David Hockney and Tablet Art

Im sure you will all be pleased to know that I’m back concentrating on our art knowledge and have forgotten all about football. So who is the famous painter who is embracing digital art? It is David Hockney (1937-)considered the be one of the most influential British artists of the C20th and part of the seminal group who created British Pop Art. There is so much to say and show about this remarkable artist that I hardly know where to start. He is definitely amongst my favourites. I will start in 2017 when Jane and I went to the David Hockney Exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria where over 700 of his works including paintings, digital drawings, photography and videos were on display.

I was familiar with Hockney’s portraits which he has constantly returned to create during his long and illustrious career. At the 2016-2017 exhibition a 35-metre long gallery was lined with more than 80 acrylic portraits with the one of the legendary Barry Humphries my favourite. The vibrant colours, the signature David Hockney look.
(Credit: Pinterest)

Of Hockney’s many self portraits I think this one (a collage) is my favourite as it captures the boy struggling to fit into the man’s world yet wishing for everlasting youth; the serious and defiant spirit. His garb, a symbol of his many talents. And it is this youthful mind that is largely responsible for what we are going to talk about today.

We are now going to learn a little about David Hockney’s use of technology and how he has embraced Brave New World Techniques to expand and enhance his creative view of his universe. From my reading I have learnt that Hockney started using the camera lucida for his research into art history and at the same time as doing this research also created over 200 drawings of people he knew using this device. Here we see his sketch of the Canadian artist Ray Charles White.
(Credit: LA Louver Gallery)

And this is Hockney's sketch of Landscape designer and contractor Bradley James Bontems for which he used a mirror lens.
(Credit: Gwenn Seemel)

As I understand the camera lucida is a more modern version of the camera obscura used back as early as the late 1600s by artists wishing to get a more perfect image. The camera lucida is an optical device which merges an image of a scene and the artist's hand on paper for tracing. By contrast, the camera obscura is an optical device that projects a realtime image through a small pinhole (or lens) into a darkened room. (neolucida.com/history/obscura-and-lucida/)

By the 16th and 17th centuries we see artists and scientists constructing camera obscurae for practical use. Leonardo da Vinci describes one in his Codex Atlanticus, and others mention its use for safely observing solar phenomena. In 1646, polymath and all-around genius Athanasius Kircher depicts a practical camera obscura in Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae (The Great Art of Light and Shadow) (neolucida.com)

And so David Hockney like generations of artists before him has embraced all that the latest technological advances have to offer and today we will look at some of his works done on that fruit tablet. Below is Yosemite I, October 16th 2011.

(Credit: bits.blogs.nytimes.com)

David Hockney uses the Brushes app but so as not to favour any one of numerous such applications for tablets I personally use Medibang Paint when I'm playing around with digital art. The favicons of Jane and myself we use on the blog are made using this application as are many of the cartoon type sketches I post occasionally. Hockney uses a stylus whereas I love the pencil produced by that well known fruit company! Hockney prints his images on a digital inkjet printer that takes 20 minutes to print each large page. I don't have any such luxury and use a well known local stationery supplier where prints can be made at a very reasonable price.

Here is a landscape created on the fruit tablet by David Hockney. Hockney is known for loving the outdoors and sketching au plein air which is made so easy when you can create without having to lug all that equipment around with you. Just tuck a tablet under your arm and off you go- anywhere.
(Credit: The Telegraph)

And here is another of his digital creations which have lost nothing of the vibrancy of colour and line so characteristic of Hockney's works.
(Credit: The Telegraph)

Hockney's Bigger Trees Near Warter or ou Peinture en Plein Air pour l'age Post-Photographique is a large landscape oil painting 460 by 1,220 centimetres depicting a coppice near Warter, Pocklington in the East Riding of Yorkshire set just before the arrival of Spring. It is the largest painting Hockney has completed comprising 50 canvas panels. The painting's alternative title alludes to the technique Hockney used to create the work, a combination of painting out of doors and in front of the subject (called in French ‘sur le motif’) whilst also using the techniques of digital photography. (Wikipedia)

(Credit: Wikipedia)

The painting is dominated by a large sycamore which features in 30 of the 50 panels. In the shallow foreground space a copse of tall trees and some daffodils stand on slightly raised ground. Another, denser copse is visible in the background. A road to the extreme left and two buildings to the right and rear of the composition offer signs of human habitation. Much of the painting's extensive upper half is devoted to the intricate pattern of overlapping branches, clearly delineated against a pale winter sky. (Wikipedia) I have had the pleasure of seeing this painting and it is incredible. I believe Hockney has gifted the painting to the Tate Gallery, London.

How did David Hockney produce this remarkable work? *The solution was to sketch a grid showing how the scene would fit together over 50 panels. Each individual panel was painted in situ and as they were completed his assistant, Jean-Pierre Gonçalves de Lima, would digitally photograph them and then make them into a computer mosaic. With this mosaic he could chart his progress, since he could have only six panels on the wall at any one time. Gradually, with the help of the constantly updated computer mosaic, Hockney built up the picture....Hockney also spent time just looking at the subject he was going to paint. "I'd sit there for three hours at a time just looking, lying down practically so I looked up." (Wikipedia) Please learn from this. Do stop in your tracks and look up, down and around.

Also featuring the countryside of East Yorkshire, this time the changing seasons in Woldgate, near Bridlington, is The Arrival of Spring - a 49-part detailed study. Each separate image depicts a specific day between January and June 2011, encouraging us to look closely at the natural world and take joy from it. Hockney drew this arresting and intimate series on his iPad and believes it is one of his major works. The images were printed on paper paper 55 x 41 1/2 inches and are quite beautiful. Hockney's digital palette is as rich as ever.
(Credit: Christie's) (Credit: David Hockney) (Credit: Studio International)

Another highlight is The Four Seasons, Woldgate Woods, a breath-taking and immersive video work showcasing the changing landscape of Hockney’s native Yorkshire. It is compulsory viewing for everyone. Please follow this link for a special edited version and you will get to hear David Hockney speaking about his art.

Tomorrow we will discuss whether tablet drawings qualify as real art or do you have to be covered in splotches of paint and smell like an oil dump (like I do) to be an artist!!

Anne Newman

Oil Painter in realistic genre style, predominantly buildings and people. To continue the discussion contact Anne on anewman@netspace.net.au or phone +61 407 516 522

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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