David Hockney says he nearly gave up painting the East Yorkshire landscape and moved to LA after the death of close friend and personal assistant Dominic Elliott.
Mr Elliott, 23, a popular figure in the town who played for Bridlington Rugby Club and Driffield Hockey Club, was rushed from Mr Hockney’s home on Kingston Road on March 17 and died at Scarborough Hospital.
A post mortem showed “no obvious cause” for his death, and an inquest has been opened and adjourned until August this year.
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Mr Hockney, 75, said: “I wanted to make five sets of five drawings as the spring progressed and I finished the first set in January.
“I was very pleased with them. The intention was to go back to them whenever the spring occurred. But then Dominic died. It was an awful time and I was very upset.
“I thought I might not do it at all this year. I thought I might go back to LA for a bit. I didn’t quite know what to do.”
Mr Elliott had helped Hockney work on his record breaking exhibition ‘A Bigger Picture’ at the Royal Academy in 2012.
It is now said that Hockney has completed 21 of 25 planned drawings and the complete set will be exhibited in San Francisco in October.
“The spring didn’t start until late April this year. I wasn’t doing anything much, had nearly given up, and was still thinking about going to LA when my assistant, Jean-Pierre, said I didn’t really have an option. I had to continue with the work.
“And he was right. I’m not going to retire. I just keep working and that’s what I think I should do.
“We still had a chance to catch the spring and so long as I was drawing I was fine. You can lose yourself in the work and this late spring has made things speed up and so you have to work harder to keep up.
“If it comes late it seems it comes faster. The hawthorn isn’t out here yet – though I’m told it is in the south of England – but I’ve already done one drawing of where it will be, and while I do have to be in LA soon, of course I’m going to wait for it.
“Of course it’s still a very sad situation about Dominic and I’m still very sad myself. But I’m also OK. When you are drawing and working you seem to get outside yourself, and at the moment I think that is a very good thing.”
Mr Elliott, who had worked with Mr Hockney for around two years, was helping with the artist’s latest spring pictures.
Glowing tributes were left after Mr Elliott’s death in March. His close friends called him “an irreplaceable character” who would be “deeply missed and always remain in our hearts and in our memories”.
Tributes also flooded in from the local sports clubs where Dominic was a popular player.