Pt 1, Pr 1, Ex 1 – Experimenting with expressive lines and marks….best therapy ever!

A more difficult task than I first anticipated, we were briefed to section 4 A1 sheet of paper into 4 sections each and write down an emotion on each sheet, calm, anger, happy and a chosen feeling. Then, picking 4 different mediums, using one 1 colour and only random lines and shapes, try and describe the emotion by inhabiting it and expressing it in the medium to hand.

What I got from this exercise was possibly the most important concept I’ve learned to date which I’ll summarize at the end, but my notes went from merely reeling off how I felt, to a running commentary of my thoughts over the hour or so that it took me to go from happy, to angry, to upset and back.

Therefore the best way to way to express this piece is to write it as I did in my log. For the whole exercise I used charcoal, chalk conte stick, oil pastel, water colour and sand.

Calm was the first and most difficult emotion to feel as the point of calm is to not feel. I started with. Although i carried on with ink and sand, the first attempt was a mistake with ink and feather:

calm feather and ink
calm – ink and feather

Log: Slow/flowing/ swirls, relaxed movements/fluid movements/soft curved shapes/delicate feathering/details/easy to stay calmer for longer/less energy used/therapeutic.

I found the movements controlled and the emotion constant and unchanging.

calm conte stick
Calm – conte stick

The conte stick was a similar affair producing similar results. Worked well with smooth lines and controlled natural movements.

calm oil

The oil pastel was more geared to gesture movements as opposed to fading, but worked well to portray calmness in almost zen like movements and flows. Good for large scale.

Feeling positively happy I let the medium take over, the flow of energy seemed to guide my hand as seen fit with regards to what I was using. As I changed medium my emotion was still happy, but my attitude to the handling of the stationary changed, I was handling the oil as I FELT fit, as with the charcoal, and again a change with the conte stick….and it started to get intense.

happy oil
happy oil

By this time I was walking little foot (finger) prints over the page and just sloshing the water colour around in a playful way, thoroughly enjoying myself, making tracks of mess like a child would splash in a puddle.

happy ink and sand
Happy – ink and sand

Log: Made me happier to express my happiness through a creative outlet. TO PORTRAY YOUR INNER FEELINGS TO THE OUTSIDE. Childlike, let go, loose, not care. Connection to the medium, knowing how it would like to be treated.

At this stage I just let the charcoal guide me. After a few playful scribbles I was running it on its side like a rally car, skidding it round the page in a joyful way!

Log: ‘at one point the charcoal was a racing car skidding around the paper race track.’

Happy – charcoal and conte stick.

I wasn’t going to continue as I thought it would be impossible to feel anything but happy, but the more I put my mind to it, I realized that I could tap into my anger enough to sit down and start a new board.

Log: ‘From being happy I felt like I could feel and empathize being angry…wanted to use the ink and sand first……..after washing my hands and checking my finger nails were still there I sat back with a feeling of slight guilt while looking at the mess I made. I had to stop.’

angry ink and sand
Anger – ink and sand

I had thrown, splattered and scratched the ink onto the paper before digging into it with my finger nails so roughly that when I stopped it felt like I had torn them off! It was a bit unnerving.

Started to get easier to engage the emotion. With the charcoal I was stood up over the paper and building up my anger while thinking what I was going to do to the charcoal stick. I was waiting for a specific drop in the music to happen , the build up fed my anger inside me all the way up to suddenly…….smash! All I could do was drive the poor charcoal stick straight into the paper.

anger page
exert from log.

Log: ‘sat back feeling satisfied. Had to stop for a bit after that.’

Log: ‘I realized it was like a flow of energy from inside guiding me to use the right tool for the job….no….the right job for the tool.’

angry oil

With the oil pastel the feeling was getting more intense as I was planning how I could use the pastel to express the emotion. It was driven into the page so hard that it broke up on contact and the piece I still had was scrubbed into the paper until nothing was left. I then turned my attention to the smaller pieces and screwed them into the surface until they had flattened and squashed into the actual paper. I repeated this, breaking up the larger parts by thrusting them into the page before burying the shards into a pancake, I felt like a child crushing crisps under his foot, unable to stop until the whole stick had been destroyed.

Luckily this was the last angry phase and I took the contre stick just as I had done the oil.

angry conte stick

Smashing it into the paper I started to grind the chalk into smaller pieces rubbing the paper until it started to buckle and tear. I ground the black chalk down so much that I had to get another colour as I wasn’t finished with it yet. By the time I was done I was exhausted.

Having just enough energy for my choice of emotion, the most logical after that was upset. Quickly slipping into that state, at one point I actually convinced myself that I was upset. Lethargic, unwilling jabs at the page leading to slight bursts of self loathing and anger quickly subsiding to not caring and giving up. I felt the same with all the mediums.


One thing I realized from this experiment was feeling the emotions without being them. Calmness was in effect a void of all emotion. Happiness was exhilarating and constant. However it is a heightened emotion that was easily converted to anger which was very intense. Both were stable emotions, I was either solidly happy, of definitely angry. The most interesting was how volatile being upset was. Going from pity and lethargy to loathing anger to giving up was the most pointless and self destructive mood I felt.

The most important thing I learned was not only how to channel each emotion, but using the medium for what it had to offer and being able to pick up on that, and choosing ‘the right job for the tool.’ A very humbling experience and a great insight into my connection with myself and my art.

In the future instead of thinking ‘what shall I draw and how should I draw it?’ I think the answer is already there and I just have to ask ‘what’s on my mind and how do I feel?’



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