101 Faces Project


Gouache, Handcut Lettering on Printed Copy Paper (with original art), Washi Tape, Pen, and Printed Eyes (from Faces 101 worksheets) in Art Journal (A4 size)

Faces in art-making fascinate and terrify me at the same time. The same way projects like 100 Things excite and overwhelm me.

So, when I found out that Carla Sonheim, an artist and author I admire (and whose book I reviewed here), was holding a “live” online art class called Faces 101, I couldn’t resist signing up. The week-long class/art bootcamp started a couple of weeks ago, and I only just completed all the assignments. 

It was the first class I took with Carla and I really enjoyed it. There wasn’t a lot of instructions on the actual “how to draw a face”, but she did teach a lot of drawing and painting techniques. Some of the exercises can be found in her Drawing Lab book, but there were also a few things that I’ve picked up that were new.

I also love the fact that Carla took the time to comment on just about every single piece of work that I submitted in the Flickr group. And, she has a great teaching manner in her online videos. Also, the group that I was a part of had some really talented and nice people who were both inspiring and encouraging.

Faces 101 was definitely a blast – and totally worth the US$30. It was hard work, but I enjoyed the challenge. Especially when something like that end up pushing me to do things that I normally won’t do on my own.

Yes, I finished the class and completed 101 Faces (and then some)!

Some of my favourite “takes” from the class include:

Repetition is an art form!

I get bored easily, so I tend to take on a challenge once or twice, then I move on. But, in this class, I was challenged to do something several times over. Work on the same technique and/or subject 3, 4, 8, or even 10 times. Definitely not my usual way of doing things. That’s why there were moments when I groaned to myself, wondering if I can just do a shortcut or skip the assignment. But, I pressed on. Slightly tweaking occasionally, to help me push through things. But, for the most part, I kept at it. And, towards the end of the class, something clicked.  It particularly dawned on me when I was doing Face No. 93 (the only digital piece I did for the class):

Faces 101: Final 10 (2/10)

Sketched with Paper 53 app 

And I wrote:

“Amazing how much I remember, and can embellish, simply because I've been drawing the same image over and over, in different ways. Somehow, repetition makes it seem like you finally "own it". The image. The approach. The feel of the picture. This practice of repetition is probably one my biggest takes from this class.”

I was referring to these two earlier Japanese-inspired drawings/paintings:

Faces 101: Day 5 (Painting - Part 1)
Charcoal on Watercolour Paper (approx 5x7in each) 

Faces 101: Day 5 (Painting - Part 2)
Red Conte on Watercolour Paper (approx 5x7in. each) 

Faces 101: Final 10 (1/10)
Mixed Media on Recycled Cardboard with Gesso (approx. 4x4in) 

Create Freely and Loosely

When I force something to look a certain way… When I get frustrated at the imperfections… Then, I’m not really doing art the right way. At least, the kind of art that would make me happy.

Yes, I like to be stretched. I need to work on some areas of my art-making that I need to strengthen (my technical skills definitely need way more work!)… But, I also need to enjoy the things that seem to come more naturally to me. Art-making that makes me joyful and free.

In fact, there were times when I thought that I created certain pieces of art that were more technically sound, but those viewing a full set seem to like  the ones that “flowed” more for me. The ones that felt good to make. I found that really interesting.

Some of the pieces that I enjoyed creating and/or received some interesting responses include (you can click on the photos to learn more about the images + read any comments):

Faces 101: Day 2 (Painting)
Ink on Watercolour Paper or Graph Paper(approx 4x6 in each)

Faces 101: Day 3 (Drawing)
Black Watersoluble Crayon on White Cardstock

 Faces 101: Day 5 (Warm-up)
Mixed Media on Paper (Worksheet)

New Art Materials Are Awesome, But Sometimes, You Need to Make Do With What You Have.

I love new art materials.  Together with books, shoes, food, and gadgets,  I can easily become broke if I let myself loose in the shops (or online!). Seriously. My art and craft stash may not seem as huge as some I’ve seen, but I definitely have a sizable collection.

The beauty of taking an art class like this one with Carla is that I get to use some of the stuff that I never get to use. Just because I don’t enjoy them as much. An
d, when I start using them, I realise that there might be something in there that I may need to know more about so I can enjoy them better. In this class, for example, I’ve learned to enjoy charcoal and pastels a bit more. I doubt they’ll ever be my first choice, but I'm definitely considering to use them more often.

It’s also great to discover new art materials that I ended up buying and using (yep, took a trip to the art shops several times over the last couple of weeks). Or, learn about ones that end up on my wish list (I’m looking at you, pan pastels and watersoluble markers!).

Some of my favourite new discoveries include:

  • Copic markers - How come I only learned how wonderful these are?! Since I’m not a big fan of markers in general, I never thought about buying them before,  even though I’ve heard of many people raving about them over the last few years. In fact, during one of the exercises that recommended Copics (or any alcohol-based markers), I opted just to buy a similar marker of a different brand. Big Mistake! I definitely should’ve gone for the Copics. When I finally used these markers, I was IN LOVE. And, I’m now obsessed with the idea of growing my tiny collection. And of course, learning how to use them better.


  • Ink and Pipettes – Who knew that pipettes/droppers would make great painting/drawing instruments? I definitely didn’t know until I finally gave it a try. I mean, I’ve read about this method through Carla’s book a couple of years ago, but I didn’t give it a go until last week. And, I really like them. And, I probably will continue revisiting this technique.


  • Watersoluble Crayons – Well, okay, they’re not really new. I believe I got a small set of Caran D’Ache watersoluble markers after I read Carla’s book a couple of years back. And, I started using them before, but never really considered their potential until last week while doing this class. And now, I’m very very excited about them. I’m also hoping to grow my collection. However, I haven’t seen Caran D’Ache around in the art shops, but have found Derwent’s Art Bars (which are similarly lovely). 


Here’s a set where I used both ink and pipettes + Copic markers (my final two faces!):

Faces 101: Final 10 (9 & 10)

Ink and Copic Markers on White Cardstock (approx 5x7 in each)

Other things, with discoveries and "making do"...

Faces 101: Day 2 (Drawing)
Pens and Markers  on White Cardstock (A4 size)

Faces 101: Day 3 (Painting)
Ink and Watersoluble Crayons on White Cardstock

Learning to Do One Thing Can Come from Several Sources

While the Faces 101 class with Carla was my first proper attempt at drawing faces in a learning environment, I have been developing different drawing and painting skills over the years. And, I found that many of the things I’ve learned from other sources, I was able to bring in to this class.

Even while doing this course, a book I was reading called “How to Draw and Paint People” by Angela Gair (yes, it’s a kids’ drawing book!) was helpful. I also took an online video workshop with  Julie Fei-Fan Balzer called “All About Faces” recently and used some of what I learned there in some of my faces for this class. Like this one (drew/painted this one from imagination/memory, but very heavily influenced by Julie’s work):

Faces 101: Final 10 (3/10)

Anyway, apart from the lovely stylistic faces that Julie makes, probably one of my favourite inspiration from the video was the use of face stencils. I never would have considered doing this, had I not seen the possibilities when I watched this workshop. However, instead of using a pre-made/store-bought stencil (like the ones that Julie designed), I decided to make my own. And, use them to experiment.

So, from this pencil drawing:

Faces 101: Final 10 (4/10)

I ended up creating this face stencil using transparency and Hot Marks stencil cutter:

Faces 101: Final 10 (5/10)

Then creating these two paintings using the stencil and mixed media:

Faces 101: Final 10 (6/10)

Faces 101: Final 10 (7/10)


“Inspired Challenges” Spur Action

Yes, I’m definitely a project kind of girl. I do much better when I’m working towards a goal, especially when there are some set restrictions. It’s through those restrictions that I get to be more creative and exploratory. And, in my explorations, I enjoy encountering challenges. It highlights the things I need to work on.

Take drawing/painting my kids/family, for example. I love drawing/painting them, but I find it really hard to capture a good likeness. That’s why when my son and daughter challenged me to draw/paint them for this class, I took them on. And, while I’m not that happy with the outcomes, I’m glad I did it. I get closer and closer to figuring out what I’m doing wrong, so I can make them right. That’s why I hope to keep on going with such challenges…

Faces 101: Day 5 (Drawing - Part 1)

Faces 101: Day 5 (Drawing - Part 2)


I'm not sure if I’m any closer to finding “my style” when it comes to drawing and painting faces. This class helped me to explore different ways of finding out. And yes, I’m really, really glad that I completed this class. And that I have another “100 Things” list. Yay!

And, since I’m in a challenge/project mood, I decided to give myself a new one to do. But, that will be for a later blog post.

In the mean time, if you’re keen to see the full 101 Faces Set, do check out my Flickr account. That’s where I post most of the stuff I’ve been working on. 

About the Author Shai Coggins

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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