Understanding mark-making to create texture, form and detail in your drawing
In this drawing lesson, we’ll start to explore how the marks you make on your page when drawing will create the texture and form of your subject.
This is important as it helps you to show something about the qualities of what you’re drawing – to describe the details and also the texture and the form itself.
In this lesson:
Drawing as Describing
What does it look like? Is it smooth, rough, fluffy, hard, soft?
These things are important qualities to be able to communicate about what you’re drawing. It’s also a really good way of being able to show your individual artistic ‘handwriting’ (your unique style) and develop your own particular way of putting marks on your page.
This lesson builds on what we learnt in the lesson about creating the impression of form and volume through light and shade so do go back and refresh yourself on that now if you need a recap.
In this lesson, we’re going to look at how the direction, size, and spacing of the marks you put on your page can tell us about the texture and details of what you’re drawing – but also about the FORM as well.
Below, detailed mark-making helps to describe the shape and form of an onion.
When you make your artistic marks on the page, you can use:
You can also take advantage of the medium you’re using as well – pen, pencil, charcoal, etc.
All of these things will make a difference to how your drawing looks and will work together to make up your unique drawing style.
It’s quite hard to think about all of these things at once, so to make our drawing learning easier, we can do a few extra exercises to get used to these ideas and experiment a bit so that we can start to develop your own ways of expressing these things.
Start Making Your Mark
We can start to think about how to use direction, spacing, and size in our mark-making when we draw...
How to Use Direction to Show Form
Similarly to when we looked at light and shade, we can use the direction of the marks we make also show the FORM of what we’re drawing.
Exercise: Think about Direction and Form
Try drawing an onion and think about how the lines on the skin help us to understand that the onion is (roughly) spherical - the stripes (lines) follow the rounded shape so they appear to curve.
When we make our marks as we draw, we can use any lines like this (that we call ‘contour lines’) and follow their direction to help us more easily show the 3D rounded form of our object.
There is an onion photo at the end of the Start Drawing PDF for you to draw together with this content (and more) all in printable format.
Drawing the Onions
Just look at what you see and try to make marks to represent this on your page as best you can. Think about:
Follow along with my drawing to see how I approached the drawing exercise…
First, I sketched in very rough outlines with my pencil.
After inking in the main outline with my drawing pen, I add pencilled contour lines following the stripes on the onions skin to help show the rounded form of the onions (below)...
I add in areas of shadow trying to make the direction of my marks follow the rounded shape of the onion (below)...
The shadows cast by the objects are just as important as the ones on the object. I also add in any texture and detail I can see on the onion skins (below)...
We can also use these same ideas when we’re drawing other things…
We had quite well-defined lines on our onion, which was really helpful for us when thinking about the form. But in other cases, we might have to use hints from the shape of the light and shadows we see or any texture present, to help us to suggest the form and volume and help us to draw the direction of our marks to make ‘contour lines’ - or with any lines we make to represent shadow or texture.
Look back at the pages on light and shade and note how our shading with the soft pencil seems to follow the curve of the fruit. This is what we need to also suggest with our marks, allowing the direction of the marks we make to follow the shape and form of what we’re drawing to make it look more solid.
Even using direction in a very minimal way will really help our drawing - just the odd, very simple line or mark where the direction of the mark shows the form of what you’re drawing… this is an easy way to make your drawing look far more solid and add a sense of depth.
This is a skill that does take some practice, so if your drawings don’t look completely right straight away, don’t worry… just think about what you might do differently next time…
Exercise: Thinking About Texture, Detail and Form When We Make Our Drawing Marks
Drawing Details – Flowers
Let’s start with flower petals. How can you use marks, together with any shade/light techniques, to show the way the petal forms and any texture, marks and wrinkles? Try drawing one or both of these spring flowers - or some of your own flowers.
Draw close up to concentrate on the details. You can use these photos for your drawing practice if you want. You will find them at the end of the Start Drawing PDF.
Here are my own drawings to inspire you…
Sketchy lines help show the texture of the petals and the form of the trumpet (above).
I used a loose touch to draw this delicate flower with a detailed centre and trying to show the shadows and shapes of the petals.
Drawing Textures – Shells
Shells are another wonderful subject matter to practice these mark-making techniques with. Try drawing some that you have at home or you can use these photos if you prefer (find these along with the others at the end of the Start Drawing free PDF).
Think about how you might show the form or curve of the shell in your drawings and how the detail or texture of the shell could help you with this…
My shell drawing – lots of lines!
I concentrated on the curve of the lines in my shell drawing, trying to get them going around the shell and showing the shaded areas in dark marks (above).
My shell drawing - a simple sketch (above)!
Keeping it simple with this sketch of a shell with just a few lines to show the shape of the shell and the shaded areas.
Mark-Making - Putting it All Together
Fruit Drawing Exercise
Let’s put all these things together in the final drawing exercise - a fruity still life — kind of a favourite amongst art students as it’s so easy to get hold of at home and it also gives us lots of practice at drawing shapes, forms, different textures, light and shade.
While you’re drawing think about:
If you’d like to use my photo you can get it at the end of the Start Drawing PDF.
Start your drawing with an easy outline in pencil to map in the main shapes…
Then use your pen or pencil to add the firm outlines and all the details including the texture, contours, light and shade. What can you see? Draw it!
Please remember: there is no right or wrong way to do this. Drawing is made easy when you just take a little time to think out what’s the best way for you to show these things… what sort of marks do you like to make? What technique do you like? What feels right and fun? What comes naturally? (It’s okay if these things change over time as you become more comfortable with certain techniques)
Have fun practising!
If you’d like my help and support while you practise making your marks, building your drawing skills and developing your own personal artistic style, I have a full, 12-lesson, Start Drawing Your Way Essential Drawing Skills Online Course which covers drawing techniques, such as mark-making, together with exercises to help you draw freely, creatively, and confidently to be more ‘you’ in your drawings…
Lots of practical drawing exercises, personal reflection & creativity prompts - if this sounds like your sort of thing, click here to find out all about the course…
Or when you feel ready, you might like to learn more about colour and composition in my Confident Colour & Composition course for artists…
This blog post is an extract from the free 'Start Drawing' PDF which itself is part of a free ‘Start Drawing’ resource that I’m publishing on my website to get you started drawing in your own unique way, accurately but with expression and style. If you enjoyed this you might want to look at the mini-course on Expressive Drawing next or explore some different drawing mediums (all on the resources page here).
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