Painting and drawing is one of those art disciplines that scares a lot of students.

We get so much feedback from teachers that their students “like” drawing, but feel they “can’t” do it. For most students, it’s because they still feel that a drawing has to be photorealistic and they find it hard to see the beauty in other kinds of mark making, or sometimes they just don’t recognise the potential of marks at all.

This workshop came from a fantastic artist called Sally Taylor:

Exploring marks workshop

Many colours and textures make up an image to make it look natural. Within any image there will be many different textures and tones of colour. The task is to use paint in different ways experimentally in preparation to paint different parts of an image. It can be used to help create an abstract or figurative painting or a drawing, but is particularly successful with figurative work as students seem to struggle with this the most.

The exercise should take no longer than a couple of hours, but does need a little preparation beforehand. The outcome is a fantastic sheet to have in a portfolio or development sketchbook as it demonstrates a breadth of skills and awareness of the medium.


1. Look at the list of processes below and search online for any terms you haven’t heard of before. This will save time while you are engaged in practical application of paint and can focus better.

2. Break your surface down into at least 10 different sections based on tone and texture (an A1 sheet works really well in lines).

3. Pick different types of paint, application and marks from the list below and try experimenting in the different sections. Make sure that each uses a different technique or process.

4. Make a note about each process next to it. You could write about how it makes you feel or how you might use it in your current project.

5. Extension activity: Repeat the process using a range of colours or techniques that you might use in a specific piece.


Here are suggestions of the kinds of paint, techniques and processes you might use.


  • Runny
  • Mixed
  • Thick
  • Transparent
  • Opaque
  • Combined with media



  • Dry Brush
  • Drips & Runs
  • Blots + Spray
  • Layered & Glaze
  • Wet on wet
  • Sponging
  • Impasto
  • Scumbling
  • Lifting
  • Masking
  • Stippling
  • Losing
  • Blurring
  • Tonal



  • Scratching
  • Random
  • Patterned
  • Comb
  • Brush
  • Corrugated card
  • Fingers
  • Smearing
  • Sgraffito
Daniel Freaker Daniel Freaker Educational Consultant, Painter, Writer, Designer