Last month I made it back to the De Young Museum to see David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition. The show was amazing and I was inspired to see such a huge proliferation of work, most of it outstanding.
Besides being recognized as one of the greatest painters of our day, Hockney is known for his important ideas on the history of painting, namely his theory that the old masters used the optical tools of their day to aid in creating painted images. For this reason, Hockney is avidly interested in the optical tools of his own day and the I-phone and I-pad drawings and paintings in the exhibit are beautiful.
I share this interest in the technology available to contemporary artists, particularly painters. Digital images play an important role in the way I paint, allowing me to process information in exciting ways. Each painting begins in a very real physical, three dimensional landscape. However my connection to the motif develops and deepens as I use simple tools to view and edit digital photographs taken on site. These tools allow me to navigate a single image in compelling ways, zooming, cropping, literally swooping into the image, observing detail and finding images within images. Drawing applications also come into play, allowing compositional and color adjustments.
What is so fascinating about Hockney's exploration of digital processes is that while he revels in the possibilities that they allow, he is aware of their limitations and he always returns to the traditional tools of art making. The plein-air charcoal drawings in the exhibit are amazing. As are the oil paintings, based on iPad sketches.
The more I experiment with digital images, the more I am reminded that no camera or software can take the place of experiencing a landscape directly with all of one's senses. After all, the camera is, as Hockney puts it a "paralyzed cyclops", incapable of true representation.
Direct perceptual drawing is the most authentic way to capture the perceptions of the naked eye, always the truest version in my opinion. For me the joy is here, in the traditional, tangible, physical materials: paper, pencil, canvas, brushes, solvents and paint. My practice is rooted in direct perception and the connection between eye and hand but informed nonetheless by the mind boggling array of today's digital tools.