Hang around with enough artists, eventually you’ll hear the phrase ‘mark making’. It’s the bane of my existence.I know the words roll off the tongue. I know the alliteration hums. But as much as we want the term to describe some magical, mysterious portal to the creative process, the phrase ‘mark making’ describes nothing. Two words puffed up to mean something special, in reality the phrase is nothing more than empty air. Using the term to describe what it is we do as artists diminishes our work.
We paint. We draw. We sculpt. Along the way we scumble and scratch, we carve and stitch and scribble and brush. We etch and boil and glue and cut. We try to communicate in a way that moves beyond words. We blur edges. We skew and flatten perspective. We hope that what we pull from our own heart touches someone else’s. Are we making marks? Of course. But mark making is so much more than what’s left behind on a canvas.
And mark making isn’t restricted to fine art. We all make marks. All the time. And the marks we make don’t require a loaded paint brush, threaded needle or stick of charcoal.
Bump into the sharp edge of a coffee table with your shin and as the welt begins to form you might say, ‘oh, that’s gonna leave a mark’. Lean a dirty palm against a white wall? You left a mark.
In the same way that you don’t have to be an artist to make a mark, not all marks are seen. Sometimes an angry storm of words or a hardened glare will leave a mark on another person that is invisible to the eye. Those marks are like tiny paper cuts on the psyche.
When I’m creating I can erase, paint over, or cut away the marks I make. I can use a seam ripper to remove misplaced stitches. When I choose hurtful words or glances – those are marks that I can’t make disappear. So in the same way that I try to make considered choices when I create, I need to have the same consideration when I speak. What about you? Have you left any marks that you can’t erase?