Saturday, January 13, 2007

Drawing, tea and DVDs at the National Portrait Gallery

Tea at the National Portrait Gallery
11" x 8" pen and ink and coloured pencil in Daler Rowney sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

On Thursday afternoon I went back to the National Portrait Gallery for another look at the David Hockney Portraits exhibition which closes on 21st January. I arrived just after 1.30pm and left about 7.00pm (Thursdays and Fridays being late night opening). This must have been one of the most successful exhibitions that the NPG has ever had as it was busy all afternoon and was packed again after 5.00pm.

Armed with the audio guide this time I moved through the exhibition very slowly, drawing as I went. The audio guide was really excellent and included comments from David Hockney from an event held at the opening of the same exhibition at the MFA in Boston and an archival tape from Yale University of Henry Gerzhaler talking about the trials of standing for a portrait. I must confess I very much liked the comments of his sister - very down to earth and very Yorkshire! Then I had tea - and then I went back again for a last look - it'll be a very long time (if ever) that I see all these works again assembled in one place.

Drawing the work of other artists is a very well established tradition - and I'd love to show you what I did but I don't think I can as Mr Hockney is very much alive rather than dead for more than 70 years so copyright restrictions apply. I can justify 'fair use' for educational purposes - and I've now got a much better understanding of how he draws. None of my drawings are for commercial use and I'd show you all my sketchbooks if you were sat next to me - but on the internet I'm not so sure........... Anyway, I've written to the authorised website - so we shall see.

Instead you can see my sketch done in dim light sat in the Portrait Restaurant having a "Portrait Tea". My position gave me a good view of the roof of the National Gallery, Nelson's column (Nelson was just out of view) in Trafalfgar Square and the car lights and rain-soaked ground in Whitehall with Big Ben and the House of Parliament and the tower of Westminster Abbey visible in the background. I'm minded to try and draw this view as the seasons change and at different times of day as I find it endlessly fascinating. It would be an approach not unlike what I'm doing with my Canary Wharf Sky series - but on a bigger scale.

For those people who are Hockneyphiles (you know who you are!), I can confirm that the people providing support to the Hockney pictures (authorised) website are accepting orders for the DVD of "David Hockney Fifteen Sketchbooks 2002-2003". Use the contact form identified here to ask for a copy. Hockneyphiles in the USA have now managed to get a copy of the DVD through this route.

I came away with two more DVDs "Double Portrait" (2003) - about Hockney's year in London doing double portraits in watercolour (produced for the BBC) and "A Bigger Splash" (1974) which I'm looking forward to watching although the latter has had variable reviews.

For recent subscribers and readers of this blog - links to other blog posts about this exhibition are included below.

[Update 8th October 2007: for all those seeking to purchase the David Hockney Sketchbooks as a DVD

I've had an e-mail from Erik Arnesen as follows - with updated information about how to get hold of the David Hockney Sketchbooks as a DVD. I'm reproducing it in full below as it provides all the information you need
In checking google for our website status in certain search fields, I came upon your blog page link dated 8 Dec 06 re: the 15 Sketchbooks.

Since your post we have added a link to the site that allows direct ordering of the DVD. The main site link is: will take you to the site and you will see the "shop" button - it is an online transaction link which can be found directly at:

I am glad I found your blog page and perhaps you can forward the info that the DVD's are available from the Hockney site - we did press sufficient numbers. Thanks for the alert on the NPG and LACMA - we'll contact them as well...

All the best,
for the DavidHockney Studio/Website and Online Shop
Erik Arnesen
I've also added a link to the shop below.

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  1. what a great day of drawing you had, I'm envious of the time you would able to spend there, you used it very well!

  2. Beautiful sketch. I think these interiors are my favorite genre of all that you do. Of course, ask me on a day when you've posted a landscape, and I'm sure I'd tell a different story. Funnily enough, I've just this week watched that double portrait dvd, sent to me by Cindy of Learning Daily, along with a cd of the sketchbooks. I was moved to tears by the dvd--there's something so touching about Hockney's relationship to his sitters as he paints and about their reactions to the finished portraits. And I'd never heard Hockney speak---all these years I'd been imagining a different persona. The documentary is one of the best things I 've ever seen. Even my lawyer husband loved it. You and I are having another of our parallel moments, it seems!
    Your request for more info about my faces series is going to result in a post very soon in which you figure largely. I'm composing in my head as we speak ;D.

  3. Thanks both of you

    I think the thing that would surprise most people who don't know about his Bradford background or what a Bradford accent sounds like - is to hear him speak. His sister sounds pretty much the same. Mind you he stamps his own persona on a Bradford accent!

    I'm glad to hear that Double Portrait is good and I'm looking forward to hearing about Laura's faces series.

    In the meantime you can look forward to seeing my output from my Drawing Heads class series this term influenced by Holbein and Hockney! I can already do a pretty good Lucien Freud after Hockney if I say so myself!

  4. Great composition on this Katherine... really makes me want to be there!

  5. Lovely pencil sketch, Katherine - it gives such a cosy feel of London in the dark and wet. I've just been reading Hockney's Secret Knowledge - fascinating.

  6. The way the faces are glowing in the light while the rest of the room and exterior are dim or dark is just wonderful. I guess I'm not meant to get the sketchbook CDs. I've tried and tried to complete and submit the contact form but nothing ever happens when I click on Submit on Hockney's website. Oh well.

  7. Jana - send me your e-mail address and I'll send you their e-mail address for ordering.

  8. I wish I could sit beside you and look at your Hockney portrait sketches. I do hope you are able to post them. I love Tea at the NPG - Big Ben glows beautifully and the human figures are great. A series would be lovely.

  9. Gorgeous work Katherine. I love your art, and your sketches in particular. Question is, how do you manage to produce such complex and informative sketches on site? I assume they are done on site....and more importantly, with other people around you? You must have nerves of steel.
    I am also exceedinly envious of the fact that you've got the opportunity to see the Hockney works.This is where living on an apparently idyllic island becomes a disadvantage!
    Keep up the good work Katherine. I enjoy checking in on your blog every so often.

  10. Marie-Dom - just for you - I've just loaded an article about sketching on to my website! Literally - I do not jest. I'd just finished and your comment was the very next thing I opened - it must be fate!!!

    See Sketching with coloured pencils by Katherine Tyrrell

  11. Robyn - I've sent a request to Hockney Pictures - I can but wait to see what the outcome is!


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