A Bigger Day

photo A couple of mornings ago I got up a bit early and took a plane, train and a bus to the de Young Museum in San Francisco. I had an early lunch in the cafe with my old pal Andrea Scher and then we began to tour A Bigger Exhibition, David Hockney’s retrospective of the past decade or so.

Color, color, color, color.

The work is traditional in a sense — all landscapes and portraits. But that’s where the familiar ends. Room after room is deluged in color, the colors that are Hockneys signature, salmon, teal, violet, burnt orange, sky blue, fuschia, and every imagine able shade of green. There are rooms full of Watercolors, watercolor that does things mine never do, bright, clean colors that vibrate off the paper, Watercolors that look like acrylics, acrylics that look like television screen, oils that fill the walls as he stacks two, then four, then twelve, then thirty (!) individual canvases to make landscapes that are as big as the landscapes themselves.

Nine canvases. He painted this scene in every season.
Iphone painting blown up 15 feet tall.
Iphone painting blown up 15 feet tall.

There were several rooms of paintings he made on his iPhone and iPad then blew up into prints that are ten or more feet tall, prints that look like oils from across the room and look like electric squiggles close up.*   There’s a room filled with screens and on each one new iphone images appear. You can watch them unfolding as he layers lines and pure colors. And there are hundreds and hundreds of them, landscapes, portraits, still lifes, … blah!In other rooms, long processions of watercolor and oil portraits, people sitting in the same chair in the same room, all different, all alive.

Thirty cavases, sandwiched together.

I kept getting waves of inspiration throughout the show, a fizzy feeling in my belly that I had to run away immediately and start to paint, draw, anything.  I love Hockney so much and I learn from everything he does. He’s always the smartest kid in the class, the one genius among we sheep.  His work is not heady and intellectual, it’s right there, familiar and yet, he makes it looks so easy. HOCKNEY-videoSixteenByNine1050 Watch him paint and you think, okay, okay, that’s doable. But he manages to knock out fields of spring flowers while I wade through the mud. He’s a seventy-five year old geezer but he’s working in ten media at once, filling a whole room of sketchbooks, and paintings and making these insane Cubist Videos by strapping twenty high-def cameras to his car and driving through the forest, season after season.

Drawn on a freakin' iPad!
Drawn on a freakin’ iPad!

The man jumps onto every new thing as soon as it half emerges.  He made fax drawings in the ’70s and Polaroid collages.  He drew on the computer before any one. I hope he keeps living and showing me what it can all be.

By Andrea Scher
By Andrea Scher

Then, on the way out, Andrea and I found a fairy door in a log in Golden Gate Park.

The perfect end to a magical day.


* I looked at my own iPhone in disgust and showed it these works of genius. “All you seem to do is send texts and visit Facebook all day,” I sneered, “Why don’t you make some art?” Siri just said, “Okay” and showed me a website about making Valentine’s Day hearts. Why can’t you be more like Scarlett Johansson?


P.S. I would urge you to go but the show closes this weekend. 😦

28 thoughts on “A Bigger Day”

  1. Nice one Danny! I am a bit sceptical about the ipad/iphone drawings (then again I’m sceptical about ipads and iphones…) but some of these paintings look great. You have to admire his work ethic and the attitude!


    1. Your skepticism is understandable but misplaced. As Hockney himself has said, lithography, screen printing and woodcuts are all just technologies to help artists make images. The art takes place in the mind, not on the screen. A great artist can make beauty anywhere.


      1. I agree, the iPad is just another technology, it’s what you do with it that’s important. I have an old iPad2 and use mine to sketch, paint and scribble down ideas. There are some wonderful drawing apps and amazing pens which will allow you to shade, as they are pressure sensitive. I can even create my own brushes and pencil textures! You can work in layers, alter transparency and of course there is always the undo button! I haven’t abandoned traditional painting, but love the new technologies too. Mixed media takes on a new meaning.


  2. OH DANNY THANKS SO MUCH for posting this, and writing so beautifully about Hockney. Gee whiz. I honestly didn’t realize the enormous scope and depth of his work… so I will now go do my research. (And probably buy some a big pricey Hockney book for my studio library.)


  3. Hockney’s iPad drawings are incredible. When I try to do something, blah! However, it is good to know that it is possible, even without a speck of his talent to do so. TFS.
    Aloha, Kate


  4. I agree Danny, what a great show! My wife and I were lucky to see it last November while passing through San Francisco on our way to Monterey for the weekend. For those who can’t make it to the exhibit, Hockney has a great book containing much of the same art called “A Bigger Picture,” as well as a DVD by the same title (free video streaming on Amazon for Prime members).


  5. Danny – thank you so much for this post. I can live vicariously through you! I was pining to see this show, Hockney being one of the first artists whose work I fell in love with I was a kid. He still has a great influence – I’m playing with drawing apps on my ipad now, because of his flower drawings! That 15 ft version of his iphone drawing is kinda blowing my mind.


  6. wow.. nice show. Here’s something to put under your hat. I thought Hockney was dead for some reason. I didn’t realize he was only 74. :)) and I went to one of his shows several years ago. Must not have been paying attention. I have a young friend who has done a couple wonderful paintings on his tablet.. its amazing. .. so it can be done. Thanks for sharing.


  7. I saw this show in London a little while back …. on its very last day. It was AMAZING. If you have a chance to go it will blow your mind…Great post Danny


  8. Wow Danny! I could feel your enthusiasm eminating from the screen as i read your post, it was like a sudden rush of air taking my breath away! I almost forgot to breath while i was reading it. David Hockney, another Great British product i think? It’s nice to know we still lead the world in some things. Great post my friend. Thanks.


  9. NOw I have to see more of his work. What is a good book of his to read with his work in it? I love to draw on my iPad, though my stuff is nothing like Hockney’s LOL!


    1. I just read ‘A Bigger Message’, which is all about the work he’s been doing lately, the inspiration he finds in nature, the work he does with iPads etc. It’s a WONDERFUL book!


  10. I went to Hockney’s A Bigger Picture exhibition in London with arty mates LL & JJ a few years ago and we were spellbound (even spending more time in the exhibit than the shop…). Sketching on my (husband’s) iPad is now my favouritest thing (using ‘Paper’ APP in virtual sketchbooks).


  11. I was lucky enough to see this show on my last day in SF at Christmas. It was mind-boggling! I was disappointed there were not any of his pool series, but I understand it was only his works of the last decade. I was thrilled, however, with the display (and video) of his sketchbooks, and I bought one in the gift store. Thanks for this post.


  12. Danny, do you know if the exhibition is going anywhere else after it closes where you are ? I would travel to see it ! Thanks.


  13. I just saw the show two days ago. It took my breath away! Your description captured it perfectly. I could have stood for hours in front of the screens showing every page of his sketchbooks!
    And the wall of 25 water colors! I stood in wonderment! Thanks for your observations.


  14. I went to the show with a group on Tuesday and was completely gobsmacked, so much so that I rearranged my schedule and went again (alone) on Thursday. So many wonders and fresh ideas, so inspiring, so amazing. I loved it all, but my absolute favorites were the four 12-foot-high iPad drawings of Yosemite, in the room labeled “Looking Up.” They were so beautiful and evocative that it was truly like being there with Hockney at the exact location, season, and time of day when he drew them. My heart overflowed with joy. I also loved the charcoal drawings of the arrival of spring in several East Yorkshire locations, where he made corresponding large series of paintings using the iPad and oils. Getting up close to the charcoals and looking at his mark making was wonderful. Some were studies for paintings, others were more finished, all were magical. Drawing has always been at the heart of Hockney’s art; maybe that is why it speaks to me so strongly–that and the color! I went home and loaded Autodesk’s SketchBook Mobile on my Android phone, just to play with. I have so much to try now with traditional media, getting an iPad may have to wait a while!


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