Tag Archives: mark making

Octopus ballpoint illustration with F-402 Ballpoint Retractable Pen beside it

Mark Making Fundamentals: The Object, Illumination, and the Technique

By Guno Park of @gunopark

Guno Park is a Brooklyn, NY artist whose works have been widely published in books, magazines, and other publications and hangs in many public and private collections worldwide. His primary focus is in observational and imaginative drawing and sketching.

In the blog post below, Guno explores the fundamentals of mark making from his own artist perspective. This includes discussion on the object, illumination, and technique.

What is Mark Making?

Mark making is the process of using a marker or a pen to create illustrations that convey light/shadow, form/volume, and texture to make believable graphic images. Techniques such as cross-hatching and contouring are used by artists to enhance the look and feel of a drawing or painting. It can be bold or delicate, depending on the artist’s interpretations of their vision.

Ever wonder how a drawing can look so real? What kind of spell or magic had to be cast over the surface of a drawing to portray illusions of textures and light that are so seemingly real?

Over hundreds of years, artists have been wrestling with mark making techniques to create flat surfaces that mimic the forms, textures, and atmospheres that we witness with our eyes every day in dimensional space and atmospheric light. There are countless ways to create visual illusions on the surface of the paper to do just that.

In my humble opinion, drawing can be described as “mark making.” That is all it is—making a bunch of organized marks. Whether they’re long strokes, short lines, dots, ticks, smears, or hatch marks, every way of leaving a mark on the page can be used strategically to visually explain information, to tell a story, or to express a feeling.

Here, I’ll attempt to share my thoughts about drawing convincing shapes and forms using our eyes. Then, I’ll continue to apply visual elements such as value and texture to further enhance the experience of sketching believable subject matter.

In order to explain how I use marks to create my drawings, I have to first think about what I am drawing. The object.

Illustration showing forms and volumes

The Object

Whether I’m drawing a portrait, a landscape, an animal, or a forest, I have to think about its forms and volumes as a whole in order to build the space in which the objects take up. I can begin thinking about its shapes isometrically, which are essentially the silhouettes from various angles—or vantage points. Then my visual calculation can begin connecting secondary and tertiary shapes within the isometric shapes like shown above in Fig. 1.

A mountain can be seen as a big cone, a tree as a lollipop, the ground as a flat plane, and the human head as an egg shape. The clearer I can understand the object’s shapes, the better I can represent the light that is illuminating it.

Illustration of simple shapes

To practice this, I like to take the simple shapes and use a very limited set of shades and divide planes. I can start with just 3 values—white, grey, and black. Once I feel comfortable with those 3 values, I can divide them further into 5 shades, then 9 shades, like shown above in Fig. 2.

Illumination

Understanding the illumination of a drawing has a lot to do with seeing the shapes of light and shapes of shadows, but it also has much to do with understanding the behavior of light. Light is what provides us the ability to see anything at all. And the different types of light can show us the same objects in different ways. The practice of finding the various shapes and values mentioned above, is essentially finding where the light is hitting the object the brightest, creating the darkest shadows, and everything in between. The closer an artist can get those values to organize themselves harmoniously, the more illumination an image can possess.

After understanding the mechanics of visually finding the shapes of the object and studying the behavior of light, the next step is to practice putting that understanding into use using different variations of techniques. Seeing the effects of these visual variations of mark making, an artist can selectively use these tools to create the atmosphere and textures of form and space they choose.

Mark making greyscale

The Technique

There are countless ways to make marks in creating sketches and drawings. The basis of how I like to think when I sketch is through cross hatching. More specifically, I like to think of it in two ways of cross hatching; one way is to create patches of hatch marks to cover an area with varying levels of patches to control the values. The other way is to use the directions of the surface contours of what I’m drawing to convey two things at once like the planes of the form and how the light is touching that surface. In many cases, I will use a combination of these two ways of cross hatching to develop a drawing, as shown above.

If I can think of the surface information to a small enough degree, my marks can be directed in the ways of very fine details such as hair, wrinkles, and even differentiate between shiny and dull surfaces.

Examples of different shading techniques

I believe that the best way to understand any drawing technique is to be able to see and understand the simplest version of the image that is being created. Going back to practicing the three values, if I can simplify my observation, I can simplify my sketch. Then after that, it is just a building up of values and textures. Fig. 4 above shows this theory in action.

In the time lapse video below, I show how all of these concepts can be applied. For this octopus ballpoint illustration, I used the STEEL F-701 Ballpoint Retractable Pen.

For more, check out my previous blog posts with Zebra Pen, Urban Sketching: Simplifying Perspective and Designing A Fluid Composition and Ballpoint Illustration Tips from Artist Guno Park.