Reflection : A Piece of Practice

Reflection on ‘A Piece of Practice’

- Pedagogical model of experiential learning and research

What was the process / practice? What did you do?

The process with an experience with undirected mark making, formed from an expressive and emotional direction. It was a personal approach in which I allotted one hour to purposefully “free mark” with no prior agenda, idea, realisation or direction and therefore unrestricted by realism. Using only black marks, and a range of tools and found materials from long sticks, charcoal, pencils, wide brushes, hands, pens and graphite the experience was to choose to fill multiple A0 white paper spaces with line or image in a blank room that was not full of stimuli.

What was your rationale? Why did you do it?

The intent behind this experience was part of a larger project relating to narrative identity and the notion of “who we are is who I tell you I am,” exploring mark as a sign of intuitive purpose. The aim was to explore concepts surrounding the placement of mark as an element of our communication and natural expression, removing a partition between our internal and external worlds to form emotional and visual connection.

What went well?

The freedom of expression and lack of intended outcome allowed an innate sense of natural intuition and artistic freedom to be addressed. As there was no need for a purpose and felt more experimental, my practice took on a natural and emotional state, which further warped and changed the outcome on paper. Seeing how different marks or states where entered throughout the time frame and moments of deep immersion against suspending observing of the paper drew on both aesthetics and a freedom to make mess, crush, write, scrawl, drag and elemental ideas that felt less pressured than in a usual visual research form.

What went not so well?

Limitations came from the paper and area size and therefore the restrictions in where I found I could go, as well as the awareness that these would further influence a visual outcome in design and be seen in the light of critique and academic marking. I would enjoy developing this response further into a collaborative practice in which more external stimuli could be explored, from movement, audio cues, music and the experience of being with others and see how that alters the outcome and emotional states. Although the monochromatic palette allowed for a basic focus on tool and texture, the lack of colour meant that it also suppressed other elements of creativity and visual elements.

What does that connect to? What has been said about this in literature?

Relating the experience of mark making for children, The Early Years Foundation Stage identifies the central importance of creativity and critical thinking in early learning and development, suggesting that “young children’s mark making helps to make these processes visible” (Department for Children, Schools, and Families. 2008.) The study saw that mark making was both a provider of physical pleasure and then with continuing dexterity became the most primitive tool for narrative forming, emotional interpretation and using representations towards problem solving. The focus is on the cognitive development and subsequent relationship with others and culture that is created from the insight of the child’s unique sense of being.

“Through their play, young children explore imaginary and abstract worlds, making meaning through story making, mark making and drawing. As their ideas develop, they often create increasingly elaborate versions of their understanding of the world around them.”

(Department for Children, Schools, and Families. 2008.)

In adulthood, this stage of emotional and physical play is often restricted and therefore undergoing a less purpose driven experience with mark making, the experience allows a reflection of internal experience “in an almost primitivistic way, it isolates justure and visual language, reducing them to a precognitive elementary” (Butler and de Zegher, 2010.) In my personal experience, the outcome touches on abstract expressionism and forming a production of presence, which forms a physical evidence of thoughts and emotive responses on paper.

And what does that all mean? Conclusion

I found that mark making can be therefore be taken as a direct, unwritten communicative tool to express to others and through shape and structure, not necessarily in the form of realism, enhancing the natural cognitive development of relationships and childlike tools of thoughts becoming visually present. However, what the experience showed me that by allowing unrestrained immersion opened a subconscious tool for mindful expression in which takes on a more innate, primitive, physical connection to the internal self showing “the idea of the signature mark, appropriated from the discourses of attributions and connoisseurship, here broadens out into the question of whether one’s entire body contains a unique language of mark-making - what Tuttle has described as an electric current that flows from the body into the hand.” This experience would be interesting to develop and explore within a group setting, allowing both personal, communicative and physical expression as a collaborative process.


Butler, Cornelia H., Catherine de Zegher, M. Catherine de Zegher, and Museum of Modern Art (New York, N. Y. ). 2010. On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century. The Museum of Modern Art.

Department for Children, Schools, and Families. 2008. “Mark Making Matters: Young Children Making Meaning in All Areas of Learning and Development.” DCSF London.

Micklewright, Keith. 2005. Drawing: Mastering the Language of Visual Expression. Laurence King Publishing.

Lottie Matthews © 2020
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