David Hockney Quotes

David Hockney at donation of his painting "Bigger Trees Near Warter 2007" to Tate Gallery, 2008. Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images

"What an artist is trying to do for people is bring them closer to something, because of course art is about sharing: you wouldn't be an artist unless you wanted to share an experience, a thought. I am constantly preoccupied with how to remove distance so that we can all come closer together, so that we can all begin to sense we are the same, we are one."  - David Hockney (Hockney's Pictures, p. 138)

In addition to being an accomplished artist, designer, photographer, and lithographer, David Hockney is also a remarkable teacher and writer. He is outspoken, articulate, and witty and has written and spoken extensively about his own art, about art and perception, about art and life.  There are many books available about him as well as those he has written himself. He wrote a two-part autobiography, the first part, David Hockney by David Hockney, published in 1976, and the second part, That's the Way I See It, published in 1993, which immediately received widespread critical acclaim. Another must-have book, Hockney's Pictures, the Definitive Retrospective, shows the span of Hockney's work up until 2004, with quotes by Hockney about seeing, about life, about family and friends, about space and light.

Here are some favorite quotes from Hockney's Pictures, the Definitive Retrospective:  

"People don't really think about pictures or how they're made.

But I do, that's what I spend my time doing. And in a way they're subversive, I'm well aware. but I don't expect all that to be understood right away." (p. 7)

"The moment you realize what Picasso is doing ... you bemuse aware, perhaps more than ever before, that there are different forms of realism and that some are more real than others." (p.


"I believe that the problem of how you depict something is a formal problem. It's an interesting one and it's a permanent one; there's no solution to it. There are a thousand and one ways you can go about it. There's no set rule." (p. 68)

"In the Renaissance, the invention of a new way of depicting space, using the vanishing point, seemed to make the depiction more real...Then a point was reached, perhaps in the nineteenth century, when the Renaissance depiction of space was seen as not at all real. Perceptive people began to realize that space could be rendered in a different way." (p. 98)

"I used to think that pictorial space wasn't that important. Slowly I began to realize it is much more important than we think - than I had thought previously, anyway - because it makes the viewer begin to see the world in another way, perhaps a clearer way. We can't all be seeing the same thing; we are all seeing something a bit different." (p. 121)

"I am an artist who is always working. I know some people think I spend my time just swimming around or dancing in nightclubs. That's fine. But I don't actually. I work most of the time." (p. 142)

"Whatever your medium is you have to respond to it. I have always enjoyed swapping mediums about.

I usually follow it, don't go against it. I like using different techniques. If you are given a shabby brush you draw in a different way. That's what I do often: I deliberately pick up a medium which forces me to change direction." (p. 149)

"It is difficult to say why I decided I wanted to be an artist. Obviously, I had some facility, more than other people, but sometimes facility comes because one is more interested in looking at things, examining them, and making a representation of them, more interested in the visual world, than other people are." (p. 197)

"In art, new ways of seeing mean new ways of feeling; you can't divorce the two, as, we are now aware, you cannot have time without space and space without time." (p. 199)

"Faces are the most interesting things we see; other people fascinate me, and the most interesting aspect of other people - the point where we go inside them - is the face.

It tells all." (p. 209)

"Once my hand has drawn something my eye has observed, I know it by heart, and I can draw it again without a model." (p. 230)

"I do believe that painting can change the world. If you see the world as beautiful, thrilling, and mysterious, as I think I do, then you feel quite alive." (p. 359)

Here are more inspirational quotes from David Hockney, courtesy of Brainy Quotes:


"Enjoyment of the landscape is a thrill."

"Drawing is rather like playing chess: your mind races ahead of the moves that you eventually make."

"Listening is a positive act: you have to put yourself out to do it."

"I had always planned to make a large painting of the early spring, when the first leaves are at the bottom of the trees, and they seem to float in space in a wonderful way. But the arrival of spring can't be done in one picture."

"Laugh a lot. It clears the lungs."

"When you are older, you realize that everything else is just nothing compared to painting and drawing."

"Art has to move you and design does not, unless it's a good design for a bus."

"Drawing makes you see things clearer and clearer, and clearer still, until your eyes ache."

"The moment you cheat for the sake of beauty, you know you're an artist."


For quotes from another inspiring artist and teacher see THE ART SPIRIT, by Robert Henri.



Hockney, David, Hockney's Pictures, the Definitive Retrospective, Compiled and with Commentary by David Hockney, Bullfinch Press, New York, 2004.

Brainy Quotes, David Hockney Quotes, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/d/david_hockney.html