Painting - Subject Led

The visual language of paint with Emily Ball

Ref: S4D09402


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About this course

Through practical processes explore the concept of paint. Discover the vocabulary of mark-making, surfaces and consistencies that can be made with paint to make inspired and informed choices in your work.

Course Description

This course is for anyone wanting to add a fresh dimension to their painting. It will help you to create more content, connection and richness to your subject and paintings.

The tutor will introduce processes to help you explore paint as a medium of expression, and show you how it can become a rich visual language of its own. She will help you begin to recognise that the infinite array of marks, surfaces, consistencies that can be created with paint are your vocabulary. The richer the vocabulary, the more it gives back the richness of the subject you are exploring. You are then able to make a personal connection, a poetic response that goes more than skin deep into your sensibilities about the world around you and what matters to you, as well as create individual, beautiful and inspiring paintings.

"The paint can embody a subject and move beyond illustration and copying what you think you see. Rather than painting an idea, the painting evolves and becomes the idea." [EMILY BALL]

Using processes that call on the senses it is possible to create a visual language in connection to a subject that gives form to our experiences. Working in this way, exploring these possibilities, means that each painting you do feeds the next and getting stuck becomes a problem of the past.

During this course you will develop and extend your practice. Your subject matter will come from your immediate surroundings whilst at West Dean College. The tutor will guide you through how to make strong studies that you will then develop into paintings back in the studio. Throughout the course she will provide exercises and processes to develop your visual language. You can also expect plenty of one-to-one support. Using examples of her work and that of other artists the tutor will explain the processes involved and inspire you to develop your own work. You will be encouraged to share your insights and support each other. The course ends with a display of the work and group review.

By the end of the course you will leave armed with ideas and processes that you will be able to apply to any subject, and above all, that are personal to you. Do not expect to come away with finished work, rather regard it as an opportunity to explore and experiment. Have an open mind. The main objective is to give you the resources and courage to work alone, and to make informed judgments about your work when you are back in your own studio.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials

What students need to bring

  • Make sure you bring a big palette, perhaps a piece of Perspex or piece of Formica. You will need lots of space to mix colours.
  • Plastic pots with lids are useful to keep paint from drying up and keep them clean
  • Your preferred drawing media
  • Come armed with lots of paints (oils or acrylics not water colours), brushes, rags, mediums (no white spirit or Turps are allowed in the studio. For oils we use either Zest It or Shellsol as a thinner).
  • Anything you have from the list below.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good selection of oil or acrylic paints
  • A good selection of canvases (you will need three canvases or boards of the same dimensions as you will be working in series)
  • Brushes
  • Perspex sheet palette (50 x 50 cm)
  • Zest it (or other safe alternative)
  • Acrylic mediums/glazing agents (the tutor recommends that you do not thin the paint with water but instead add acrylic medium, and also have retarder to slow down the drying time. Glazing agents can be good too)
  • Drawing media (can include charcoal, rubber, oil sticks, felt tip pens)
  • Masking tape
  • Bulldog clips
  • Available from tutor:
  • The tutor will bring lots of paper that can be purchased on the course.


Emily Ball

Emily Ball trained at Exeter and Surrey Universities and is director and tutor of Emily Ball at Seawhite Studio. Her book Painting and Drawing People - A Fresh Approach was published in 2009.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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