Michael Sandle: Life drawing masterclass

Tate invited well-known artists to teach a life drawing masterclass

Warning: Contains nudity

In this film Michael Sandle explores precise observation with his students, asking them to cast aside expression, feeling and movement, while focusing purely on 'what's there in front of them.' The classes are from the Reimagining the Line course at Tate Modern, part of an on-going Tate research project about the impact of art education on artistic production.

Classes in the series were led by Michael Sandle, Derek Boshier, Eileen Hogan, Bill Woodrow, and Christopher Le Brun.

Most people don’t really understand what they’re looking at. All artists ought to be able to see, there’s something wrong with them if they can’t. Classical drawing is based on observation and it’s based on the ability to see shape. If you can’t see shape you can’t draw in that way.

I don’t want you to draw movement, I don’t want any emotion or expression, I want you to draw what is in front of you, okay, from now. Some of the drawings don’t bear any relationship to the model whatsoever I have to say, they are unrecognisable. This one the head is far too far over, I just want you to draw what’s there, which is a challenge. If they can see shape they get the triangle between the feet and the apex of the triangle correct. But you’ll find if they can’t, it'll be either too narrow or too wide which means they just haven’t looked at it. You can see that’s wrong, there’s something’s missing, get it all right, get it all right, otherwise it’s going to be a cartoon. We don’t want a cartoon; we want you to draw what’s there. We’re going to do it again. Girls the name of the game is getting it right.

Most of them started off drawing the head when it was a standing figure, when they should have started with the feet and worked upwards because it’s the hardest thing in the world to get the figure standing on the ground, it’s part of the quality or the essence of the pose. Most people who draw badly or not very sensitively, draw the model as if the model is made of concrete, whereas it is flesh and blood, and where the bone is visible there is a different line and a different, you know, response to gravity. Getting somebody to draw what they see can be an uphill struggle, but it can be done.

Can anybody see that these drawings are getting better; they are definitely showing signs of improvement, which come from struggling to getting it right, it comes from me being on your backs of course, and some pressure was put on you because there wasn’t much time, so we've done rather well. They seem to take it on-board and they weren’t resentful and they went along with it, and I think they could see that something was happening. I didn’t think we’d get this far frankly; I’m delighted with the progress. Anyway I’ve had enough, thank you very much.

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