True to Life

Slowly, ever so slowly, over the past several months I’ve been making my way through a book of essays on David Hockney’s life and art. And it’s been wonderful. The book, True to Life: Twenty-five years of conversation with David Hockney by Lawrence Weschler is a compilation of pieces written by Weschler over a long period of time. He’s friends with Hockney and covers his work for years.

And that’s what made this book so great. Hockney and Weschler’s relationship is at the center of it, as Hockney moves into new phases of work, he regularly talks with Weschler about it, calls him and asks him to visit which means that we’re taken into the studio and able to hear directly from Hockney about what he’s thinking at the time. And because it spans such a long period of time, the work changes, Hockney changes, and it’s fascinating to see how that comes out in his artwork and thinking process.

I love reading about artist’s who’ve been working for most of their lives and had several distinct phases of their work. Hockney, unbeknownst to me, had an era of fascinating photo collages in the 1980s. They are amazing and I had no idea he did that work. And then, in the 1990s, Hockney becomes obsessed with the old masters and comes to believe that many of them used a camera obscura to do their work. It’s an amazing theory—and one I find quite believable—but I had no clue about that part of his career.

The Hockney I knew before reading the book was the large landscapes that he did in the 2000s. They are quite wonderful and it was so great to read how he did them, painting the exact same place for well over a year. And, in the lead up, he works in watercolor and those pieces are fascinating, to see his style in that medium. I’ve spent the last month playing with and trying to learn watercolor and it was interesting to hear about a well known artist doing the very same thing late in his career.

This book was my way back into the art world and thinking about art in a more serious way than I have in many years, not since my fine arts studies in college. And now I’m on the hunt for the next one, because it fed my soul to leave the digital world and be immersed in the art world for a bit of time each week.