David Hockney on self-confidence

To mark the British artist's birthday today, we release behind-the-scenes footage from an award-winning documentary, in which he describes where he gets his innate sense of assurance from


Hockney Unlocked is a series of 80 short films produced, directed and edited by Bruno Wollheim. The films are outtakes from his award-winning documentary, David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, filmed single-handedly over five years with David Hockney. Here, Wollheim writes a commentary on one of the short films, informed by a friendship stretching back 30 years.

November. We are on Woldgate, the ancient Roman road through the East Yorkshire Wolds, which for ten years David Hockney was to depict countless times. He had been painting a winter tree, black on white, but had started in the wrong place and couldn’t fit it all in. While waiting for a new canvas to arrive, we engage in a rather incongruous conversation about what it was like to arrive at The Royal College of Art as a 22-year-old from Yorkshire. He dips into his memory banks for a TS Eliot quote.

This was only my second of many trips to Bridlington over a concerted period of two years, following Hockney with my camera on his mission to revive landscape painting and demonstrate the inferiority of photography. I wish I could blame having parked my old VW Golf in shot on the irony of the situation.

The sudden switches of direction and focus in his drawing of the tree were often surprising and difficult to predict. Description, the selection of mark and the graphic weighting of the total field were at work together. I remember wondering at the time whether the Hockney line was innate or conscious—or somewhere in between, like a signature, at first consciously developed but then an automatic reflex.

• David Hockney: A Bigger Picture is now available online