This interview with Howard Hodgkin, who has died aged 84, was first published in June 2016 as part of our In The Studio series
The British artist Howard Hodgkin is a painter and printmaker. Born in London, in 1932, he was schooled at Eton and Camberwell College of Art. His abstract pieces, which tend to pivot on emotions and memories and often cover the frame as well as the canvas, did not earn him recognition until the Seventies, but in 1985 he won the Turner Prize. In 1992 he was knighted, an honour closely followed by a major exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, and, in 2006, a retrospective at the Tate. A selection of his recent paintings are currently on show at Gagosian New York. He lives in London with his partner, the writer Antony Peattie.
The time I get up varies enormously, but it’s always earlier than everybody else likes. I don’t think I’m a morning person.
I like to have as much breakfast as I’m offered, which is not usually enough. And I’m a huge coffee drinker. Antony makes me coffee with a machine which is next to the bed. We live in a vertical house, so it's nice not to have to go anywhere to be galvanised.
My studio is downstairs in an adjoining building. It was once an old dairy, then a factory making motors for Lord Snowdon’s wheelchairs. I’ve been here for 30 years. The walls and floor are white, and it has a glass roof.
I start painting immediately and then I shout at my assistant, Andy, and generally upset everybody.
I’m neither tidy nor organised, but Andy, who has been with me 20 years, looks after everything. His presence is either essential or unbearable, depending on how I feel or how he feels.
I don’t have any music or radio playing in the studio. It’s hard enough to concentrate as it is without adding any other distractions.
I don’t like being alone in the studio, or anywhere else. It’s a very lonely occupation being a painter; I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.
How long I paint for each day varies, because I don’t have many ideas, and often when I have them, they suddenly vanish. In that case it's best to stop and wait for another day. I often take a nap to escape from one thing or another; usually other people’s disappointment.
Having other paintings on my studio walls is too distracting. While I’m working on a painting I use canvas screens to cover the other, finished or unfinished pictures.
I work on an enormous number of pieces at once. I suppose it’s a fear of being unable to work. The older I get, the more I am afraid of this great void coming up.
I’m famous for knowing when a work is finished. People ask me: “is this picture finished?” and I always say yes. By that point I usually wish I’d never seen it before.
Every artist suffers from block or doubt. You deal with it by carrying on working.
I never carry a sketchbook. I have no idea whether I need to or not, it just doesn’t happen.
The older I get, the more dissatisfied with my work I become. It’s too demanding for the sort of silly, sensitive person that I am. It makes me miserably unhappy. The only hope is to go on working.
I don't consider myself very successful. Being well-known or having lots of exhibitions have nothing to do with being an artist, those things are just chance.
I have no interest in the younger generation of artists whatsoever. I think it’s a great pity that some of them go on pretending to themselves that they are artists.
You don’t need to be in a particular frame of mind to paint, you just need to be broke.
If I can, I work every day in the studio. But Andy sometimes says “I shouldn’t work today, if I were you”. Perhaps that means he disapproves of what I’m doing – who knows?
I finish at what they call “lighting up time” in the paper [usually an hour after sunset – the time at which a vehicle must have its headlights on]
With age and time running out, I don’t allow much time to relax. I used to read a lot but I don’t any more. I’m one of the world experts on Agatha Christie. I’ve used some of her titles for my paintings - Body in the Library, for example. I borrow them because it’s easier than thinking of them myself.