I’ve always had a soft spot for David Hockney even though I’m not a keen fan of his paintings. There’s no doubting his talent though he was noticed early on during his later student years at the RCA. Sir Hugh Casson said ‘he drew like a dream.’ For me his best work is to be seen in his pencil drawings – confident linear statements that take your breath away.
He also talks a lot of sense when interviewed about his work or indeed art in general. The BBC apparently quoted him as being critical of artists who employ assistants to essentially do the practical work for them. He denied that he had Damien Hurst in mind but Damien like Jeff Koons and Anthony Gormley belong to a class of artists who call in skilled trained craftsmen to make their constructions. Of course artists have always had apprentices and trained artists in their studios.While working on the Sistine Chapel Michelangelo employed a fresco painter to lay the intonaco in preparation for him to apply colours to the final layer. Henry Moore in his later years employed carvers to assist in roughing out the basic forms of his large stone sculptures.
In contrast David Hockney gets out to paint in front of the subject the canvas carries his marks not those of somebody else. A feature on the BBC Countryfile programme showed him at work. I was surprised to see him making use of an iPad as a sketching tool – it’s an expensive bit of kit to use outdoors in bad weather. It may have been a bit of showmanship but digital painting is being increasingly taken up by artists for fine art as well as graphic work and it was interesting to see him using the iPad in a country lane.