David Hockney’s iPad Art

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David Hockney, Yosemite I, 2011

Image source: de Young Museum

The de Young Museum in San Francisco, CA, recently hosted a David Hockney retrospective titled, “David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition.” The expansive show featured work from the past decade and a half, including the artist’s famed iPad art.

Hockney works in both conventional and emerging media covering a wide range of subject matter. His iPad drawings, specifically those housed in “light boxes,” were the stars of the show. The landscapes, still-lifes, and portraits were wonderfully rendered in their own right — playful color combinations, extraordinary textures and patterns, rhythmic lines — but the technology behind them added a new dimension to the consumption of art.

Thanks to the “record and replay” feature on Brushes, Hockney’s preferred app, the viewer could watch each drawing come to life stroke by stroke. In one of the most popular galleries, there were six (or so) large “light boxes” affixed to the wall; the face of the box served as the surface for the works. Each displayed approximately 8-20 drawings that were continuously shown in replay mode — one drawing at a time. It was fun — and instructive — to watch Hockney build forms, create textures and patterns with different “brushes” right before your eyes. This manner of presentation made for an intimate experience between artist and viewer. On a few occasions, I looked around sensing that the 76-year old artist was in the room.

Hockney has talked about the ease and practicality of carrying an iPad “sketchpad” in his coat pocket, and of being able to wake up and draw a sunrise without having to mix colors first. The emergence of the iPad as a legitimate art form calls to mind a significant development in mid-19th century Europe. In 1841, the paint tube was invented. It allowed artists mobility, among other things, and fostered new ways of seeing, new subjects to look at, and new concepts about art itself. The French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir said, “Without tubes of paint, there would have been no impressionism.” Will the iPad be the paint tubes of the 21st century?

Disclosure: The exhibition ticket was independently purchased by the author.

Teresa España

Community college art instructor, indie music fan, SF Giants diehard, iPad fancier.

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One thought on “David Hockney’s iPad Art”

  1. Hi Teresa,
    iPad art teacher Jeremy Sutton (www.paintboxtv.com) raved about and used our Hoodi magnetic shade during the Hockney show at the deYoung Museum for his outdoor iPad art workshop. Normally we refrain from marketing our product on blog post comments but since you requested more info on ergonomic iPad accessories on your “Teaching With An iPad” post and then posted about the Hockney show I could not resist the synchronicity. We are debuting a new model at MacWorld in San Francisco next week; and you can read about Sutton under the reviews section at http://www.hoodivison.com
    We would be happy to loan you a new Hoodini™ Air for review if you are interested.

    Thank you,
    Cindy Hodnett Founder/President

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