marks into meaning

Duration 10-15 min


One, two or three objects, e.g.

  1. an old boot/shoe
  2. a pepper cut in half, with stalk and seeds
  3. small posy of flowers
  4. figurine
  5. friend


  1. Using the "orthodox hand" or "sign of the cross" make marks all over the page.
  2. The paper is no larger than 11" in width or length.
  3. Use a combination of B, 2B, 4B, 6B pencils.
  4. Choose a pencil and tape it to a stick that is 23" in length
  5. Choose another pencil and tape it to a stick that is 11" in length


Our familiarity with picking up and holding pens for writing creates a habitual approach to handling them.

Why does a pencil that is used for drawing have to be held like a pen that is used for writing? It does not, and there are alternatives.

This exercise is essentially about making marks with varying amounts of control over your drawing implement. The further away you hold your pencil from the point, the less control you will have.

Your aim is to hold the pencil in 4 different ways and make 5 drawings, where the responsive sensitivity drawn marks are seen as the content of the drawing and as something in themselves.


  1. Tape the paper on the drawing board.
  2. Tape the 4B pencil to the 11" stick.
  3. Stand a comfortable distance from drawing pad so your outstretched arm hold the stick as far away from the drawing pad as possible, but only just maintains contact with the drawing paper.
  4. Look carefully at the object, and respond to what you are seeing with descriptive marks.


Repeat the process with your 2B pencil attached to the 23" stick.


Repeat the process and hold the B pencil attached to the 23" stick.


Using any pencil, repeat the process, and hold the pencil between mid way down the shaft and the point - across your 4 fingers as if you are holding a knife or fork.


Repeat Drawings 1 to 4 and superimpose each successive drawing over the previous one - gradually tightening up the drawing by increasing control and adjusting each of the previous set of marks.