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When you open your art journal or sketchbook, do ever freak out at the sign of a blank page? Getting started is one of the hardest things, and we’re often blocked by feelings of perfectionism and a desire to nail it. This can come from having ideas that don’t match our current skill set or wanting to make something that others will value. If you have this feeling, it’s completely normal. You likely know that, but it doesn’t make getting started any easier, does it?

Maybe we want to make the right marks, create a gorgeous art journal, and make work that we’re proud of. Of course, amazing things don’t usually come out that on the first go. Making mistakes, messes, and visual garbage are actually necessary to reach an idea that we want to celebrate and share with the world. 

This experimental art prompt is designed to help. It takes the guess work out of perfect starts, forces us to make a mark without worrying about it too much, and it’s playful. This last word is key. When we play, we open ourselves up to countless ideas without worrying too much about the outcome. Process over product and all that jazz.

So, here we go with painting or drawing 50 different vertical lines…

Try this with your child, students, or on your own. Honestly, we can all enjoy the freedom of playing with art materials.

The set-up is simple: Gather as many mark-making art supplies as you can. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Media

  • markers
  • pencils
  • charcoal
  • watercolor paint
  • acrylic paint
  • tempera paint
  • permanent marker
  • tempera paint stick
  • gel crayon
  • finger paint
  • dirt
  • tea
  • coffee
  • crayon
  • chalk
  • oil pastel
  • colored glue

Tools 

  • twigs
  • paint brushes
  • sponge
  • feathers
  • popsicle stick
  • fork
  • fingers
  • string

Next, set up all your supplies next to apiece of paper or sketchbook. Then, without worrying too much about outcome, start making vertical lines.

Making 50 DIFFERENT marks is harder than I thought. I ended up going with a goal of filling the page, but after counting it looks like I surpassed 50 mark!

As I got going, I had to hunt around for more tools like the fork and feather because I was running out of ideas, but the marks seemed to get more and more interesting as I pushed deeper into the exercise.

Go ahead and give this a try, and let me know how it goes. I imagine you’ll find that this warm up will give you fresh ideas, get you out of any perfectionist thoughts, and open you up to new ideas.