Brain Pickings

Waiting for Hockney: Documenting a Dreamer’s Determination


Patience and devotion are necessary ingredients for almost all art. But for Baltimore artist Billy Pappas, they exist on an entirely different plane. After becoming obsessed with the idea of drawing the richest, most real portrait in history, Pappas spent eight years meticulously crafting a reproduction of an iconic Marilyn Monroe photograph, pouring up to a day into a single hair of microscopic anatomical accuracy. When he was finally done, he realized it would take a special kind of eye to truly appreciate his feat. So he set out to put it in front of iconic contemporary artist David Hockney, who Pappas came to believe was his ticket to success in the art world. But what happens when Pappas, flying from Maryland to Los Angeles armed with a cake his mother baked for the occasion, finally scores the big meeting?

Waiting for Hockney is filmmaker Julie Checkoway‘s fascinating documentary about Pappas’ obsession, narrated by the artist himself and featuring interviews with his unusually supportive family and friends, revealing the anatomy of an eccentric obsession.

Though about art, Waiting for Hockney, isn’t an art documentary. Rather, it’s the moving and deeply human story of a dreamer’s determination, exploring the extreme end of the same spectrum of single-minded dedication across which all of our aspirations slide.

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