Back in 1980, Hockney proclaimed "I love new mediums". Since then, he has been confronted with ever-evolving technologies to integrate into his practice. From his obsession with the Xerox photocopier to downloadable art packages on his mobile phone, Hockney has refused to stick to one medium. Hockney's Digital Drawings exemplify the artist's thirst for innovation, and his ability to emulate his distinctive style through digital media.
Hockney began experimenting with art software on his iPhone in 2008. Since then, he upgraded to the iPad for its larger screen and advanced technology. The iPad offered Hockney a lightweight means to carry a sketchbook, and afforded him a much wider range of textures, materials, and visual effects to render his subjects. Hockney said that the iPad "Takes it to a new level - simply because it's eight times the size of an iPhone, as big as a reasonably sized sketchbook."
Hockney's Digital Drawings are the product of relatively recent technological advancement. Hockney himself has remarked that, not long ago, "the computer was too slow for a draughtsman. You had finished a line, and the computer was 15 seconds later ... but things have improved, and it now enables one to draw very freely and fast with colour". With a simple tweak of an option on his iPad, Hockney had every colour, medium, and texture at his fingertips.
Unlike a physical, two-dimensional ground, Hockney's iPad allows him to zoom-in to his compositions. Rather than using pixel-based images, Hockney produces vector-based works that allow him to work on a larger scale and achieve a greater depth of detail. His work Green Valley is testament to this, as we can see the rolling landscape receding into the background like a crystal-clear photograph.
Hockney began using the Brushes app on his iPad in 2011, and was immediately fascinated by the endless opportunities afforded by the technology. However, when the app was updated Hockney was rather disappointed by the changes, and subsequently set to work on developing his own version of the app to suit his needs. For Hockney, Brushes is the ultimate digital art tool, not merely because "there is no cleaning up needed even if you have drawn all day".
Back in 1987, Hockney made a short documentary about the Quantel Paintbox Graphics System. At the time, the Paintbox was an innovative addition to Hockney's practice and allowed him to capture light and form through a single medium. As time and technology progressed, Hockney experimented with new digital media that allowed him to mimic the natural light which is so intrinsic to his entire oeuvre.
For Hockney, digital media is not a replacement for the physical. Rather, the two approaches to art-making are complementary and inspiring. Hockney's Digital Drawings are clearly inspired by the style that he developed throughout his earlier career in painting and physical drawing. Equally, his later painted work reveals the influence of his digital approach with its more graphic appeal.
With his trusty iPad at his side, Hockney has been able to draw in more wide-reaching locations. Without heavy sketchbooks and an abundance of tools to carry, Hockney creates his works en plein air with the lightweight tablet alone.
Hockney is considered one of the first "serious artists" to use emerging technology in his art process, and always embraced innovation in his practice. The nature of digital art software encourages experimentation, as marks can be removed at the touch of a button. Through his use of layering and mark-making in the Brushes app, Hockney has created some of the most visually stimulating works in his entire oeuvre.
Hockney's Digital Drawings urge us to question what makes an artwork in the 21st century. Hockney proves that technology can enhance our creativity, rather than stifle it, in these digitally-rendered works. Given our preoccupation with technology in every facet of our lives, Hockney's Digital Drawings seem to speak to the zeitgeist of our times.