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Hockney at the NPG - and my own life drawing classes!

Shortly before all the Coronavirus closures I was lucky enough to see the David Hockney : Drawing from Life exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery in London which was such a treat and featured 150 of his drawings made throughout his life.

I have a real admiration for those artists that specialise in portraits, particularly self-portraits. I can clearly remember ‘those’ exercises in my Art classes and let’s just say it was not my forte. I’m sure it is a skill that requires practice but I never had the patience and I was always drawn to a different sort of design but I have the utmost respect for those artists like Hockney that have absolutely ‘cracked it’.



As this pencil self portrait of a 19 year old Hockney shows, even before he attended the Royal College of Art, his creative abilities were evident and he had clearly mastered the skill of life drawing. Many (many) years ago when I was 17, and studying my Art Foundation year in Worthing, I had my first life drawing class which is not an experience I will forget in a hurry. I had several friends who had already done the module and I had seen their finished efforts - busy charcoal sketches of a very voluptuous older lady who was well known around the college as the life drawing model. When it was time for my class to take place, I was setting up my easel in the studio when a young (and good-looking) man entered the room, changed and then proceeded to take a naked pose right in front of me. Not only was I somewhat shocked by this different model, but he had placed himself looking directly at me. In my embarrassment, I dropped my gaze and you can imagine what I was then confronted with which caused great amusement to the model but even further embarrassment to me!


Throughout his career, Hockney has shown a readiness to experiment with different media as these two self-portraits show. In the piece on the right, from 1986, he used a laser colour photocopier in which he experimented with layering including his shirt which was put directly onto the glass plate of the copier. As someone who enjoys using a wide range of materials myself, I really enjoyed seeing his interpretations.



Alongside his self-portraits we were given an insight into some key figures in his life including his mother, and muses Celia Birtwell,  Maurice Payne and ex boyfriend Gregory Evans using a range of mediums including photo montages and Picasso influenced interpretations.


The exhibition also showed how Hockney had adapted to using digital art with his iPad (which I have yet to try) and there was a film showing the pages of his iPad sketchbook which was quite inspirational.

It is indeed a tragedy that the current pandemic has understandably meant that galleries and museums have had to close and the public are unable to enjoy this particular exhibition. I hope that this light hearted blog about it has at least given you a little insight and many apologies for the scary close-up of my face at the exhibition!

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