Art. Ambition. Poppyseed Cake.

By Steve Lickteig, executive producer

Most people think Billy Pappas is crazy.  And why wouldn’t they?  Who other than a crazy person would spend more than 8 years of his life drawing a single portrait? And of a celebrity, no less?  But that’s what Pappas did. Every day, seven Billy Pappashours a day, Pappas stood in front of an easel, arms steadied by slings and drew, with a razor sharp pencil, what he believes to be the most detailed, precise and life-like drawing ever created. His 14” × 17” work is based on Richard Avedon’s 1957 photograph of Marilyn Monroe. It’s not an iconic photo, but it might show Marilyn Monroe at her most human and her most accessible. It was the perfect starting point for Billy Pappas who believed he could improve upon that photo and make Marilyn Monroe look more life-like than even a photograph, using only his pencil, his talent and his determination.  To see the portrait Billy Pappas drew go here.

This weekend, Bob talks with Julie Checkoway who has made a documentary film about Pappas, his creation and his two year quest AFTER he finished drawing Marilyn Monroe to gain an audience with the world famous artist David Hockney. The film is appropriately called Waiting for Hockney and it shows how Pappas tracked down the one man he believed  could pass proper judgement on his work.  Also, Pappas hoped that David Hockney would give him access to the exclusive—some might say elitist—art world, something working class Billy Pappas knew nothing about. In the film, you also meet Pappas’s strange and lovable entourage and his protective, poppyseed cake-making mother, Cookie.

Waiting for Hockney premieres Monday night at 9 pm eastern on the Sundance Channel. And in the interest of full disclosure, I served as the assistant director on the film; I’m grateful to Bob for looking past the minor conflict of interest and interviewing Julie Checkoway and letting you know about the quest of Billy Pappas.

To learn more about the film, see Cookie’s poppyseed cake recipe and watch the trailer, you can go to the Waiting for Hockney web site.