Michael Chance has just begun his third term of The Drawing Year postgraduate programme here at The Prince’s Drawing School. The Drawing Year is a one year MA Level programme with a full scholarship for all students, focused on drawing from observation. We asked Michael about his experiences of the course so far and his thoughts on what’s yet to come as he goes into his final term.
Hi Michael. You’ve just completed the first two terms of The Drawing Year. How have you found it so far?
It’s been fantastic; provocative, supportive, tiring, and inspiring. Like the act of drawing itself, it has at once been completely natural and intuitive, yet deeply challenging.
What were you looking for when you applied? Did you feel there was something missing in your practice that could benefit from drawing?
Before applying to The Prince’s Drawing School, drawing was absolutely central to my practice; the majority of my work is drawn, or began with a drawing that was then taken forward using printmaking and digital techniques. So, I didn’t really feel that I was missing anything, rather that drawing was my strongest suit and I wanted to push myself to advance my ability and engagement with drawing further.
I didn’t study art at university (I studied Popular Music instead), largely because I felt that fine art degree courses had forsaken observational drawing. I really believe that artists should not be end-product-oriented, focused on concept and style, but should use drawing to discover and engage with the world directly around them. Art is the result of a multi-sensory – yet primarily visual – perception process by which one comes to understand and interpret reality, both external and internal to oneself. Thus, art is the visual record of your personal process of sensory and intellectual understanding, rather than a non-personal product designed to fit a gap (or ‘push the boundaries‘ of) the contemporary art market. I felt that The Prince’s Drawing School was unique in appreciating those values.
Whales at the Natural History Museum
Which classes did you take last term and how did you pick them?
After a lot of life-drawing in the first term I wanted a change and wanted to draw out and about on the streets, in the parks, museums, churches and market places of London. So, last term I picked Re-Drawing London: City in Transition and Drawing in the City and National Gallery, as well as Challenging Interiors, which I continued from the first term. It’s great to go out drawing in the city with other students; every day feels like a school trip! More importantly though, the freedom you have to choose your own subject matter enabled me to produce work that I felt was actually mine, rather than a study for the sake of observational practice.
I repeated Challenging Interiors because I found it immensely satisfying to grapple with a complex internal space and that I learnt a great deal from Martin Shortis about perception of perspective and geometrical construction. Many artists today would dismiss this kind of ‘technical’ knowledge as traditional, formulaic and unnecessary, however I think it is incredibly helpful to expand your toolbox of mental processes, so that you may use or discard a wide range of approaches in the future.
Graduation Day at the Hunterian
Have you been introduced to any new methods, approaches or ways of learning?
I am new to living in London, so the courses that involve drawing in the city have introduced me to many areas and fascinating places that I would never have seen. ‘Re-Drawing London’ with Liza Dimbleby and Harriet Miller encouraged me to think about the city as a whole organism, the relationships between different areas and eras, as well as a collection of discrete historic and cultural points of interest.
Overall I would say that the School has vastly broadened my approach to drawing and the materials I use and has introduced more looseness and experimentation into my work. Using charcoal as a sketching medium has been a really important revelation to me, as it encourages speed of perception, fluidity of movement and acceptance of transitory marks and intuitive ‘happy accidents’.
How have you responded to the variety of tutors?
The range of opinions and approaches that the tutors represent is excellent. Many of the courses are taught by two tutors on alternate weeks so you are constantly reassessing your own opinions and techniques in reaction to theirs. I think much good can come from critical discussion and conflict, so one shouldn’t be scared of (respectfully) disagreeing with tutors.
Do you feel differently about drawing now than when you started the year in September?
I feel even more certain about the importance of drawing, and inspired that I can potentially find a lifetime’s worth of work in the primacy of the perceptual moment. However, pushing at the limits of my drawing practice has – strangely enough – led me to be more interested in painting than I was before; not as a separate discipline but as a continuation of drawing into a world of potentially greater colour, subtlety and depth.
A sketch from the ‘Re-drawing London:City in Transition’ class
What are your aims for the remainder of the year?
I hope to bring together lots of my prior experiences and thoughts about London to form a more cohesive body of work that makes a collective statement about the city as an ecosystem in perpetual change, about living in the city and how it affects our relations with nature. Though I’ve drawn a broad range of subjects so far, I can see a lot of connections between them, and I’d like to draw all these ‘seen things’ together so that they can be understood in terms of their overarching ideas as well as their individual and differing artistic approaches.
I have also become increasingly interested in landscape, and have been developing ways to explore my inner store of abstract forms through imaginary landscape drawings. I hope to continue this exploration by feeding my imagination with observed drawings, in order to find my own visual language.