Painting with Pixels: Artists Embrace iPad as Creative Tool

By Jennifer Janviere

Ever since its launch early this year, the iPad has been lauded as a breakthrough in digital content delivery technology. Now it seems that the revolutionary device is quickly taking on a new role: that of creative conduit.

The champion of this movement (or at least the most famous spokesperson currently) is British artist David Hockney, a longstanding and influential member of the world art community.  The 72 year-old artist has been known throughout his career for embracing technology and combining old techniques with new media. Hockney recently adopted the iPhone as his new sketchbook, and soon afterward transitioned to the iPad due to its larger display screen. Using the “Brushes” app, Hockney simulates finger painting on the device’s screen. In the few months since he began using the iPad as a canvas, the artist has created a collection of hundreds of digital paintings.

Hockney attributes his fascination with creating art on the iPad to its tactile user experience. He has even admitted to becoming so caught up in the digital painting process that he occasionally catches himself wiping “paint” from his hands, forgetting that he’s actually painting with pixels.

A show of David Hockney’s iPad-produced digital paintings titled “Fresh Flowers” is currently on display at the Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent Foundation in Paris until the end of January 2011. His glowing, back-lit images have been compared to stained glass in appearance.

From this writer’s perspective, it’s exciting to witness the creative community beginning to embrace new media and technology as vehicle for expression. While digital art has been around for awhile, the media still holds many untapped possibilities. I’d like to believe that we’re at the forefront of a movement that makes the process of artistic creation more accessible and approachable to the general public, while opening up new ways to create and display work. As respected figures like Hockney embrace such versatile devices for artistic exploration, hopefully many others will follow.

View images from Hockney’s digital art show online at

Jennifer Janviere is a multimedia specialist and instructor in the Diederich College of Communication.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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