Learning from Other Artists, Like David Hockney

I have reread the recent article on David Hockney by Deborah Solomon in the New York Times, "David Hockney, Contrarian, Shifts Perspectives," several times. He's being interviewed because there's a massive retrospective of his life and art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City scheduled for November 27, 2017. I was surprised when I read the quote that earlier in his career he thought he was a painter on the fringes. He said, “I thought I was a peripheral artist, really.” You see he was doing figurative somewhat realistic art when it was fashionable to only create abstract art. This article pointed out that now he's probably the most celebrated artist in all of England. He is designing a stained-glass window for Westminster Abbey in honor of Queen Elizabeth. The author of the New York Times article went on to say that nowadays artists can choose their own medium, figurative or abstract. There are no rules. There's no exclusion. You are not better or worse if you do one or the other. I hadn't realize what a liberating thing that is. If a great artist like David Hockney felt like he was a peripheral artist because of the way he chose to express himself, we are lucky that he had the courage and perseverance to do it anyway.  

I have been interested in David Hockney and his art for years. I found a book about him at the library years ago entitled A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford. I am fascinated by his use of explosive bright color.  People who know my series work would not be surprised by this. The more I learned about David Hockney the more complicated and multilayered he became to me. In his 70s, he started an entirely new technique. He started drawing on his iPad and then prints the art in a large size format for exhibitions. The way he makes the art didn't matter. He could be painting or he could be on his iPad.

David Hockney English, born 1937
American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman), 1968
© David Hockney . Image from Art Institute of Chicago website


The painting style he may be most known for are his iconic pool scenes and portraits of the 60's and 70's. Everything is light and bright. It's so LA.

He moved back to Yorkshire, England where he is originally from and spent several years painting natural landscapes. He painted the roads he walked on in different seasons. He painted trees and forests.  

My fascination with him is his adaptability.  As he ages and now he is 80, nobody could say he is stuck in the past. He's kept current in his own way expressing himself in the way that best suited him at the time.

I'm going to spend some time with his iPad series from Yosemite because I love his use of color in these compositions. These were made exclusively on his iPad. The New York Times has an article about just this series called, "David Hockney Paints Yosemite — on an iPad."

A few years ago, I didn't want to spend too much time looking at other artists' work because I thought it would diminish my own vision. Now, I realize that knowing what impacts you in others art is just a window into the world of what you and your art are all about. It can be a mirror reflecting back to you the details of your unique style. Of course, I'm not suggesting anyone tries to imitate another artist but now I feel free to get inspired by other artists and honor their creativity as well as my own.  In this case, I like Hockney's bright use of colors because it always cheers me up. I never tire of looking at his landscapes from Yorkshire.

Hockney poses before Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, 2011. Source