Mark making is a universal experience, practiced by people across time and around the world. Whether marks appear as lines pressed into wet clay, crayon scribbles on a wall, drawings in sand with a stick, handprints etched or stamped into stone, or fingerprints on paper, they represent a common human impulse to leave evidence of their existence. This month, SchoolArts offers studio lessons that utilize unexpected mark-making materials.
Nancy and Laura Chapman in the form of an Artist Trading Card. Created by Nancy.
Mark making is a universal experience, practiced by people across time and around the world. Whether marks appear as lines pressed into wet clay, crayon scribbles on a wall, drawings in sand with a stick, handprints etched or stamped on stone, or fingerprints on paper, they represent a common human impulse to leave evidence of their existence.
The earliest examples of mark making are found in Paleolithic or cave art around the world. Lines, circles, spirals, zigzags, other geometric designs, and human figures are painted, etched, carved, and stamped in stone.
Genevieve von Petzinger, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, studies line and geometric symbols found in cave art. She says, “Our ability to represent a concept with an abstract symbol is uniquely human.” I believe our desire to leave a mark is also uniquely human.
This month, SchoolArts offers studio lessons that utilize unexpected mark-making materials. “Expressive Stick Drawings” (p. 20) challenges students to draw with a long stick, and the title of “Fingerprint Portraits” (p. 34) is self-explanatory. What other unusual mark-making materials can you have your students use?
Making a Mark on Art Education
Back during my first art teaching position, there were not many commercial curriculum materials, art textbooks, or art study prints available. My unair-conditioned elementary art room in Louisiana had an overhead projector, a filmstrip viewer, and a film projector that constantly broke the aged and fragile films. The district curriculum guide was a binder of xeroxed one-page lessons. None of these were much help, especially to a new teacher.
The very best thing that saved me was an elementary textbook series called Discover Art. Looking back through it now (I still have a set!), I believe I taught every lesson in those books. Discover Art was written by Laura Chapman and released in 1985 by Davis Publications, the publisher of SchoolArts. Their foundation is still evident in today’s Davis Publications textbooks.
Little did I know at the time the major impact and influence both Laura Chapman and Davis Publications would have on art education and my own teaching career. (The first article I had published was in SchoolArts.)
Discover Art led me to Laura’s subsequent textbooks Adventures in Art, later followed by Explorations in Art. I was privileged to work with her on the 2009 edition of Explorations in Art. To me, she was an art education rock star, and I will miss her dedication and her sharp wit and quiet humor.
To honor Laura, we invited friends and colleagues to contribute their thoughts about her and the significant mark she made on the field of art education. We share many of these tributes in this issue (see pages 12, 13, and 51), and we plan to share additional thoughts online. Her mark on art education will never be forgotten.
Art teachers offer studio lessons that utilize unexpected mark-making materials. Young students draw large-scale insects with sidewalk chalk, elementary students and adults collaborate in a virtual drawing activity to celebrate Black historical figures, middle-school students discover upcycled Haitian metal art and create ink-embellished designs on metal tooling, high-school students combine digital photography and illustration to render thought-provoking compositions, and more.