Celebrating mark making

Many of my intuitive paintings begin with a building up and layering of marks using a variety of tools. I use all kinds of items from around the house from toothpaste lids to slithers of wood to pencils to twigs, anything that will make a mark that is different to conventional tools like paint brushes. Of course I use these as well but the key with selecting different tools is that it’s possible to create variation in shape, thickness of line and mark density.

Acrylic paint lends itself to this way of painting as it dries quickly so it’s easy to achieve a rich base or back ground for work. The process enables a very free style of expression and as these photos show each little section of marks could become a painting in its own right. I usually alternate layers of warm colours and cool colours to maintain vibrancy and follow this by adding in contrast and translucence. I keep going in this way until I either want to commit to forms by searching for imagery hiding in the marks or I impose it if there is a message I am contemplating as I paint. It’s often a mixture of teasing out form and structure and a subliminal thought process where memories and emotions start to emerge.

Colourful marks

Colourful marks

Some of this is conscious and sometimes I am surprised by the elements that jump out and add an entirely intuitive dimension to the work. I had for many years avoided figurative work because I found it difficult and was disappointed when an attempt looked nothing like the person I was trying to paint or draw.

Since working intuitively I have moved beyond this fear because the figures are imagined rather than drawn on reality. It doesn’t matter if the faces, bodies or features are representational because what I am trying to communicate is often based on the emotional or allegory rather than the representational.

Woman with tangled hair

Woman with tangled hair ©Mary Price 2015

Mark making as a starting point has presented a new freedom and opened up the subjects I now feel confident to include in my paintings.

In this painting I worked on plywood which is more forgiving than canvas in the mark making stage. It’s possible to really press hard with pointy tools without worrying about making holes in the surface as is the case with canvas. The painting is all about the hair, a real bed head mess, that has offered a magical opportunity to pay with colour, line and texture.

The Reader’s Dream

This painting is a powerful metaphor for the way reading can transport us into the imaginings of others and to places we may never see and people we will never meet. As I started to bring out the imagery I was thinking about how for me the planning stages of any journey are as pleasurable as the journey itself.


The Reader’s Dream 2015 ©Mary Price 2015

This has been an incredibly inspiring year as I have taken on new challenges in my painting and tried to hone my style.

In ‘the Readers Dream’ I have followed the intuitive process, building a rich background of colours and marks using many tools as well as traditional paint brushes. I have then picked out imagery and developed the story of the central figure.


Close up of marks ©Mary Price 2015

The sky is exploding in a meteor storm with one of the stars landing on the book, perhaps a metaphor here – symbolising that dreams can become a reality and that reading helps us to form those dreams and to plan them and make them happen.

Meteor storm detail

Meteor storm detail 2015 ©Mary Price 2015

She is reading a book with the word dream picked and scratched into the paint and painted on and washed over.

Detail - a page of dreams

Detail – a page of dreams ©Mary Price 2015

Maybe she is dreaming about her next trip. The headdress which is becoming a trademark just lately is all about the way we have our minds filled with so much – in this case her mind is filled with the colour and tribal references that merge with the meteors in the sky. It represents her imagination.

A headdress of dreams

A headdress of dreams ©Mary Price 2015

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New painting from old

Sometimes looking at an old painting that you never really liked is a great opportunity to reinvent and start afresh without having to confront the scary blank canvas.

©Mary Price 2015

I had this garden painting hanging on the wall for ages but had never really felt that it was finished or ‘resolved’ with its two clumsy white spots, an excuse for introducing some tonality to the blue meadow inspired imagery.

©Mary Price 2015

So I took it into the shed and started to paint over it in warm contrasting colours to see what I could do to refresh and renew and make something beautiful out of something I had fallen out of love with.

Sticking with the intuitive process that has dominated my art this year especially, I kept at it, adding colours and marks with varying tools to arrive at a stage where the original painting had not disappeared but provided a backdrop for some new exciting things to emerge and start happening.

©Mary Price 2015

Slowly I began to see the outline of a face suggested in the marks and I worked with this. 

©Mary Price 2015

The meadow of the original painting was still there in essence so I started to think about how I could incorporate the two elements to create a figure immersed in landscape. The headdress morphed several times, at one point a bird was flying out of it, but I preferred the organic flowery, feathery, meadow suggestions and brought these kinds of imagery into sharper focus. 

©Mary Price 2015

I’m learning the power of tonal depth, something that my colourful offerings have lacked so much in the past. Flora Bowley showed me how what she calls value contrast adds to the overall cohesiveness of a painting. For this painting deepening the outline of the figure and introducing translucence to the dress has I think brought some tonal contrast to colour explosion that is her headdress.

©Mary Price 2015

My subliminal inspiration for this painting is a vintage 1970s print bought in a charity shop, some photos that I took on a trip to Bali about 30 years ago and drawings of meadows in Branscombe. I love how different aspects of life and memory can impact on how a painting becomes what it is. There are also shades of inspiration from Girl with a pearl earring by Vermeer.



I will be getting prints done of this painting for sale in my Etsy shop in the near future.

Girl with meadow headdress – mixed media on canvas

Woman with Meadow Head dress 2015 ©Mary Price 2015