Monday, July 06, 2009

Review: 'Life Class - Today's Nude' on Channel 4

Matthew's back, Life Class with Maggi Hambling, Channel 4
all images pencil on heavy cartridge paper
all images copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The first of the Life Class programmes on Channel 4 kicked off this lunchtime (12.30pm) in Maggi Hambling's studio in Clapham. The idea is that you draw a model 'as if' in a life class - exceot you're viewing the model through your tekevision screen.

Here's a link to works by Maggi Hambling and a little bit about her from her website
Born in Suffolk in 1945, Maggi Hambling is a distinguished painter and sculptor whose work can be seen in the British Museum, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Collection, The Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon and many other public collections in the UK and abroad. Hambling is also represented in London by Marlborough Fine Art and IAP Fine Art.
This is how Channel 4 described her
Despite her wide range of subject matter, Hambling is commonly known for her portraits, which are expressionistic in nature and executed in bold oil and watercolours. Filmed at Hambling's bright, airy studio in Clapham, where she lives and works, her class features highly sought-after male life model Matthew Oghene.

Matthew Oghene is an incredibly well built chap who looked like he might be a bit of a body builder - he lots of very beautiful well rounded muscles. He also had the capacity to strike and hold a pose very well and I can well understand why he is sought after as a life model. Good models make all the difference in a life class.

Three 'quickies' Life Class with Maggi Hambling, Channel 4

We got through three quick poses and two slightly longer ones. The quickies were about the same sort of time as one might get in life class while the longer ones were not quite as long as "the short poses". Somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes. Those who've done life class will know what I mean.

What was really good was that when she talked she said sensible things - and that she didn't talk all the time. Halfway through drawing Matthew's back I felt as if I was in a real life class as it was so quiet! She also had some brief practical pointers - such as when setting up with an easel, set it up towards which ever side is your drawing hand (ie don't get the easel and your drawing arm in between you and what you're looking at). She also recommended charcoal as being the nearest thing to painting in dry media. She was using the very thick charcoal used for scenic art by stage designers.
Drawing from life is the best way of executing what the eye is seeing
Maggi Hambling
Profile of Matthew (5-10 minutes)

I updated yesterday's post with the details for the rest of the week. Here are the links again - for the rest of this week. It looks to me like they may be planning more than one series of these classes. There is also a Flickr group for drawings. This is the pool of drawings from life classes run in conjunction with the project and drawings done while watching the programme. They have a limit of one drawing per person per programme. [Update 9th July 2009 - 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.]

You can also see all the drawings I did today (and will do this week) in a new set on my Flickr account Life Class, Channel 4.

Just a reminder - this is a guide I put together a while ago for anybody contemplating taking a life class - A Making A Mark Guide: Life Drawing and Life Class


  1. Interesting idea for a TV show.
    Reality TV, minus movement!
    If you're wanting to get really serious about life drawing in my view there's no better practitioner, or teacher better than John Watkiss.
    He, as they say, has forgotton more than I will ever know!

  2. That's an interesting concept. I wonder if it will continue and how many people participate.

    It would be great to have something similar this side of the world, as I can never find a life class that is at the right time for me to participate.

  3. It looks fantastic! Unfortunately I can't play the clips over here in my 'space' as they call it (a.k.a. the US). Maybe someone will upload these to UK Nova? Or maybe I'll just have to watch as many as possible when I get over the pond in a few weeks.

    I'm glad you pointed them out - thank you!

  4. I've just finished watching Humphrey Ocean. His comments were very interesting, but I just cannot connect with his finished work. Maggi Hambling's work yesterday was terrific, and an example for all of us.

  5. I have to say I agree with you - but he was painting rather than drawing and as he said part way through you can't draw/paint life and talk at the same time!

    A sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with. I also boycott classes where the tutor doesn't understand how to talk quietly to students!

    I think they might have done better if they'd filmed the artist and then got them to do a voiceover.

  6. I must agree with Bernie. Why bother with a model when all you churn out is an unrelated daub? Even as a painted sketch it was rubbish. If any of the old masters who drew such brilliant sketches in red chalk had seen this, they would have fallen about laughing.

  7. Hi, Katherine

    Re. your comment on my blog, the BBC has caught up with the strange notion of nude models on TV. It's posted an interview with a life model on what it feels like to be naked in front of artists.

    A nude photo too! Whatever next from Auntie? Page 3 girls?


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