David Hockney: Digital Art
David Hockney recaptures traditional subjects like landscapes, portraits, and still-life, on a new form of canvas. As one of the “first serious artists” to use the Paintbox software in the mid-1980s, Hockney has gone on to adopt digital painting on emerging technology. From his iPhone paintings in the early 2000s to the iPad paintings he still makes today, the artist uses new media as an opportunity to reimagine subjects previously bound by physical paint. Hockney jokes “Drawing was going out of style, actually…I’m amazed that the telephone can bring back drawing.”
In the 1980s, the Paintbox software was introduced as a professional tool to create media and graphic images. Usually reserved for weather maps or title sequences, the software was hooked up to a pressure-sensitive tablet and TV monitor. The user would draw on the tablet while watching the monitor see what marks were being produced. Hockney saw the potential in the Paintbox as a new digital medium which he described as “painting with light.” On his first go, he drew with the Paintbox for 8 hours, amazed by the facility and output of the strokes he was creating.
With the introduction of touchscreen phones and tablets, the artist has continued to adopt emerging technology and digitally recreate the people and places that surround him. Hockney started experimenting with the painting applications on Apple devices in 2008. Starting with Brushes for the iPhone, he eventually graduated to the iPad which he states, “Takes it to a new level – simply because it’s eight times the size of an iPhone, as big as a reasonably sized sketchbook.” On a device, Hockney is able to paint in any location or lighting, with lossless color and infinite layering possibilities. The tablet acts as a lightweight, virtual canvas, perfect for the artist who focuses primarily on observation work and outdoor scenery.
At the age of 83, Hockney’s embrace of new technology demonstrates a contemporary and creative personality. With each new device and software, the artist must adopt his technique and process. The challenge pays off and breathes new life into the style Hockney has become known for. Still, he has not lost his commitment to traditional paint. Hockney transitions between analog and digital and still paints physical canvas at his studio in Los Angeles.