The Artist's Mark
As we inch our way towards springtime and the yearly awakening of nature's fullness, my thoughts have been centered on the visual clarity that the winter months provide. The stark, rigid branches in the cold air, the decayed beauty of seasons past, and the accumulated detritus that holds its own history all seem to be part of a temporary map worth paying attention to -- transient place holders that leave their mark while marking the passing of time.
Through years of pen & ink drawing, the artist's mark and the act of mark-making have always been front and center in my art practice. I've often wondered why artists are so innately drawn to this type of activity. As a creative action it is often quite repetitive, sometimes relaxing, and usually but not always satisfying. Maybe it's the more elusive experience, found through sustained practice, that makes it so engaging -- connecting with the life affirming experience of flow, that optimal state of being acutely researched by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
My own mark-making efforts are most often executed in ink because of the permanence of the media. Once drawn, the marks aren't removable. They can be worked in, drawn over, or covered up with another medium but they don't really go away. Reckoning with the marks that seem to have a mind of their own is an interesting challenge--dealing with things that don't always go as planned. Following the flow of the marks that seem more agreeable can alternatively be quite pleasing but not always the best path to take. Thankfully more surfaces await further experimentation.
My students have recently been exploring asemic writing, a wordless form of writing that explores the expressive potential of marks that mimic the written word. I've been moved by the wonderful work they have made and hearing how perfect this type of drawing is for our anxious times. Marks as messages and non-messages, moments and histories, gestures and symbols -- tapped from the individual experience and shared with the collective. Making a mark marks the passage of time and, in turn, makes meaning of time. Now it's time to make more marks.