Thursday, July 09, 2009

Back on track with the Life Class

What a relief today's life class on Channel 4 was compared to yesterday.

At last - a tutor (Judy Purbeck) who is both an artist and somebody who has previously taught life drawing (for the last 9 years). She knew exactly how to talk to people wanting to learn in the right sort of way.

No more eulogies about how wonderful the body is and lots more practical pointers about actual drawing and why joining a life class is a good thing to do if you want to learn how to draw!

Two five minute quickies from Life Class Channel 4
pencil on heavy cartridge paper
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

She even uttered the immortal line which was the one which originally got me switched on to life drawing many years ago.
If you can draw a figure from life then you can draw anything.
Here are my efforts from today. Two quickies of 5 minutes each and one longer one which I guess was about 12 minutes.

Ken Fahey - Life Class with Judy Purbeck, Channel 4(12 minutes)
pencil on heavy cartridge paper
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Here's what she highlighted and did right - from my perspective. You do realise I'm taking notes and drawing at the same time! ;)
  • she talked about why it's important to start with quickies. She explained that are like the warm up exercises you do before you start to exercise properly at a gym. They're necessary to be able to exercise hand/eye coordination
  • she made the distinction between different sorts of drawings - what you can expect to get done in a quick drawing and what you might be doing in a longer drawing. For example, she indicated she'd expect more formal measurement to be something associated with a longer drawing. Shorter drawings were about recognising beginning to form and tonal variation - as she demonstrated with the drawing she did.
  • she emphasised anatomy - talking about the line of the spine and the shape of the head in relation to the first two quick poses. This began to make me feel like this was a lady who had taught very many people before.
  • she indicated tonal variation and how best to see tone (squint!)
  • she talked about the importance of observation. She created a long pose which was one which challenged our concepts of how the body worked and the size and shape of different parts of the body. She then talked through the different lines and aspects which might be highlighted by a drawing. She emphasised the need to draw what you see and not what your brain thinks it knows is there.
  • she demonstrated complete understanding of and respect for the job of a life model. It was nice to see her check with the model that the pose was OK for him before she started. In addition she highlighted that very few people can stay still for a long time and that life drawing is a sort of relationship or partnership between model and artist. (A quick aside - one of the best models I ever had was somebody who practiced yoga and who used to meditate while posing!).
  • She highlighted the importance of finding your own style and how that comes in time. She explained how in every life class, everybody will draw the same model and every drawing will be completely different.
  • she also highlighted the main benefit of attending a life class on a regular basis - which is that you begin to make a lot of progress if you attend on a regular basis. It's the practice that makes the difference.
  • Finally one of the things I liked best about this class is she remembered the student drawing at home. For example, she signaled to the people drawing exactly how much time people had left - at the right time.
Just look at the number of pointers I've been able to reproduce from notes and memory. This was an artist who really did behave like the sort of good tutor you can get in a life class.

It's such a contrast to yesterday's programme It's getting embarrassing in the Life Class! and the many comments that generated.

Here's an extract from one of my comments from yesterday
I'm quibbling with the word 'CLASS' in 'Life Class'

If the word was 'drawing' as in 'life drawing' then the issues about the model and the tutor yesterday would have been more incidental.

However the programme is billed thus

"This week-long series gives viewers an opportunity to learn to draw through five half-hour nude life drawing classes, one a day, with access to a renowned artist tutor in each."

The point is that these classes are about learning to draw - facilitated by a tutor - somebody who knows how to teach and what's required of models in a teaching situation.

Besides having regard for the life model as a professional we also need to have regard for the profession of teaching.

While any artist as an individual can choose to draw anybody willing to sit for him or her, in a class you expect professional models to be used. They are an integral and very important part of the whole learning process.

Similarly, let's not underestimate the importance of teaching as a profession. You can't teach adults in a publicly funded adult education class now unless you're qualified to do so.

So why not use a tutor who is both qualifield and used to teaching adults and used to talking to people who are learning how to draw?
Comment from It's getting embarrassing in the Life Class!
The programme today completely addressed the point I was making which arose out of the content of yesterday's programme

Interestingly, somebody emailed me yesterday to thank me for highlighting the Life Class programme. Notwithstanding all the problems which existed in relation to yesterday's programme, yesterday this individual picked up a pencil and began to draw again - and feel enthusiastic about drawing - for the first time in ages. That really made my day! :)

Note: More about Judy Purbeck
Judy Purbeck has been teaching life drawing since January 2000. She has an M.A. in Drawing in Fine Art Practice from Wimbledon College of Art and a B.A. Hons in Fine Art from Brighton Polytechnic (now the University of Brighton). She is also a practising artist specialising in drawn portraits and in clothed figure drawing.
Find out about her classes at LifeDraw

Here's the link to the last programme this week - Series 1, Episode 5 - the tutor is John Berger (in a dance studio in Paris)

My drawings can be be found in Life Class, Channel 4. I've had to remove the link to the Group Pool as the drawings are not being moderated and the Group Admin appears to be asleep.

Plus I've now moved A Making A Mark Guide: Life Drawing and Life Class to my Making A Mark website. You can now read it on the website without downloading it.

Making a Mark reviews......


Anonymous said...

Notice that there have been some complaints about nudity on daytime television!
What would your views be on this?
As a country we seem to get hung up about this sort of thing!

Making A Mark said...

Have there been? I haven't seen any. Where did you see them?

However if the Group Admin of the Flickr Pool doesn't wake up and pull out the proverbial digit very soon I shall be certainly be complaining about some of the images being allowed into the Group Pool on Flickr. Being spammed by teenage P**n artists was entirely predictable and hence the group pool needs to be monitored very closely - and it appears that's not happening.

I'm on the verge of deleting my images from the pool.

So far as Channel 4 is concerned I personally think the filming could have been edited a little bit more carefully to avoid complaints.

The major hoot is the adverts in the breaks. It's obvious who the advertising people have decided who's watching!

chrisbellinger said...

If you go to, which is a Yahaoo page, there is a whole heap of comments. and the original article.

Making A Mark said...

Correction - I have deleted my images from the group pool

I've also removed the link from all my posts.

Making A Mark said...

Gosh - what a storm in a teacup! It's not going on anywhere else to my knowledge.

However attempts at p**n I very definitely draw a line at. My drawings will not now be appearing alongside the sort of art which usually decorates the books of 13 year old boys (or looks like something done by Tracy Emin for that matter!)

My main complaint about the timing is that it excludes people who work who might want to draw and aren't very good at remembering to set their timers to record!

bvpainter said...

I must agree with you, Judy was really good, compared to the awful Garry Hume.

If you live in south east London, there is a two day life class starting next Wednesday at the Thomas Calton Centre in Peckham. Run by Southwark it is very cheap, with an excellent tutor. It is on next Wednesday and the following Wednesday.

Anonymous said...

Katherine, I want to add my gratitude for writing about these life-drawing classes. I live in the US and you would never see that kind of stuff on TV. We only have trash on TV. I wish I could view this program.

Yes she sounds like a vary good instructor. I'm impress by the professionalism that comes out in the description. I had an instructor who had also been a life-drawing model in the past. So, on rare occasions the model wouldn't show up, and he would jump in and be a vary good model for us.

Another thing about starting out with short sketches or warming up is so we have time to focus our mind. We have to move out of our right brain that we have been using throughout the day.

Nice hatch work. Lines and hatches have never been my strong point. So chiaroscuro has become my forte'.

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