Resources

Units of Work

Making marks

Early Years

Meager, mark, mark-making, fear, paint, painting, expression, emotions

This unit begins by exploring the connection between words and their graphic equivalents in abstract marks. It develops by focusing on the word 'fear', asking children develop abstract imagery composed of mark making that represents this emotional state.

Use different tools to make marks and textures with paint or clay. For example try: children's paint brushes, household brushes, a sweeping brush, tooth brushes, cotton woo, hair brushes, a nail brush, a sponge, a broom, feathers, fingers, roller, twigs, grass, rag.

Make marks that are: rough, smooth, hairy, soft, feathery, spongy, jagged, sharp, pitted, bumpy, sandy, squelchy, furry, scratchy, delicate. This links closely with work on texture Look at the unit 'marks and textures'. Can you organise the children's work area so that they can really experiment? Perhaps a group could work on a large sheet or roll of paper.

Look at the unit 'drawing lines'. Reference is made to emotions, feelings and more difficult concepts. Try out the following ideas with older children. Begin by brainstorming the concept of fear.

"What is it like to be afraid? What happens when you are afraid? What do you feel like? What other words and ideas do you associate with fear?"

Ask the children to concentrate on physical and mental effects of fear. For example think about words and phrases like 'confused', 'hair stands on end', 'dread in my stomach' shivering and shaking', 'blind panic', 'stabs', 'dull ache'. give children a choice of media and ask them to experiment with different ways of using marks, colours, shapes and lines to try and show the idea of fear without drawing a recognisable picture.

When the pupils have tried out a number of ideas, ask them to pick out the one that means the most to them and works the best. Get them to draw this one again on a larger scale. Exhibit the results and ask the children which of their various abstract images most reflect fear for them. Look at the unit 'war and fear'.

This activity could be linked to other emotions and experiences. It could also become the starting point for expressive poems stories and more considered visual abstract paintings and drawings.

Explore the possibility of mark making on three dimensional structures. This can be with paint and other media. But look at the unit 'experimenting with texture and making clay tiles'.



  • Adapted and expanded from pages 116-117 of 'Teaching Art at Key Stage 2', Nigel Meager, 1995, NSEAD and pages 44-45 of 'Teaching Your Children Art, Early Years No 2, Colour, Texture, Painting'. See the NSEAD site for information about ordering these books.

  • Other units explore emotions. For example, look at 'drawing and expression' and 'exploring colour'.

More ideas about art connections

  • Lines are marks that travel. Marks, on the other hand could be anything. They could be big or small, moving or still, bold or weak, they could be drawn, printed, painted or scratched, blotted or spilt.

  • Have you thought of investigating the Impressionists in particular since they used marks very determinedly? Some good examples include; Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 'The Jockey' (lithograph, 1899, Courtauld Institute Galleries, London); Claude Monet, 'La Grenouillère' (1869, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) and Paul C*zanne, 'The Smoker' (1896-98, Hermitage, St Petersburg).



A collection of objects to use to make marks with paint, large sheets of paper, ready mixed paint.

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