David Hockney
David Hockney

The New York Review of Books recently ran a surprising article about paintings made by the artist David Hockney on his i-phone, using an app called Brushes. It allows the user to fingerpaint, smear or draw on the screen using a full color-wheel spectrum. (Hockney likes to use his thumb rather than forefinger to manipulate the paint.)  You can fashion brushstrokes, making them more transparent, or thicker or thinner. And you can email your finished image to friends.

Hockney described why he is so taken with Brushes, which he uses anywhere he has the urge, even upon waking, when he is inspired to paint the sunrise he sees from his bed:

“It’s always there in my pocket, there’s no thrashing about, scrambling for the right color. One can set to work immediately, there’s this wonderful impromptu quality, this freshness, to the activity; and when it’s over, best of all, there’s no mess, no clean-up. You just turn off the machine. Or, even better, you hit Send, and your little cohort of friends around the world gets to experience a similar immediacy. There’s something, finally, very intimate about the whole process.

…it is worth noting that the images always look better on the screen than on the page. After all, this is a medium of pure light, not ink or pigment.”

David Hockney

It seems to me that Hockney’s reasoning could apply to even the most “unartistic” of souls: painting with Brushes to loosen up vision and color sense and see where it leads…or tap into parts of ourselves we weren’t aware of…Or, perhaps the bigger idea is to embrace whatever medium works easily to express what we see, as a daily exercise or practice…

“It’s all part of the urge toward figuration. You look out at the world and you’re called to make gestures in response. And that’s a primordial calling: goes all the way back to the cave painters.”

Illustrator Jorge Columbo also loves Brushes and used it to create this New Yorker cover:

Jorge Columbo
Jorge Columbo

You can watch a video made with a companion application called Brushes Viewer, that shows the procession of lines and strokes to the finished image. The New Yorker Online reported that:

…”watching the video playback has made [Columbo] aware that how he draws a picture can tell a story, and he’s hoping to build suspense as he builds up layers of color and shape.”

…”how he draws a picture can tell a story”.  I wonder if, by watching little videos of our own Brushes paintings, we can gain new insight into our own creative processes, or even discover stories and motives we weren’t aware of…

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