Notes from the video about David Hockney and his journey in art
Even though he often derides the use of photography David Hockney has used it often to create his artworks. During the video we saw how he has investigated the use of lenses in the past to create paintings. This can be seen in the many examples of portraits with left handed people in them. The use of the camera obscura and later what has been called optics began as early as the 1400’s and there have been examples of techniques being used much earlier.
After having made those investigations, Hockney then went back to plain air painting. He also investigated watercolours and looked into the philosophy and techniques behind Chinese art. The concept of the three things required in Chinese art were briefly covered: HAND + EYE + HEART. He went on to use some of these philosophies and methods in his oil paintings.
We saw David painting on site in all weather conditions. Putting a composition aside and starting again if it was not working. Trusting his first instinct David often chose subject from a moving car. What may not look obvious in the beginning can make a good painting after working out the composition with some preliminary sketches. He has often painted the same scene in different seasons and these can cover several canvasses. Paintings can be worked on in the studio and then returned to the site for finishing off and establishing effects. He said this was helpful when light and conditions changed.
For the very large artwork for the Royal Academy, Hockney described the process as a “Subjective Experience”. Taking up over 600 square feet and over 50 canvasses he planned the composition both in his head and with drawings. He uses a camera and computer to track the progress of his work and we saw lots of prints used to check progress as well.
I have seen this video bout David Hockney twice now. What confused me in the beginning was his contrary comments about the use of technology in the form of cameras in particular when he then goes on to use the thing he has just spoken natively about. It seems a bit contrary to me.
At one point it is all about plein air painting and then he goes on to use cameras to create his photographic collages. He has since gone on to use laser prints, computers and any other piece of technology that suits his needs.
We saw in the video, a personal assistant doing much of the menial tasks that many of us have to handle ourselves. It is rarely discussed how an artist can be very productive when they are not having to divide their time with setting up materials, purchasing or even the cooking and cleaning, let alone the promoting, organising exhibitions and accounting.
The video left me with confirmation that you use whatever methods you need to for production of successful artworks. Someone may come along and not agree with your methods by saying that for example “you should not paint portraits from photos” which I have heard personally, or you should only paint still life from “real life”. For one thing we don’t always have the luxury of a model to sit for us, and many of us have the restriction of time available so paintings may need to be done over several sessions.
David Hockney has become a successful artist and has done so doing whatever he thought necessary at the time to achieve what he wanted. He has picked up and dropped the use of technology and my only negative comment about that is his contradictory attitude towards the use of things like cameras. I kept thinking just make up your mind will you, you either like the use of something or you don’t.
For me personally, I will use technology happily in aid of my fine art. It is a way of keeping track of works, checking progress, creating something new when designing or composing a painting or can used to produce the final piece. I started “painting” on a computer in the early 1990s as a way of relaxing during a lunch break at work. It was totally unheard of then and I didn’t keep any of my creations. They took a long time to do because of the technology and were sometimes too big to store. Now that we have much improved devices such as software, computers, scanners, printers etc why not use them as just another “medium” or tool in our artistic toolbox?