This is how 76-year-old David Hockney became the world's preeminent iPad artist

Story highlights

  • David Hockney has long incorporated new media into his work
  • His fascination with technology led him to investigate how old masters used it
  • Hockney's latest show, A Bigger Exhibition, looks at how he embraced tech innovation

(Wired)It's mind-boggling to look at paintings from the 14th and 15th centuries and think that artists like Leonardo da Vinci created such vibrant portraits using nothing more than a free hand and the naked eye -- when just 100 years before, two-point perspective was unknown. If you're David Hockney, who's been a seminal figure in modern painting since the 1960s, you literally can't believe it.

Hockney holds nothing against his predecessors, but he does have a theory that some used early optical devices to improve and expand their skills.
The idea first occurred to him nearly 14 years ago and became the subject of his book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters.
    Hockney's latest show, A Bigger Exhibition, hosted by San Francisco's de Young Museum, looks back on the period since his revelation, highlighting how he's embraced technology ranging from video cameras to iPads, and integrated them into his art. (The exhibition's title is a play on Hockney's best-known painting, A Big Splash.)
    In 1999, a long-standing and well known fascination with new media led Hockney to his controversial suspicions. Visiting the retrospective of a 19th century French artist, he noticed uncanny technical similarities to drawings that Andy Warhol had traced from slide-projected photographs.
    Knowing that the tools Warhol had used clearly weren't available in the 1800's, Hockney began researching. It wasn't long before he came across camera lucida, a small prism mounted at the end of a metal arm that enables an artist to refract an image onto their paper. The device received a patent in 1807. Bingo.