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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Thorne

Make your Mark – how to get started and keep going.

My earliest artworks consisted of drawing lots of circles in printed books in pencil and crayons. I was three and baffled by words, and much preferred pictures even then. It was a response to the world I was exploring: this new thing called life I had joined and was getting acquainted with. That in essence is what all artists do no matter what art form they take up, or what age they take it up. They respond to the world or explore who they are. They interpret. They express themselves. They communicate. How bland life would be if we didn't have the creativity; if everyone had exactly the same things in the same materials in exactly the same textures and colours...Worse: if everyone said the same things the same way. We shall never run out of creative ways by which we express ourselves.

The first step to being an artist is to make marks. Any kind of marks with anything that comes to hand and not to worry one fig about the result and to keep going, to develop, to evolve, requires just you to be inspired to do so. There are so many mediums to explore mark making with and in my lifetime new ones have emerged. Off the top of my head currently there are pencils in different grades and shades, water colour pencils, watercolour paints, oils, acrylics, charcoal, graphite, soft pastels, oil pastels, chalks, wax crayons, felt pens, dip pens, quill pens, sticks, acrylic pens, pouring paint, poster paint, gouache, spray paint, inks, alcohol inks, linocuts, screen printing, scrapper board, collagraph, collage materials too.

You can try delicate flicks, broad arm sweeps, dots, dashes, drips, tones, contours, shapes, scribbles, doodles, spatters, blotches, dabs, blowing, scratching, rubbing, smudging, scraping, blending, washes, smoothing and roughing, ripping and tearing... Make marks many or few. Make them lightly, softly, delicately, boldly, broadly with and without purpose, carefully and carelessly, add water, remove water, add paint, remove paint, erase and rework, mix your media or not but do... make marks. No one need see you make any but you, until you are happy with what you do.

A top tip of mine is to put all experiments aside where you can't see them before deciding what to do next. You'll not only quickly discover what you enjoy most through trying different things, but soon discover which types of marks help reflect and express you best too. You may be surprised by what you can do and what your natural inclination is. There is not, as far as I am aware, an encyclopaedia for us to dip in and out of as required but there are many books, courses, online videos out there to prevent "artist's block" and help develop techniques. There is no steeper learning curve than that of the beginner, for the novice has all of pre- existing creativity to learn from. That can seem daunting, but for me that is what has always been most exciting about learning. When stuck with one thing, tired or bored try switching to another to give yourself a break.

Many times I overloaded, had to stop. Many times I got "artist's block" - nay "creativity block" - but still I go back to being creative, because no matter what life has thrown at me I found that by doodling somehow or other it helped in the end. When not being creative I am a dull person, I am not myself because I am not responding, not expressing that I am here at all except through acknowledging and persisting with the basic daily necessities of life. Bills, shopping, work, sleep, relationships are all very well but I venture to suggest we all need 'me space too'. Art gives us that space. Simply by sparing five minutes a week being creative can truly help to bring you out of your out of sorts I've found. Avoid saying to yourself “Tried that, I'm not interested any more.” Change that to “I'm not interested just now” and you acknowledge that there is a possibility of trying again, for I found it only takes glancing at something new to inspire you; to re-trigger interest. It may turn out that 2D art isn't the one for you: there's dance, sculpture, pottery, theatre and music too though. We can't know what suits us creatively until we have a go.

Be we outraged, forlorn, lovesick, excited, jubilant or at one with ourselves and the world around us we can still be creative. Art is often a place of refuge and place to escape to. We are an inventive bunch when it comes to responding to the outer world and representing our own unique inner thoughts and feelings which can otherwise defy expressing in words. It can avert lashing out at others to instead scribble angrily on a page until in a calmer state. Never judge your work against anyone else's. Be you. Do it for you first and last. And if you do not ever come up with a million pound masterpiece that everyone wants, what of it. Can you be blamed for their lack of understanding or appreciation of your work? It is important to enjoy the process of being creative more than being concerned about the end result if you want to get the most out of it.

My artworks changed all by themselves or rather acquired new meanings to me if I left them alone. Over time, after putting them aside and forgetting about them, they reminded me of what was happening in my life at the point of their creation. With paintings, prints, drawings and pottery, I found the more experienced I became, the more I understood what those early efforts had at the time. I'd overlooked often the earliest signs of what was to come. I look back on some of them and truly marvel at some of the marks I made, marks I cannot repeat in quite the same way. Mostly, my old artworks help me remember my journey as both artist and human being. I can actually retrace what I was thinking about as I was creating some of them and what was happening in my life at the time. I shall be 60 next year and though my artworks will most likely not outlive me, it is enough that I am, that I do and that I tried.

We prove that we are alive when we express ourselves and share things with others which for me is the most important role of the Arts. It proves were are here and here now. The Arts offer us the opportunity to communicate without explanations by using our imaginations. Go on... have a go. Make your mark.

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