Lisa Barbero

Artist Journal

“The artist is always beginning. Any work of art which is not a beginning, an invention, a discovery is of little worth.” - Ezra Pound

Making Your Marks

Loose, natural marks made in white china marker on black board.

Loose, natural marks made in white china marker on black board.

I watched a TED talk recently about common forms or symbols found in pre-historic cave art. To sum up, the presenter and her husband scoured hundreds of cave passages looking for drawings made by ancient people. Once catalogued, she figured out that there were 32 symbols that repeated all over the world.

I found myself wondering what these symbols could mean. What common human ideas were they trying to convey?

I pondered whether the symbols were found naturally by the artists. Like, did they come by them by simple loose scribbling and then eventually started seeing repeated patterns in their marks? And then I considered what that might mean in my own natural, no-thought mark making. When I let my hand do what it wants to do there are often repeated forms that come through.

The exercise above was inspired by the image below of the 32 common symbols. No, I didn’t try to make individual forms and label them. But I did attempt a loose hand that moved without much conscious energy from me and then looked for some patterns.

So far arcs, ovals, and other organic shapes seem to be predominant for me. This is true of my paintings as well. I often find I’m making those oval shapes out of color that tend to look a bit like tulip blooms that haven’t opened to the sun yet.

Some of the leaves and branches I doodled are more thought driven though I was attempting to make recognizable shapes in a loose way that felt natural as opposed to being guided by any rules about what a leaf or branch type thing looks like. So if my mind doesn’t get in the way, that’s how my hand wants to draw a leaf or whatever.

I’m interested in repeating this exercise on a regular basis. Maybe the patterns will change over time or maybe the same shapes will evolve into something more or less complex. Give it a try yourself and see what surprises come though.

Endless curiosity about everything (including yourself) can be great fuel for creativity.

Lisa Barbero