Jerusalem Artichoke Flowers
oil on canvas
99.6 x 73 cm
In "Jerusalem Artichoke Flowers" by Claude Monet, the brushstroke is very obvious. Especially in the petals of the flowers, each curved line can be clearly seen. Many marks are simple fat strokes of color while others are thin, high-energy movements. In terms of color, the yellow of the flowers is brought out in the background of the painting. The background looks like it is layers over layers, with yellows, blues, pinks, oranges, and whites. It reads as overall a pale blue, which I think helps tie it to the blue-green leaves of the plant, and helps to ground the plant in the space. The subtle yellows and oranges in the background also emphasize the color in the flowers themselves. The composition is rather simple, just being a plant placed in the center of the painting, but the dynamic brushstroke and lighting help add movement. There is a subtle shadow to the left of the plant and the reflections on the vase serve to guide the eye to the bottom left, and then back up to the flowers. Within the flowers, each petal and brushstroke leads the eye to a new one.
Sasanian period, 3rd century
Silver and gilt
21.0 x 6.2 cm
In the Sasanian bowl from the Freer/Sackler Gallery, you can see the impressions in the edges of the bowl in the waviness. It looks like something was pressed into it to create these ridges. On the image in the center, the main "mark" is the short incisions pressed into the surface to create the man's beard and hair. Sculpture obviously has surface, as it is 3-D, and in this one the surface is overall smooth but in the center is more detailed with deep incisions. Mark can be seen in sculpture by looking at, well, marks in the surface. Examining these can often help the viewer imagine how the sculptor moved the medium to create the surface that they did.
http://www.asia.si.edu/collections/edan/object.php?q=fsg_S1987.108&bcrumb=true - you can also see mark in this piece, in the border around the creature and the hatching within it. The mark is short and pressure varies, with a heavy beginning and a light ending.
Cold Mountain 2
Oil on linen
274.5 x 266.4 cm
Finally, in "Cold Mountain 2" by Brice Marden, the mark is full of action. Initially, it looks like it is just paint dripped over a canvas, but it looks more like it was dripped and then dragged across the canvas. Color is rather simplistic. It's an offwhite background with black and white paint. I can't tell if there is blue paint used or if the photograph just makes the black and white layers look blue. It creates an interesting contrast, nonetheless, between the warm white background and the cool white marks. The black behind them also helps to tie them into the rest of the painting. The mark itself looks smooth and effortless while the shapes it creates look very stiff and uncomfortable in places, though freeflowing in others. Line is most emphasized in this work as it is only a painting of lines.
Kristin Hines - Student artist at Maggie L. Walker Governor's School