Thursday, 19 January 2012

Book review: A Yorkshire Sketchbook by David Hockney

A Yorkshire Sketchbook - by David Hockney
Back in 2006-7, I nearly became a conduit for David Hockney fans all over the world who wanted a copy of the DVD of David Hockney's sketchbooks.  (See David Hockney: Fifteen Sketchbooks 2002-2003 - Update on DVD availability and David Hockney "15 sketchbooks" DVD - a further update).

This NEW sketchbook is going to interest all those who qualify for one or the other of two niches relevant to this book - which are:
  • diehard Hockney fans and 
  • dedicated facsimile sketchbook aficionados out there who get very excited every time a new facsimile sketchbook by a famous artist is made available.
This review looks at the new sketchbook - and also considers it within the context of the DVD ($39.95) which I think is now only available via the Hockney Store website based in Los Angeles.

I own a copy of A Yorkshire Sketchbook - but then I'm a die-hard Hockney fan and I always buy his sketchbooks no matter what the price.  I'm very happy with it - but I think others will think it just a tad expensive at full price.

Title: (UK) A Yorkshire Sketchbook by David Hockney
(USA: David Hockney: A Yorkshire Sketchbook)

Synopsis: This is a small facsimile sketchbook of one used by David Hockney in April 2004 - as the hawthorne blossom was coming into bloom. It contains 92 pages of sketches within a leather bound handback cover and a slip cover incorporating a watercolour painting. There are no words or associated text. Most of the sketches are in a panoramic format across a double page spread of this landscape format sketchbook. Sketches are mostly in watercolour or pen and ink and are monochromatic with some use of a limited palette - typically based on traditional renaissance colours of blue, green and red.

Summary review: RECOMMENDED - This is the nearest you'll ever get to handling a Hockney sketchbook.  It's different rather than better than the DVD of his earlier sketchbooks. The DVD has 15 sketchbooks and many more images. This is "like" the real thing insofar as it is a facsimile of a small sketchbook measuring 21cm wide by 14.5cm high. It remedies the distance introduced when viewing images from a sketchbook as individual images on a screen.   It's also much more like looking at the sketchbook of a friend - with all the associated fluctuations in media use and quality of sketch. It's much easier to pick up the transitions in thought processes behind what he sketches and how he is sketching.  It's also easier to flick through and easier share with a friend. I've also seen the real sketchbooks and this facsimile offers good quality reproduction of the sketches.

  • panoramic sketches demonstrate his painting technique in watercolour 
  • very focused on initial sketches of landscapes in the East Yorkshire Wolds
  • also includes sketches of individuals and the environment of his home in Bridlington
  • easier to review all the sketches quickly
  • good quality binding, paper and cover - just like a good quality sketchbook!
Think Again?
  • only 43 illustrations of sketches (most are a double page spread across the centre fold)
  • the DVD gives many more images from 15 different sketchbooks (ie it's more expensive but more sketches for the price paid)
  • you can view different Hockney sketchbooks in the exhibition David Hockney RA - The Bigger PictureMaybe view these first?
  • Those not familiar with a day to day sketchbook might have an unrealistic expectation that there would be more and/or better sketches in this sketchbook.  However those who use sketchbooks on a regular basis already know that not every sketch an artist produces is a little gem! Hockney does not hide or exclude his "failures". 
Who should buy this?:
  • diehard Hockney fans
  • people who collect "real" sketchbooks by famous artists - for posterity!
Who should not buy this?
  • anybody expecting an explanation in words of how Hockney uses his sketchbooks
  • anybody expecting to see iPad sketches - there are none
Author / (Publisher): Royal Academy of Arts
Technical data: Publication Date: 

  • 19 December 2011 (UK);  Full Price £14.95
  • 3 January 2012 (USA) Full price $25
  • There's no need to pay full price as it is available for a discounted price on Amazon (I've included the links) and possibly in other stores as well.

I've no idea whether or not this will come out as a DVD.  It's entirely possible it will only be a limited print run - in which case it could become more valuable.

For the record - this is the publisher's description
In recent years David Hockney has returned to England to paint the East Yorkshire landscape remembered from his youth. Although his passionate interest in new technology has led him to develop a virtuoso drawing technique on an iPad, he has also been accompanied outdoors by the traditional sketchbook, an invaluable tool as he works quickly to capture the changing light and fleeting effects of the weather. Executed in watercolour and ink, these panoramic scenes have the spatial complexity of finished paintings - the broad sweep of sky or road, the patchwork tapestry of land - yet convey the immediacy of Hockney's impressions. And as in the views down village streets and across kitchen tables that appear alongside them, his rooted and fond knowledge of the Yorkshire Wolds is always clear. If you know the landscape there, the character of the sketches is unmistakable: if you don't, it will come to life in these pages.
92 pages, 14.5 x 21cm, 43 illustrations.

For more information about David Hockney - and more books by Hockney - see my website David Hockney - Resources for Art Lovers

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