I had the privilege of attending an Emily Ball workshop last weekend at Cambridge Artworks. I’d been a fan of Emily’s work since picking up her book Drawing and Painting People – a fresh approach some years ago. Even though I prefer landscape painting, her emphasis on mark-making and developing your own visual language really struck a chord with me; I’d been aware of the need to develop and extend my own mark-making for some time. So when the opportunity was presented to me by an artist friend, I leapt at the chance.
There were ten of us all together, from different backgrounds and artistic experience, and we were worked very hard by Emily, eventually, I think I can say, producing very different work to our normal output over the three days.
Emily showed us how to unpick and reinvent the familiar, inventing our own marks to animate our work, till eventually the painting takes on a life of its own apart from the subject.
Some of the fun exercises included one I called ‘Hangman’, after the old pen on paper game. We were put into teams of two and took it in turns – one would make a mark on a large sheet of paper, the other would then step forward and add their own mark, relating to, reacting to, or obliterating part of our own mark; leading to much friendly cursing and wails as our ‘precious’ marks were changed beyond our control.
Emily was very generous with her time and materials and it was a pleasure and privilege to learn directly from her. She runs courses from the Seawhite premises where she has her studio as resident artist, as well as at locations abroad. I’d urge you to check them out.
The three day weekend workshop was full-on, tiring but thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying. Typically generously, we were each given one of her inspiring books at the end.