Like most exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria, it’s quite easy to say “oh yes I’ll go there soon. It’s on for three months anyway,” only to find that you’ve let time slip by and missed out. Either that or you’re still not that bourgeois as to be heading to the gallery on a weekend. Exhibitions at the NGV have recently been more accessible to the non art history aficionado. This is helped, of course, by infinitely instagrammable curation and popping colours: think last year’s Andy Warhol – Ai Weiwei exhibit. But for those who missed out on the most recent David Hockney: Current exhibit, because let’s face it even the student concession leaves you paying a pretty steep entrance fee, here is my biggest take away from the day: you can enjoy making your own Hockney art yourself. And it’s addictive.
The majority of the exhibition was taken up with Hockney’s hundreds of digital designs, inspired by the everyday and mundane: toasters, cups, sockets, plugs. Using the free app Brushes iPhone/iPad/Android, he created bright and jolly, fun and whimsical pieces. Adding to the joy of seeing these pictures is knowing that Hockney is eighty this year. His exhibition is delightfully self-aware, including the larger than life-size artwork of the British pop art icon gleefully playing on his iPhone in a far more savvy way than most over fifties go about smartphone usage.
The best part about seeing prints from iPhone artwork is the realization that you can have a lot of fun making your own.
Here aresome tips or getting going:
1. Start by downloading Brushes and getting a feel for drawing on a small screen
2. Try out all the different brush styles. You can change the intensity, angle and size of all the brush designs. Some of the effects are quite surprising, so it’s good to play around with them rather than dismissing them all as strange
3. Be on the look out for how the light hits certain objects. Glasses, cups, windows and pot plants can make really striking subjects. Take photos.
4. What I learnt from the Hockney exhibition was not to be afraid of using weird or incongruous colours when trying to capture the way light hits an object. If you’re having trouble picking out some of these weird colours… there’s an app for that. When you take a photo of an object you really like, try using Snapseed (a free photo editing app) and turning up the HDR (High Dynamic Range): this will bring out a lot of the hidden colours in your photos. It will also make lines and borders bolder, making it easier to copy.
5. Just like ogres and onions, Brushes also has layers and they are your friend. For the best effects try using about three different layers. Use your first layer for the outline of shapes and highlights, second for the softer colours within objects and a third layer for your background. Save colouring your background till last and experiment with several different colours before saving your work.
6. Make sure you give your hands a break. Much like overzealous Tinder usage, if you stick at drawing on your phone for too long, you will feel an RSI coming on. Take a break, have a kitkat, go outside and talk to your cat.
7. The soft brushes on a higher transparency setting can be used to give the effect of glass. Whilst the fluffy brushes make a good addition to backgrounds and help soften your image. Brushes has an eyedropper function that allows you to match colours: hold your finger down on a colour you’ve used to reselect it.
8. Be wary of exiting the app if you’ve made a mistake: you won’t be able to undo it once it’s been saved.
9. Don’t be afraid of abject failure. Sometimes you will have a crack and it’ll be shit. That’s ok, try drawing something else. The first face I tried to draw gave me nightmares.
10. Know when to stop. Or at least save multiple versions of your work. It’s easy to get carried away, but often the old saying ‘less is more’ A rough sketchy look can be more appealing than too much detail.
11. Smugly show your friends what you’ve been up to with the marvels on the Brushes app.