Just watched the beautiful “David Hockney, A Bigger Picture” DVD documentary about his journey as he returns to paint his native Yorkshire.
It ‘s a beautiful journey from his main residence in Los Angeles, CA to the landscape he loved as a boy and whom he actually worked in those very East Yorkshire fields when he was a school boy.
A friend actually said to him, “You were very happy working in the fields in Yorkshire” Hockney said, “I was actually”. You could tell it was a very touching memory for him.
The film makes clear it wasn’t like he never returned to his native England as he mentioned he would go approximately 4 times per year and even more when his Mother was dying (she lived to a robust 99 year old) but he was just compelled somehow to return and stay.
What I love most about it is the beautiful closeups of Hockney actually painting, on site, in plein air. It’s just scrumptious to watch that beautiful oil paint being applied to the canvases, the oil color being moved and blended together with such artistry.
You see him painting clouds, fields, roadways, thickets, and trees – lot of trees. As Hockney has said, trees are “like faces – every one is different. Nature doesn’t repeat itself”. Winter trees were particularly difficult to capture, he said. “You have to observe carefully; there’s a randomness.”
He actually started the “Yorkshire Paintings” by first doing watercolours. He mentioned he did them in his car. They are pretty amazing and it’s cool that many of them are highlighted on the DVD.
He is still such a wonderful, charming character (now approaching 70) with that snappy Brit humor. He gives such honest and revealing insight on his painting process on the landscape on how he “sees” the world.
You get the feeling he somehow needed to get these paintings done. It’s such an incredible burst of creativity that he immersed himself in and it’s such privilege to be a voyeaur on watching this all via film. You see him laughing, his assistant getting him sandwiches, the wind knocking over his canvases. It’s just plain fun to watch.
He reminds me a lot of Van Gogh and his painting process with these paintings. He works very fast, often completing canvases in an hour or 2 (depending, of course, on the size) It’s, again, like he is racing with time to complete these. I clearly got that sense when watching.
The apex of the film is a 50 canvas work called, “Bigger Trees near Warter (2007)”, is a monumental-scale view of a coppice in Hockney’s native Yorkshire, between Bridlington and York. It’s the largest painting Hockney has ever completed and has since donated it to the Tate Museum.
It’s interesting that they interview artist Damien Hirst (famous for his “Dot” paintings) as he is looking through some of Hockney’s catalogues and mentions “there’s a sadness about these paintings” which I thought was very insightful and I got it almost the minute after he said that.
All in all, this was great to watch. We get a very intimate portrait of this great artist and to get to see his creative painting process is really a treat for the mind, heart and eye.
You can get the DVD here (via Amazon) – David Hockney: A Bigger Picture