Continuing my exploration into drawing and painting the female figure and head, and trying to find unique and original ways of doing this, I have been taking lessons from UK artist, Emily Ball. She has an interesting way of working to capture the essence of whatever she is painting using unique mark-making. She talks about painting “the head” rather than painting “portraits” to emphasize this different way of painting and I love it!

For example, in the drawings here you will see I’m trying not to use any outlines but still trying to capture the unique attributes of my subjects – their expression, mood, presence. It’s challenging. How do you draw a mouth without the typical cartoon outline or a hyper-realistic approach?

Try pressing your lips together, moving your lips around. Feel the texture, the warmth. Our mouths are so expressive and constantly in motion. How do you capture that?

I learned how to paint realistically in oils years ago and since then have been finding different ways of painting landscapes that are uniquely mine and capture the impression and feeling of the open spaces I love.

With Emily Ball I’m learning a different way of painting portraits that feels far more like me than the realistic images I made in art school. I absolutely love learning and trying new things and since I discovered her last year, I’ve taken two of Emily’s online classes and studied her book, Drawing and Painting People.

The basic premise sounds deceptively simple but is really challenging and requires complete immersion in your subject to master. Remember that term, mindfulness? This practice requires being totally immersed in the present. Totally focused on the subject, whether it’s a landscape, a still life, or a person.

Here’s How I Do It:

You begin by actively studying and spending time with your subject. Then, begin making numerous sketches from different angles and viewpoints beginning with pencil and charcoal, (dirt from the ground if you’re doing a landscape), markers and pastels and paints. Try using different size and shape brushes, different things to make marks with. Make collections of marks, then play with the marks in different ways pushing tones, scale, texture, pressure, and whatever else you can think of.

Only once you’ve done all this work do you begin to work on a painting with an eye on composition and the possibility of creating a completed work. I like the idea of also writing about my subject and incorporating that writing into my work in some way.

So here are some examples of how I’ve been drawing and painting the female figure and face using these techniques. I’m not sure if any of them are actually completed but I’m excited about the new direction of my work. And I’m loving how my new skills are developing and can be applied to drawing and painting both female figures and faces and the landscapes I love so much.

If you’re interested in reading more about Emily Ball you can find her at I found her book on Amazon – Drawing and Painting People: A Fresh Approach by Emily Ball.

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