This offering is dedicated to artist and cherished friend, Risa Salsberg, who teaches me the purpose and joy of daily mark making through her example. 

detail of marks in Magura Cave paintings

becoming human

Recover from a disconnection to your creative self. Revive or begin your creative practice in small, deliberate steps. Pick up an implement and apply it to a surface in any possible way, trusting that this first step is all that’s needed.

There are periods in life when we feel distanced from our creative selves, estranged from the spark that once ignited our imagination. This could be a secondary loss following the impact of complex grief or trauma, the consequence of the crushing weight of responsibilities, or the oversight from the blinding speed of a world that doesn't pause. This sensation of disconnection, though painful, is a shared human experience.

Creativity is not a finite reservoir that depletes; rather, it's an inherent part of us, merely obscured by the labyrinth of life’s complexity. And oftentimes, rediscovering this creative connection can be found in the simplest of gestures - making a mark on a page.

Make marks with me invites you to engage with the simplest act of creation, to pick up a tool of expression and make your mark. This is not about crafting a masterpiece, but rather, it's about the act itself. It's about the intimate relationship between the tool in your hand and the surface beneath it. The simple act of mark-making can reignite that dormant life force, reestablishing the connection with your creative self.

There is no right or wrong, no good or bad. There is just you, your materials, and the page waiting to be marked.

Research suggests that the process of making marks can be meditative, leading to a sense of well-being. Engaging in art of any kind can help you connect with yourself, navigate disease, and gain deeper insight into your emotions and experiences. The focus on the process of creation, rather than the final product, allows you to experience the sensory and kinesthetic aspects of mark-making, contributing to its creative health benefits.

detail of marks from a work by Van Gogh

detail of marks from a work by Degas

detail of marks from a work by Rembrandt

detail of marks from a work by Matisse

explore and experiment

Mark making encompasses a wide range of creative activities that have helped people in various ways. Some examples of mark making include leaf and bark rubbing, flower pressing, using sticks, rocks, fir cones, and seed pods to create patterns, lines, and textures. In the context of visual art, mark making refers to the types and variations of brush strokes, drawing lines, and other visual evidence of an artist's hand or tools upon the canvas or paper. Artists such as Van Gogh, Degas, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Matisse are known for their unique mark making, which contributes to the mood and expression of their works. Mark making can be a meditative and expressive process, allowing you to find your artistic voice and express your emotions and experiences through the creation of different lines, patterns, and textures. Whether it's through traditional artistic mediums or unconventional materials, mark making provides a means for self-expression, emotional release, and connection with the surrounding world.

Mark making can be a mind-clearing activity that encourages artists to focus on the act itself rather than the final outcome. It allows for the development of unique hand-made marks and can lead to innovative approaches to art. By changing the parameters in which you can access mark-making opportunities, you can spark the interest and curiosity of even the most creatively arrested periods in life.

As you hold the instrument in your hand, be it a pen, brush, or charcoal, it's uncomfortable at first. The blank medium in front of you is both intimidating and inviting. 

When the instrument meets the paper, it's a dialogue between the conscious and subconscious, a physical manifestation of your thoughts and emotions. The first mark is tentative. But as the marks progress into shapes and forms, the sensation summons a forgotten memory of simply moving the marks across the page.

The act of mark-making becomes an intimate conversation with oneself, a journey of self-exploration. Each mark is a step closer to rekindling the creative energy that lay dormant.

connect with the process

If you can, dedicate a storage box, portable kit, or area for mark making with organized and accessible materials to allow for free exploration and experimentation. 

Instead of looking for specific instructions, consider open-ended prompts or questions to get started. An open-ended prompt could sound like, "where is there peace within my body?" and then describe the sensation through mark-making rather than words.

Experiment with materials that may not be specifically for making marks like mud, sandpaper, or cotton wool dipped in ink. Use any textures that may make an interesting mark. 

Try to refrain from judging what you make. Focus on the process as much as possible rather than the result.

reflect on what's meaningful to you

Engage others who are similarly inspired to make marks. This can help to deepen the restorative impact of experimenting with mark making. Sustain the process through conversation by asking your creative community questions like, "How do you feel about the marks you've made?" or "What do these marks remind you of?" Reflect on how you might respond to open-ended questions and describe any patterns that can help you to locate what's most meaningful for your creative practice.


"Mark making and human becoming" by L Malafouris discusses how mark-making has been a fundamental mode of our species' capacity for material signification and creative material engagement.

"On Mark Making" by M Hendriks and B van der Hurk explores the emotional and mental potential in mark-making.

"Mark making: Methodologies and methods (innovative practice)" by H Zeilig delves into the innovative methods used in mark-making and its challenges.

"A structural model for drawing: Investigating mark-making through Choreology" by L Oppenheim investigates the relationship between mark-making and the body through the lens of movement theory.

"The Role of Neural Forms in Creativity: Through Painting and Printmaking" by AD Turner considers the argument that human mark-making derives from some inherent neural forms, suggesting a universal engagement with creativity in mark-making.

"Understanding art-making from an art therapy perspective" by C Essame discusses the transition from closed shapes to representational mark-making around the ages of three to four years, highlighting the role of mark-making in personal expression.

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