The visual language of paint with Emily Ball

Ref: S4D32343

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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

The act of painting helps you see and feel more connected to being in the present. It is a very practical, physical and tactile activity. Surpisingly, it can also evoke very sensitive, emotional and sometimes visceral responses from both the artist and viewer. How extraordinary that blobs of pigment, surface and placement can have this impact. On this course, we push into this and explore what paint, tools, gestures and our personal experience offer to help us develop a daring, rich and versatile approach to working with the visual language of paint.

If you love the stuff of paint, then this course will expand your repetoire of mark-making and love of the materials. It will also make you aware of many more beautiful physical qualities that are in every subject you engage with. Observation is one of the senses that we use to help gather information to paint from, but we also experience the world around us through sound, touch, taste and smell. You will explore using some of these other senses to help you generate a visual language.

This is a very practical course where you will experiment with either oil or acrylic paint (both together if you wish), with glazing, layering, inventing, celebrating what the paint can do, and embodying your experience using the paint’s texture, fluidity, colour, ability to layer, showing the history of previous explorations and discoveries.

The tutor will provide exercises, demonstrations, inspiration and subject matter for this course. The subject for the paintings will be inspired by a mixture of memory, words, objects and sensations. During the course, you will:

• Work by adding mediums to the paint to aid; polishing, glazing, pouring to explore the subtle delicacy and veils that paint can offer

• Work with thick, textured paint, sculptural impasto to explore a visceral physical surface

• Explore editing – inserting space back into a busy painting, excavating, redefining

• Learn how to improvise and invent using playful processes

• Explore compositions and working in series

• Write to use descriptive language as a focus and prompt to paint from

By the end of the course, you will have made many experimental studies and begun a series of paintings. You will feel more courageous and knowledgable about the materials and how to begin working in a series to explore a subject more fully.

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 watercolours), brushes, rags, mediums (no white spirit or turps are allowed in the studio. For oils, we use studio safe solvent such as Zest-it or Shellsol as a thinner.)
  • 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)
  • Studio safe solvent (such as Zest it)
  • Acrylic mediums/glazing agents (your tutor recommends that you do not thin the paint with water, but, instead, add acrylic medium, also have a 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 to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good variety of art materials, including drawing media such as charcoal, pencils, rubbers, pens, pastels, sketchbooks, paper, etc.
  • A good selection of oil and acrylic paints in a wide range of colours, canvases and boards, brushes, palettes, studio safe solvent, acrylic mediums/glazing agents and retarder, masking tape and bulldog clips
  • Available from tutor:
  • The tutor will bring lots of paper that can purchased on the course.

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio. This includes stout covered footwear, i.e. no open-toes or sandals.


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 until 9pm, 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)

General Information


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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Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.