Held - Portraits.jpg

For the longest time I believed it was the face that {Held} me captive but the more I walk this journey of painting faces, the more I realise it is more about finding the emotion in each face and capturing it.

It is the emotion that that keeps me coming back for more.  I am intrigued as to how emotion can come out of my brush and get mingled in with my paint and trapped on my canvas.  Trapping this emotion helps me find the story in each piece.   I am captivated by this moment and this intention and I want to know more about what that emotion is inside of me.

I do completely believe we all have the ability to tap into our own wells of emotion and bring it out onto our canvases.  I know this is not just true for me as there has been a measure of healing for a lot of people in this process.  When you allow yourself to paint through your pain, joy and emotions, you start to recognise and come to know those familiar feelings that were perhaps trapped deep inside.

I love how working in the Creative allows us to be the conduits to what needs to come forward.  It is actually a very powerful tool to use in processing deep thoughts and deeper emotions.

Working Small

There are incredible benefits to working small.

It is not working from left brain to right that helps us tap into our creative side, but when we train our brains to work in and out from big picture to small that does.  This process is called Neoplasty.

It is excellent creative training for our brains.


Working small has completely changed the way I paint.  It helped me find the finer details and I have become a more expressive painter.  Painting on small teabags and clothing tags gave me the confidence to experiment and be freer with the paint in confined spaces.  I cannot explain how exactly.  Maybe it had to do with the canvas being small enough to let go and still feel safe.  It was easier to be generous and to load my brush with paint and work it around.  I do highly recommend learning this skill.

What you need to begin:

Paint List

  • Payne's Grey mixed with Raw Umber, Red Oxide, Titan Buff 
  • Stretched Canvas 6"x4"
  • Clear Gesso / Gel Medium
  • Ephemera

Brush List

  • Princeton Catalyst Filbert #2
 I have a story - 6"x4" Stretched Canvas

I have a story - 6"x4" Stretched Canvas


Lesson 1 - Emotional Portraits... Working small

Music - Hide & Seek - Gareth Dunlop, Let me in - Gabrielle Aplin, The Writer - Ellie Golding

Working BIG

There are incredible benefits to working big too.

There is much to be learnt about proportion when working big.  It was often something I got wrong.  If you find this is the case for you, then I do recommend squaring up your canvas.  I have done this many times to help me find my way.


What you will need to begin:

  • Perm Red Light & Venetian Rose
  • Titan Buff / Warm Grey
  • Raw Umber / Paynes Grey
  • Ivory White / Titantum White
  • Stretched Canvas - in Portrait
  • Brown Stabilo All Marks & white NeoColor

Brush List

  • Square Flat Brush Large
  • Princeton Catalyst Filbert #2
  • Raphael Round Point #1




Lesson 2 - Emotional Portraits, Working BIG - Drawing

Music - Weekends - Amy Shark, Adore - Amy Shark


Lesson 2 - Emotional Portraits, Working BIG - Painting Face

Music - I Can't Make You Love Me_Nick of Time - Bon Iver, Beach Baby - Bon Iver, Holocene - Bon Iver, Wash - Bon Iver

I used my white NeoColor to draw in some of the details on the collar.

Intuitive Portraiture

Intuitive portraiture is a good practice

 For this example I used different art supplies just to mix it up a little.  It is all part of creative play and trying new things to bring about different outcomes.


What you will need to begin:

Supply list

  • Black Gesso
  • White Gesso / Warm Grey paint
  • Stabilo Woodys - black/white/gold
  • Canvas board - in landscape

Brush List

  • Princeton Catalyst Filbert #4
  • Princeton Catalyst Filbert #2
 WoodyStabilos - gorgeous ink trapped in wood.

WoodyStabilos - gorgeous ink trapped in wood.


Lesson 3 - Intuitive Portrait in Gesso

Music List - Ruth Fazal Collection

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The Selfie Age

We are living in the Age of Selfies yet for most of us, this is not a comfortable space.  I know for me, I had to learn the skill in not only taking pictures of myself but mostly in accepting what I found in the capture.  On the most part it is only something I started making peace with in my 40's.  Our mobile phones changed the game and so did the invention of filters and apps.  Thank goodness.

It made it an art form in itself.

What it gave me was the ability to look at myself and find beauty and creativity in my face, that I at times found hard to look at.  It helped me to find me in myself by not only looking at the outside but finding the emotional meaning behind the face too.

It was about the study of self and it was about introspection.


Not only have I always been afraid to capture myself on camera but on canvas too.  I have been practising this skill over the past two years and have been learning to recognise and accept myself and my specific features.

 For example... my big wide set eyes, my full mouth and my own shaped nose.

How do you get to look so closely and not judge or criticise oneself?

It is a beautiful journey of self discovery and humility in being able to lovingly look at yourself, where you are right now and capture that in this very moment, with dignity and grace.


Lesson 4 - Painting SelfPortrait

Music - Dreaming - Jasmine Thompson, Shutters - Hayden Calnin, Equation - Hanz Zimmer & Camille, The Port of Entry - Harry Escott & Molly Nyman, Sometimes - Goldmund, Bronte - Gotye, Home - Gabriella Aplin, Better Part of Me - Gareth Dunlop



The dark truth about ageing...

Is that she comes for all of us. And when she's ready, she's swift - to claim our skin, our hair and her ultimate prize - our youth.  It's what makes us all equal, the same.  Learning to embrace the new depth that she leaves me with and in that, finding its own kind of beauty in my same but different face.


Finding Emotional Tenderness


Intuitive Referenced Portraiture

Sometimes I am inspired by the strangest things for my paintings.  I never know where it's going to lead me but I am always a little delighted by the outcome.  I was so deeply moved by this sculpture and the emotion captured in his gestures and that I wanted to see if I could interpret it in my paint.

Although my drawing looks a little scary, I know I am captivated by her eye.  I don't mind how much she transitioned during the painting process because the main thing I wanted to hold on to was the emotion I was feeling there in my draw up.  It felt part of the story she was trying to tell me.

What you will need to begin:

Supply list

  • Brown Stabilo All Marks
  • Red Oxide / Red Light Perm / Venetian Rose
  • Titan Buff / Ivory White / Titanium White
  • Payne's Grey / Prussian Blue / Light Kings Blue
  • Yellow Ochre / Naples Yellow
  • Raw Umber / Olive Green
  • Stretched canvas in Portrait

Brush List

  • Largish flat square
  • Princeton Catalyst Filbert #4
  • Princeton Catalyst Filbert #2
  • Raphael Round Point #1

Working with a large big brush promotes expressive work.  I hope you will try that.


Lesson 5 - Emotional Portrait (Drawing up)

Music - Sleep Alone - Bat for Lashes


Lesson 5 - Emotional Portrait (Painting Face)

Music - Save Yourself - Birdy, Lost Stars - Kiera Knightley, Shutters - Hayden Calnin, Under the Same Sun - Ben Howard, Sometimes - Goldmund, Strange Birds - Birdy


Lesson 2 - Emotional Portrait - the art of painting flowers

MusicUndun Hulu - Ólafur Arnalds


Lesson 5 - Emotional Portrait - the art of painting an interesting hand

Music - Glass - Bat for Lashes, Promise - Ben Howard, Deep End - Birdy

Studying the reference helped me find a direction mixed between reference and Intuitive.  It definitely helped me find my way.  I keep redefining my lines and proportions, pushing and pulling between my lights and darks until the hand emerged.  It is only in the deep layers of paint that I manage to finally find the hand.

Bonus Lessons

This section will be about sharing odds and ends with you, things that have helped me, like little secrets and little things I do. Some of the videos will be of me chatting quietly and sharing my thoughts while I paint and others will just be with music.

The past few months I have been painting faces with slightly open mouths and exposing some teeth.  I think there is a gentle balance here... and I have the same feeling about painting finger nails.

That being said, I am loving painting these mouths and they are adding new emotion to my pieces.  It is easier than you think and I hope you find Bonus Lesson 1 helpful.


BONUS Lessons 1 - Painting teeth

Music - Reminiscence - Ólafur Arnalds & Alice Sara Ott

Paint - Red Perm Light, Venetian Rose, Titan Buff, Ivory White

NeoColors to the rescue

I seldom throw artworks away, no matter how bad they are.   I hang onto them and I rescue the canvas.  I use the abandoned pieces for practice or as under-paintings.  Maybe there is something about not being attached to the outcome that usually frees me up to find something more beautiful in the abandoned mess.  It frees me up to experiment and play.   I once held onto a canvas for 7 years and I reworked it and played on it two or three times a year.  This year I finally found my painting and I sold her in October.  

 I struggled with this piece since February and I eventually found my face now in October.  I revisited it so many times but nothing was working and that's okay.

Sometimes when I am stuck on a piece, I turn to my Neocolors to help me find my way.


Bonus Lesson 2 - NeoColors to the Rescue

Music - Lag Fyrir Ömmu - Ólafur Arnalds

Paint - Red Oxide, Paynes Grey, Venetian Rose, Titan Buff, Vermillion & White Neocolors

Calming Magnolias


Bonus Lesson 3 - Painting Magnolias

Music - After the Storm - Mumford & Sons, Fade into You - Mazzy Star,  Sarajevo - Max Richter

Paint - Yellow Oche, Paynes Grey, Titanium White, Olive Green

Expressive Hands

I shared this video in my Hands class as a bonus video.  I decided to share it here too, in case you missed that.  Adding hands to your work brings so much more to your pieces.


Bonus Lesson 4 - Painting Expressive Hands

Music - Lost Song - Ólafur Arnalds, Þú Ert Jörðin - Ólafur Arnalds, Reminiscence - Ólafur Arnalds & Alice Sara Ott

My love for portraiture combined with paint feels like magic to me.

Now that we have mastered emotional portraits, we can start moving towards adding more faces to our pieces and start adding the art of storytelling to our work.