Thursday, December 15, 2011

Spectacles, a good heart and (maybe) an iPad: David Hockney talks drawing tools in today's National Post

I was really glad to see how much discussion sprang up this fall around the David Hockney exhibition at the ROM.

As Paddy Johnson pointed out in Toronto Life, the show can be considered, in many ways, a cash grab on the part of the museum, as it doesn't involve a lot of shipping (it's emailable) and doesn't feature Hockney's best work.

And as Richard Rhodes (counter)pointed out in Canadian Art, the show, in person, actually offers a quite nice little promotion for the continued vibrancy of drawing practices, whether in digital means or otherwise.

Given all the stuff this show has brought to the conversational surface, I felt very lucky to chat a bit with Hockney himself when he stopped by Toronto in October, a few weeks after his show opened.

The resulting condensed Q&A is out in today's National Post. My favourite bit is at the end:

Q Is there any art technology you’re hoping will be invented in the future?

A Well, I don’t know. But I’m not looking for some easy way out. I know that’s no good. In fact, most artists want to make things a bit more difficult for themselves as they go along, to challenge themselves. I first drew on the computer 25 years ago, and it was too slow, like drawing with a pen with no ink — frustrating. I also admit I had to use [the iPad] for quite a while to get good at it. The skill is in the practice.

Q You said earlier that looking is the key to drawing. Is there any technology people can use to get better at looking?

A Spectacles? Ha! A good heart, maybe? I mean, some people can see more than others, can’t they? Van Gogh knew he could, and he did see more than others. Picasso must have seen more than others. To look is a positive act, actually. Most people, generally, are just scanning the ground in front of them to make sure they don’t bump into anything. Not many people give much scrutiny to things. But if you draw, you do. I mean, I’m an absolute looker — I like looking, I always did. To me, the world’s rather beautiful if you look at it. Especially nature. People will tell you it’s a miserable world going to rack and ruin, but they’re not looking at it, I think.

To read the full interview (including Hockney's response to the implication that this is not his best work) head on over to the Post.

In the process of researching this Q&A, I have to say I really enjoyed looking at Hockney's website, which includes some quite fun videos of him at work on plein-air and large-scale projects.

And for those who haven't seen it yet, the show continues at the ROM until January 1, with the museum having Friday-discount pricing on evenings between Boxing Day and January 7.

(Charlie Scheips' photo of David Hockney drawing on his iPad © David Hockney)


pixo said...

David Hockney said every medium has its gains and losses. What's missing badly in iPad and iPhone is pressure sensitivity. Varying pressure of pen on paper, or brush on canvas, is an important part of traditional drawing process.

The mobile device I use for digital drawing is the Nintendo DS gaming console. Its drawing surface is pressure sensitive.

The latest Nintendo DS supports 3D viewing. A software company that has already made painting software for the DS (and iPhone and iPad), is working on a 3D version of its painting program for the Nintendo 3D DS. It will be very interesting to see what drawers will do with it when 3D painting becomes real.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi Pixo,

Agree on the pressure sensitivity loss on the iPad and iPhone -- I haven't drawn on these surfaces myself, but even looking at the drawings you see the line can't be thinned or lightened with loss of pressure -- or at least not as well as when drawing with pencil and paper.

I didn't know one could use gaming consoles for drawing, and that they might be better set up for such functions. Maybe, as you suggest, it's time for museums to take a broader look at these technologies rather than focusing on just one.