating a group of shapes that are all different but recognizable as belonging to the same “family”. You can vary the dimensions or proportions, stretch them, crush them, as if they were of a plastic material that can be deformed as you like.
At this point, you have enough available tools in order to compose your own visual stories. Enjoy!

This post is a small extract I translated from the book “A spasso con una linea”, written by me along with the artist Michele Ferri, published by Artebambini (only in Italian for now).