Experimenting with Expressive Lines and Marks


Calm, clockwise from top left, charcoal, oil pastel, sepia ink and chalk pastel

At first I was frustrated that the compressed charcoal didn’t respond well so I switched to willow charcoal which is softer, meaning I didn’t need to press as hard, (trying to stay calm!). Using long, relaxing strokes, which were curved at first but the straight lines won over. I certainly felt calmer by the end of this exercise.

Choosing Cobalt blue oil pastel, lines became straighter, slight gradient in colour, darker at the bottom, afterwards the phrase “still waters run deep” came to mind, bringing to mind a calm sea.

Used Sepia Ink with a 1 inch brush and twigs. I confess I have never used ink before so this was interesting. These started to look like feathers, by the end they reminded me of peacocks. Most surprising, and unexpected, was the twig gave a feathery effect which was rather pleasing. This looks rather heavy-handed, due to my inexperience with ink.

Light Gray chalk pastel was trickier, not being experienced in pastels so not sure I quite achieved the look I had in mind but the resulting effect reminds me of ripples in the water. It came out darker than I liked so need to learn  how to use pastels so conclusion is more practice required.

In conclusion, I think I can safely say that I enjoy nature, especially the sea, picture the gentle lapping of the waves perhaps with some birds flying overhead. This also lead me to read about pastels and ink in The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques by Ralph Mayer. Turns out sepia ink is better known as writing ink. I also learnt that pastel  “is one of the simplest and purest, being a method of painting with pure color without medium.”



Joy, clockwise from top left, charcoal, oil pastel, sepia ink and conté stick

After listening to some happy music to get into the right frame of mind, I had some fun and felt happy doing this. The willow charcoal felt light in my fingers, the oil pastel was a happy, joyful colour using curves and squiggles. Bought some conté sticks so gave them their first outing, found them to be a little easier to use than chalk pastel. Still finding sepia ink tricky, you can’t remove it from the paper so need to be more careful applying it. Overall the last two images made me think of fireworks and champagne popping, the ultimate celebration.



Anger, clockwise from top left, charcoal, oil pastel, sepia ink and conté stick

Was a bit trickier trying to feel anger but I think I got there in the end. I love the willow charcoal, it’s so smooth it glides over the page, used longer, harder strokes to achieve this. With the oil pastel, I used such hard strokes I broke it! Happily this was a stroke of luck and used the smaller piece in its side to make lighter tones, a happy accident.

Still finding the ink to be quite unforgiving so there is not much difference in tone, would have liked to get more variation.

The conté stick was fun, I liked the effect, looking a little like Sumi-e brush paintings. I felt quite angry now, too angry to elaborate and didn’t feel the need to express myself any further. I liked the gradient effect.

Looking back on these now, I’m being reminded of long grass and foliage,  which makes me think of Henri Rousseau’s foliage, with its thick foliage in the foreground.


Hope, clockwise from top left, charcoal, oil pastel, sepia ink and conte stick

Because I was feeling quite positive and hopeful I chose Joy as my final emotion, this exercise, which had intimidated me at first, made me happier and relaxed towards the end.

I used willow charcoal in simple, curved expressive lines that represent joy to me.

This time, using the oil pastel, it occurred to me to try blending to soften the effect.

By far the hardest material to use was the sepia ink but I persevered, trying to keep it simple, however I’m still not satisfied with the result.

Using the conté stick, I thought this was a tree with branches, I’m going to guess this is me, trying to grow. Some of the images look like branches so nature has found its way into my work again.

Initially I did find this task hard to complete, I kept putting it off, finding reasons not to do it, the paper wasn’t right, I didn’t have the right tools etc but, in the end, I just went for it and found it a release. In conclusion, I have much to learn but need to have the confidence to just do it.


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