Creative uses of digital drawing tools

Early adaptor to digital drawing: David Hockney

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
David Hockney, by Florent Bonnefoi on iPad, using the Paper app from Fiftythree, 2012 (CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0)

As a young British artist David Hockney moved from Britain to California in the 1960s and there his creative vision responded to the clarity of light he found in the hills and skies of Los Angeles. His swimming pool series in particular captures the sense of light and colour he revelled in at that time, for example A Bigger Splash, 1967.

A Bigger Splash, 1967, David Hockney

Hockney started using his iPhone to make drawings about five years ago. He did this for fun and would send his lucky friends his iPhone images as he made them. He then started working with the Brushes program on an iPad. His use of Brushes on the iPad for drawing continues this interest in light, using the clarity of the iPad to capture light and colour digitally.  This has led to him creating major works with digital drawing. In January 2014 he had a major exhibition in the deYoung museum in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. This show is a major survey of Hockney’s work from 1999 to now and it includes a 12 foot high iPad drawing of Yosemite National Park. Below is one of his Yosemite iPad drawings.

Yosemite II, October 5 2011, by David Hockney













Some critics reject Hockney’s digital drawing. Guardian art critic Adrian Serle criticises the work suggesting that digital drawings:

‘…can never hide their electronic origins, no matter how painterly they appear.’

I think Hockney would argue he’s not interested in hiding the fact that these are digital drawings at all. Here he is talking about working on the iPad.

So what is the difference between Vector and Bitmap?

Hockney works on the iPad in Brushes, but many people use  a range of other tools and these in turn operate very differently. Gimp and Photoshop basically use Bitmap, Inkscape and Illustrator use Vector. What’s the difference between Vector and Bitmap other than what tool you use them on?

Bitmap (or raster) images are stored as pixels. Each pixel is given a colour, and arranged in a pattern to form the image. So when you zoom in on a bitmap image like the one below you can see the individual pixels that make up that image. Bitmap images can be edited in Photoshop of Gimp.

Here’s a useful video that clearly explains and shows the difference between Vector and Bitmap.

Vector images aren’t based on pixels. They use mathematical formulas to draw lines and curves that are be combined to create an image. Vector images are edited by manipulating the lines and curves that make up the image using a program such as Adobe Illustrator.

Vector images seem to have some major advantages over bitmap images. Vector images are smaller and take up less space. They are more scaleable (you can see this in the example below where the Bitmap image is already a bit pixelated). Being based on maths formulas, Vector images scale well as the image is just redrawn using the formula.

The downside of Vectors is they are not so well supported on the web. The most used image web formats, Web, GIF and JPEG are bitmap formats. So to use most vector images on the web you first have to convert them to bitmap images.




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