• Orla Stevens

Mark Making


The beginning of a new mini-notes series, workshop announcement and new teeeeeee's!


I’ve been thinking lots about what I’m drawn to, and what I notice in my life. I wanted to start a written notes mini-series exploring some of the important parts of my work; mark-making, colour, shape and pattern/rhythm. There are bound to be more down the line, but for now in my practice, these are what I’ve been concentrating on - using them to think, feel and communicate experiences, memories, sounds, music and places in my art.


In this post, I wanted to share some notes on mark-making: how I use lines and textures to draw, and why mark-making is at the root of what I do. Colour deserves a whole post for itself; I’ll write a follow up piece diving into that topic next.




Making Marks


Creating art, walking and being outside are some of my favourite things. That, eating Vietnamese food, an ice cold beer or jumping in a loch. If you’ve been following along with my practice for a while now, you’ll most likely know that - and share in some of my passions too.



Camping & Sketching in Assynt, Scotland


Through practicing art, I’ve learned to see and hear the world differently to how I used to. Making images and designing projects has allowed me to communicate with people all over the world. It’s let me understand myself better, and meet some brilliant people along the way. I think most importantly, making art has helped me see the world and nature around me closely, notice the details and realise the importance of play and sharing. After all, art for me is about people, fun, community and discovery.

'Care Blanket' - Discovering shapes on a Walk


When I think back to the beginning of my ‘formal’ art & design training, it all started with a simple stick of charcoal. Simplifying the world back to the dynamic contrast of earthy black on a white page. The task was to explore the amazing range of drawing achievable with such a humble tool. A fine crisp line. Something soft and smudgy. A wide rectangle, or the ebb and flow from thick to thin, as the various edges dance across the page. I’m always chasing this contrast in my work, exploring hard meets soft, fast meets slow, gentle meets aggressive. It’s through mark making I’ve begun to explore and access such contrasts, which map together to guide the mood and energy.


Expanding out from the trusty charcoal stick, I’ve played with all sorts of tools and processes on the quest to explore contrasting marks, lines and textures: Experimenting in sketchbooks and paintings with everything from sponges to sticks, drawing with other paintings, DIY printmaking methods, recycling bin goodies, stamps, textiles, ’borrowed’ kitchen cutlery and baking tools. The list goes on. It’s this range of marks and textures which build up to a quiet language of sorts, each tool or movement linked to an association, so I know what to reach for, when chasing a feeling during the improvisation of a painting.


Drawing to sounds of the Landscape with Charcoal - Workshop


Mark Making & Experimental Drawing Workshop


From all of these experiments and learnings, I’ve collected some of my favourite processes to share in workshop-form. If you’d like to discover some of my processes and approaches to drawing - in the least intimidating meaning of the word! - I’d love for you to join me on the 6th November for the first of two workshops to be held at Made in Stirling in November. A past attendee told me that she wasn’t sure she could draw, but make a mark? For sure that’s manageable. That’s exactly it!

The class lasts an afternoon, 1-4pm and is £50 including materials. The aim is to have fun, generate new ideas of what drawing can be, and leave having a whole host of inspiration to take forward in your own work. The processes are applied to a landscape context for the sake of the workshop, but can be taken forward in any application you love! Classes as always are designed for all stages of artist. They are spaces to deliberately make mistakes, share ideas and explore in a welcoming environment. These exercises and mixed media processes have formed the foundation of my painting and drawing practice. If it sounds good, you can book a space here:






Painting in Progress - Making Large Scale Marks on a Mural



Collage, Screen Printing and Stencils


Pushing myself to build upon my go-to processes (the ones I will be covering in my workshop) I’d like to pay a mention to the inspiration of collage, stencils and screen printing processes in my work this year. I’ve been thinking about these processes in a fresh light. They have been helping me develop and exercise the use of control, to push how I use contrasts of marks. The positive/negative space these processes give: leftover shapes from a stencil, scraps from a collage, misprints from a blocked screen, have all been feeding in to my work.

Screen Print - Sea Mither Wall Hanging



The pulls of colours and controls of line and texture achievable in screen printing has been offering a space for simplification. After years of maximalist experimentation: chasing textures and marks with a wild abandon, in a fury of energy to ‘get it all out’ on the page - As though creativity is going to run away from me, has started to slow down a bit. I don’t know if its a shift in taste, age, or just a search for something new, but I’ve begun to value quiet and simplicity more. Maybe because life is more complicated. Maybe it’s a confidence thing, and less really can be and mean more, when you have the space for it, and belief in it. All this to say, simple and rudimental screen printing and collage has been offering me a way to access that space and simplification. Pull it back to the early days of simplicity - charcoal against white paper, the line and the space and not much more. Finding a balance or contrast between maximalism and minimalism, simplicity and complex, thick and thin, control versus freedom. I’m enjoying the challenge of finding balance using different processes to achieve these qualities; an ongoing exploration for sure.


Collage & Screen Print Inspired Works


New T - Shirts


Today (Friday 7th October, 2022) I’ve launched my first (ever!!!) series of screen printed T-Shirts, which are available to order via Print Social. The three artworks I chose to run have been exploring this space for simplicity, pulling back to screen printed stencil shapes and charcoal lines. The artworks were born from an ongoing series of paintings I’m working on, which illustrate how to enjoy nature, see more and notice what’s around you.


Collecting treasures is an ode to gathering little mementos from a beach, forest or trail - maybe a stone, pine cone or twig that get gets pocketed and placed on a shelf back home to remind you of your adventure.

Collecting Treasures - White tee



Setting Sun Never Fading - a bright glow of many memories walking by the coast, looking out over the fading light.




Setting Sun Never Fading - White Tee


Walk More Worry Less is a phrase that popped into my head in early 2022, a new years aim of sorts. On the whole, it’s helped me motivate myself to get out and about, so here it is inscribed under your very own path.



Walk More Worry Less - White Tee


These T Shirts are available for a very limited time only, and are screen printed on demand. After their 30 days sale run is up, the orders are counted. If the minimum order of 5 tee’s is met, then the design goes to print. Should a design not meet the minimum quantity order, you get your money back, plain and simple! This is not only great for me; avoiding the tricky question of creating the right quantity of stock, sizing and colour ways. It’s great, because it avoids waste and over production. It’s an affordable way of creating work, for both artist and art enthusiast. Although it means no next day delivery or super speedy turn around, it means a more sustainable and less wasteful way of producing clothing, which I’m sure you can agree is a good thing!

Printed on organic cotton unisex tee’s, each design is available on a range of base colours. £20 each + p&p. Orders can be placed until 4th November at 7.30pm.




Some Colour Variations





If you know someone that’d enjoy attending a workshop, like to wear one of the new t-shirt designs, or enjoy reading this notes section as it develops - I’d really appreciate it if you can share a link with a friend. Word of mouth is by far the best way of sharing meaningful information! If there is anything you’d like to me to write about, or any questions burning to do with art, process, nature, Scotland, freelancing etc, please let me know in a message or email.



As ever, thank you for taking the time to read these words. If you’d like to keep up to date with writing, events and new work releases, I’ll be spending more quality time over here in my notes section and regular newsletter. I hope to develop it into a useful, slower and more interesting platform to share my practice.