He creates his work with an app built by former Apple software engineer Steve Sprang of Mountain View, Calif., called Brushes, which along with dozens of other programs like Touch Sketch, SketchBook Mobile and Bamboo Paper are being snapped up by artists, illustrators and graphic designers.
Together, the artists are developing new finger and stylus techniques, with Hockney's vanguard work offering innovative approaches.
"David Hockney is one of the living masters of oil painting, a nearly-600-year-old technology, and thus is well positioned to have thought long and hard about the advantages of painting with a digital device like the iPad," said Binghamton University Art Historian Kevin Hatch in New York.
Hatch said a "digital turn" in the art world began about 25 years ago, as the Internet gained popularity, and he said today most artists have adapted to using a device in some way as they create art.
A similar shift happened almost 100 years ago with the dawn of photography, he said, when innovations such as the small photograph cards and the stereoscope captured the art world's imagination.
And Hatch said there are some drawbacks to the shift to tablet art.
"A certain almost magical quality of oil paint, a tactile, tangible substance, is lost when a painting becomes, at heart, a piece of code, a set of invisible 1's and 0's," he said.
Hockney, who created 78 of the almost 400 pieces in the de Young show this year, isn't giving up painting, or drawing, or video, or tablets, any time soon. When asked where he sees the world of art going, he shrugged his broad shoulders and paused.
"I don't know where it's going, really, who does?" he said. "But art will be there."
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