Artists of Cambridge: Hannah Machover

Kat Karpenko 3 June 2015

Hannah Machover

Year: 1st

Subject: English

College: Downing

How often do you meet someone who met their best friend through lettering and carries a sketch book with a doodle from Quentin Blake in it around Cambridge? I met Hannah at the Union Bar last week, and as a fellow hat enthusiast I immediately fell for her straw hat, bought in the local charity shop for 50p (sometimes I wish fishing good things out in the charity shops was my superpower). As our conversation went on, she guided me through her sketch book and drew a portrait of me – can I now call myself a proper muse? 

“I used to write stories and draw illustrations to them, when I was small. So I guess I’ve always had stories in my head, so I brought them together with art.”

When did you first develop your interest in art?

I’ve always done art. My mum and I did a lot of crafty things at home, so I never thought of it as doing art, it was just a natural thing for me to do. But I guess when it came to the end of the GCSE Art I developed a style that wasn’t fixed, but it was definitely my own.

In the end, it was just a natural path for me.

How would you describe your style?

I remember being shown the works of Alexander Calder – his amazing wire sculptures – and I started drawing in the way he did the wire, which is sort of fluid. So, towards the end of my GCSEs I was getting really into it. I do my paintings without looking at the person and it can get quite abstract sometimes, but you can get a lot of detail, even within the line. It is about the first fluid line.

I feel like because you’re communicating something you’re never drawing just for the sake of it – all of the things around you go into it.

Would you call it your own type of diary?

Yes, definitely. In the end, my art means more to me than it does to anyone else. I do it for myself, fundamentally. I always have two of my sketch books on me. It’s really interesting actually. You know, Quentin Blake, the famous illustrator? He went to my college, so he drew a doodle of a bird in my sketch book when he visited.

How do you think coming to Cambridge affected your art?

I think I spend less time than I would like to on art. At the same time, when I do give myself time for art it is intensely fulfilling, because that’s when I can really switch off my mind. Sometimes I feel sad I don’t draw everyday, but I feel like I could easily go back to art in the end of my degree. Having said that, last term I suffered quite a lot, because I didn’t do that much drawing.

Are there any places in Cambridge that you find particularly inspirational?

I go to Kettle’s Yard quite a lot. I sometimes go the lunchtime concerts on Fridays – they’re free. I love watching people of older generations there – they all look great!

What about places you find stimulating to draw in?

I draw quite a lot at gigs. My friends play in a band (they’re a group of musicians in South London), so I do life-drawing at their gigs. It just seems natural to draw at a gig, because you have so much going on. I also like listening to music while I’m drawing.

What sort of music do you prefer when drawing?

I listen to everything – jazz, reggae, folk and classical. Sometimes I write it down when I’m sketching something.

What advice would you give to the students, who are also passionate about art, but feel shy about sharing their work or feel like they’re not good enough?

It is hard, and I think life drawing is great for that. I am actually trying to organize events like Drink & Draw, where you feel like you’re socializing as well as doing art. However, if you do look there are places, but they are not that accessible to students, as they assume students are not interested. We don’t even have an Arts School at Cambridge.

I think I’ve been quite lucky with my art. Because I’ve done Art Foundation, I’m used to people looking at my works, and I’m used to the idea that it doesn’t have to be absolutely amazing.

And finally, the scariest and a very broad question. What are your plans for the future?

It is a scary, but good question. At the beginning of this year I thought: ‘Okay, I’ll do this degree, which is going to be really fun and I will get most of it. So I hope it will help me fuel my illustrations. I can see myself going into a Masters on illustrations. With English Literature, I have a lot of context to draw from – from literature and within myself. Writing my own books and illustrating them is also an option, I guess. But I can’t really see myself doing one thing, especially creatively – I want to act, I want write, I play an instrument, I want to draw, I want to paint.