Interviews ∙ Sponsored

Interview: Simon Elliott, Creator of Hockney’s First-Ever Graphic Biography

Simon Elliott, Creator of Hockney's First-Ever Graphic Biography
Simon Elliott, Creator of Hockney’s First-Ever Graphic Biography

By Adam Hencz

“I hope that this book brings people joy. That is what Hockney’s story is all about.”

Simon Elliott

“I am a color addict,” confesses Simon Elliott, a criminal barrister by day, while preparing for an event for his latest illustrated book, ‘Hockney: A Graphic Life.’

“I have always loved David Hockney,” Elliott resumes. “He loves the world and is always trying new ways to depict it.” This pure drive and shared curiosity is evident in every page of Elliott’s graphic novel that narrates Hockney’s life with the same zest and vibrancy that marked the life and art of the British Pop Art master.

“Hockney is in his eighties, and he’s still making works daily. He isn’t just making art in the ways he has always done—he is still searching. He is still reinventing himself. That is why I decided to write and draw a biography about him.”

Page from ‘Hockney: A Graphic Life' by Simon Elliott

Elliott’s dual career as a barrister and artist might seem at odds, yet there’s a confluence in their purpose: communication and curiosity. “Whether that argument comes from submissions in court or a painting on a canvas, it’s all a method of persuasion,” he muses, drawing a parallel between his legal battles and artistic expression.

Elliott’s passion for art was reignited during the pandemic, a silver lining in an otherwise gloomy period. “I used to spend all of my time drawing, painting, or making clay sculptures, but I hadn’t made much art since my school days,” he reflects.

Page from ‘Hockney: A Graphic Life' by Simon Elliott

But the lockdown changed everything, sparking a daily ritual of drawing and painting. He found himself reconnecting with his artistic roots in a period of global stillness.

“My parents are practical, hands-on people who always encouraged me to turn off the TV and make something instead. Now I am drawing again on a daily basis,” Elliott says, “and I am so grateful for making this change. I have really come to understand the mindfulness and mental health benefits of making artwork regularly.”

Page from ‘Hockney: A Graphic Life' by Simon Elliott

The seed for ‘Hockney’ was planted long ago, rooted in Elliott’s admiration for Hockney’s use of color, humor, and diverse mediums. “I particularly fell in love with ‘A Rake’s Progress,’ his series of etchings that depict his first time in America,” he shares.

The series includes witty asides that inspired Elliott’s approach to the graphic novel, capturing Hockney’s evolution in a similar style. “It is beautifully detailed sketch-like work that really speaks to me,” he adds. ”I wanted my book to mirror this — to achieve a balance between a biography and a graphic novel where the pictures do some of the narrative work.”

Page from ‘Hockney: A Graphic Life' by Simon Elliott

The publication of the book was almost serendipitous. “I was basically finished with the writing and drawing of it, but I hadn’t really thought of what I might do with it,” Elliott reveals. A positive response from the publisher and Hockney’s personal involvement in the project were turning points in bringing the book to life.

“He sent quite a lot of biographical notes,” Elliott recalls, “including correcting the plane that I had drawn for his first flight to New York, and one drawing where I had drawn him with his hands in his pockets, he insisted on smoking in the drawing as he had been in real life,” he adds.

Page from ‘Hockney: A Graphic Life' by Simon Elliott

“Hockney is 86 now, which means that there is a lot of ground to cover for a biography,” he explains, his fingers tracing over his iPad, the companion that brought freedom to his creative process.

“The iPad goes everywhere with me,” he says. “I draw on planes, trains, in the bath, wherever I happen to be,” he shares. Elliott’s illustrations, just like Hockney’s quarantine paintings, were drawn entirely on an iPad that infused the book with diverse inspirations, from the bustling streets of Japanese metropolises to the quiet, mundane moments.

Page from ‘Hockney: A Graphic Life' by Simon Elliott

Elliott reveals his next venture – an illustrated biography of Vincent Van Gogh. “He was an incredibly intellectual artist who produced many of the most famous images in the world in only a decade of painting,” he asserts.

His fascination with Van Gogh goes beyond the clichéd image of a tortured soul. He’s more intrigued by Van Gogh’s intellectual depth and the crucial role Jo Van Gogh Bonger, his sister-in-law, played in his fame after death.

Looking forward, Elliott’s artistic horizon is vast, with aspirations to explore the lives of other influential figures like Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami, Basquiat, and David Shrigley.

If you’re seeking holiday gifts for fellow art lovers, give Hockney: A Graphic Life’ via Amazon!

Cover of ‘Hockney: A Graphic Life' by Simon Elliott

Created by Artland for Simon Elliott, creator of Hockney’s first-ever illustrated biography.

Discover and Buy Artworks for Sale