David Hockney puts down his brushes…picks up his iPad

For the past three years, David Hockney and his longtime partner, Jean-Pierre (JP) Gonçalves de Lima, have lived in a remote seventeenth-century cottage in France’s Normandy region. They first saw the home in 2018, during an impromptu visit to the area, and they were so enamored that they made an offer to buy it on the spot. A traditional, low-ceilinged house surrounded by outbuildings, it sits beside a river amid gently rolling hills. Gonçalves de Lima took the lead in restoring the property, converting a cider-press building into a skylit art studio…

After thirty-five years in sunny California, Hockney found fresh inspiration in the Norman landscape’s dramatic seasonal changes. In 2020, he began drawing on his iPad every day, documenting the grounds’ poplar and fruit trees as their first blossoms appeared. A selection of lusciously enlarged prints was exhibited at London’s Royal Academy of Arts last summer, in a show titled “The Arrival of Spring.” A more recent exhibit of iPad paintings, at Paris’s Musée de L’Orangerie, presented a yearlong chronicle of the seasons, from springtime to a rare snowy day. It was inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, a medieval embroidery depicting the Normans’ conquest of England, which is housed in a museum not far from Hockney’s home…

At eighty-four, Hockney is frailer than he once was, but his vigor waxes as he discusses his thoughts about art. His trusty iPad—whose cover is smeared with paint—accompanies him wherever he goes…even though his most recent series of paintings brought him back to his brushes, He needed [I felt] to reassure himself that his basic skills and style as a painter remained painterly.

I understand the changes, even the need to wander back to previous skills. Though I’ve never felt any such need. I’ve had some success as impromptu photographer. Survived the changeover from film to digital just fine. And, now, after reflecting for quite a spell, rely on my iPhone and, rarely, my iPad…my digital cameras sit on the shelf. I may look back at topics, subjects, previous inspiration. But, every change in technology I’ve embraced has worked so much better than “good enough” that I haven’t yet had any inclination to revert.

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