Waiting for Hockney

Synopsis: A young working class Baltimore man spends 10 years on a single portrait, believing it is his means to fame and fortune. But he also believes that only one man can lead him there---the famous artist David Hockney. What happens when you finally meet the god of your own making?
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Julie Checkoway
Production: Littlest Birds Films
80 min

Dear Mr. Hockney,

It is a great honor for me to have

the opportunity to write to you.

In the purest sense, I think

that you are world class.

Like yourself, I believe that a new

way of seeing is a new way of feeling,

and that the greatest art

reaches beyond the initiated.

The vehicle for the spirit of urgency and

intensity which occupies my being is drawing.

I worked standing up, using sharp instruments

while under twenty power magnification.

My portrait is of a human figure.

This portrait took eight years and five

months of full-time work to complete.

I finished at 4:
30 PM, January 2, 2003.

And Dr. Gary Vikan, Brother Rene Sterner

and I would love to show it to you.

Respectfully yours,

Billy Pappas

Today is the sixth of

October, it's Wednesday...

and, I'm on my way up to New

York to see Lawrence Weschler.

He is a former twenty-year

veteran of The New Yorker.

He is also the director of the

Department of Humanities at NYU.

What's so good for me is that he is a close

friend, champion and collaborator with David Hockney.

He's my one and only goal

to get me to the next level.

I've got Marilyn in the trunk and...

...I'm on my way up

there to show it to him.

It all came about the time right

as I graduated from art school.

I was in my mid-twenties...

there were some ideas

I had about life...


I was a waiter at a restaurant.

I had always been in

the restaurant business.



People who've gone to art school,

what are they doing now?

I didn't want to wake up one day

and be well into middle age and say,

"I wonder what would have happened if

I had done what I thought I could do?"

I knew that I had to change from what I

was doing, but I wasn't sure exactly how.

I'm Dr. Lifestyle, Larry Link.

Actually, Lawrence J. Link, please.

I'm an architect, I think.

Actually, advisor to people.

I deal in fantasy.

I feel like I come kind of obliquely from

another place, not really the art world.

I know more about nature,

I know more about music,

than I do about perhaps

the history of what I do.

I needed someone to kind of cross my path,

and just take their finger and just give me

a good hard poke right below my throat.

Accident? Fate? Karma? Kismet?

Grand intent design, everything was

pre-planned, it was ordained by the stars!

This man, I thought, was clearly insane.

Sorry about that.

But, I liked where we were going.

I mean, he's my guy.

OK, fast rewind. Balaloop.

He was a waiter in a restaurant, and

he asked me what I wanted for dinner.

I found out he was an artist, a fine artist, which

is the way I was trained, as a fine architect.

I was like, "Hi, you do

things with pencil. Wonderful."

So we started a dialogue, we started to talk,

we started to say, "Let's have lunch." No.

OK. Take two. Click.

We would have these coffee sessions

and we would be scheming,

and just trying to think big.

What's the state of the

art? Well, photography?

Digital photography?

Sometimes his ideas were bigger than

mine. I thought, "Oh, that's cool."

I didn't think of that.

Wouldn't you want to just make

something that couldn't be reproduced?

He would dare me, he would one-up me.

Why don't we make reality

better than reality?

I thought, OK, I always was

really good at getting likenesses.

I mean, that's something that not

everyone can do well. I can do it well.

Billy, you're going to do a portrait.

It's going to set the

art world on its ear.

I need a mission, and

I had one, with this.

We're doing the next major

art movement in America.

When Pete Townsend was

first starting his band,

he asked this fellow Jim Marshall

to design a speaker for him.

He wanted something louder.

He said, "Here, I designed this. It's much

louder. It's the loudest thing I've ever designed."

So, he listens to it.

He's like, "How is it?"

He said, "It's perfect."

"Except, I want it ten times louder."

"I want it to sound like a machine gun. I

want to hurt people. You know, that loud."

And that's kind of where

my head was with drawing.

I wanted to make a portrait that has

the attention-commanding capability

of a bombastic live performance.

I wanted to do something unprecedented,

to prove how much more

there is to see and describe.


It was in my mind to make

DaVinci, and Ingres, and Durer say,

"Holy Sh*t! You drew that?"

I wanted to make a f***ing traffic-stopping

portrait that hit you like a punch.

I was thinking about

taking a very famous person

and trying to bring that famous face

something it couldn't otherwise have.

So, we're throwing around the names

of all these famous, famous people:

Elvis Presley.

Jack Nicholson.

Doris Day.

Fred Astaire.

Jimi Hendrix.

Liz Taylor.

Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Monroe?

Well, she'll live probably

forever in everybody's mind.

Fabulous. The ultimate.

I found this picture of Marilyn.

I loved the photograph of Marilyn.

I was attracted to the fact that it was

blurry, it was out of focus. It was detached.

I can bring something to it

doesn't have. I can do better.

He pointed to the photograph

and looked up at me and he said,

"Can you bring that..."


This isn't in the dictionary.

"Can you bring this..."


At that moment, when you

said that, that was it.

The game was on.

I've gone over this short list

of things like fifty times, but...

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Julie Checkoway

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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