David Hockney Pool Prints

Pool Prints by David Hockney

“I just happen to be an artist who uses the iPad, I’m not an iPad artist. It’s just a medium. But I am aware of the revolutionary aspects of it, and it’s implications.”

In 2010 and 2011 the artist exhibited 28 images he created of Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Suite. There wouldn’t be anything extraordinary about that – except that instead of an easel or medium-format camera, he brought his iPad along. The digital drawings he created using the software Brushes have been reproduced as large prints for display, four of them stretching to nearly eight feet in height.

A practical man, Hockney started drawing on his iPhone and IPad, sending his works via email to dozens of friends at a time. Hockney’s works, 150 of which included iPad images, have been exhibited at the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Just a short trip for Silicon Valley designers who created both the hardware and software for Hockney’s reinvention of finger painting. Hockney has long embraced new technologies to create pictures. These works, depicting intimate domestic scenes, still-lifes, floral arrangements, and self-portraits, represent some of Hockney’s earliest experiments with drawing on the phone and tablet. “He thinks it’s a new medium and that it’s here to stay,” said Richard Benefield, deputy director of the de Young who helped curate the exhibition. “He’s really exploited it, I think, as far as you can take it in terms of using the iPad to do what artists used to do with pastels or watercolors or oil paints when they’re working outside in the landscape.”

“People from the village come up and tease me: ‘We hear you’ve started drawing on your telephone,’” Mr. Hockney said in a quotation displayed in the exhibition. “And I tell them, ‘Well, no, actually, it’s just that occasionally I speak on my sketch pad.’” There are also videos, using the playback feature of the Brushes app, showing him creating the drawings, which he has said were the first time he viewed himself making art.

Hockney uses the Brushes app, a stylus and a digital inkjet printer that takes 20 minutes to print each large page. He’s known for drawing and painting outdoors, and the iPad has simplified that process. It has also raised questions among critics about whether iPad drawings qualify as art. Hockney has long been interested in the technology of art and using new media to make art. He wrote a book about evidence that the old masters used devices liked a camera lucida. He has used Polaroid film, color photocopiers and fax machines, and in 2009, began sending friends daily drawings of flower bouquets made on his iPhone.

Art critics have shown mixed reactions to Mr. Hockney’s use of technology like the iPad. Still collectors find the iPad drawings form an in-depth portrait of the artist as a tradition-fluent progressive working nonstop at the height of his powers, deftly juggling digital and analog modes of representation and energetically pursuing newness on several fronts.


Lithograph of Water Made of Lines by David Hockney
David Hockney Lithograph of Water Made Of Lines, 1978
David Hockney Lithograph of Water Made Of Lines, 1978
Pool I 1978-80 by David Hockney
David Hockney Pool I, 1978-80
David Hockney Pool I, 1978-80