Bonnard, Vuillard and an iPad

Whilst walking round an exhibition in the Amsterdam Hermitage I notice that the French artist Pierre Bonnard was born exactly 100 years before me. Bonnard, along with Vuillard and Gauguin are the star names in the exhibition. Their paintings are very familiar, making use of relatively simple approaches, flat areas of colour in Gauguin’s case and the direct and inconspicuously unhidden brushstrokes in the work of Bonnard and Vuillard.

All three were making paintings in a period when artists were coming to terms with what it was to paint in a period where photography was becoming increasingly visible in daily life. It makes me wonder about my own paintings and the place that new digital possibilities have found in my own production.


Whilst walking round the Hermitage I find myself stopping to make a quick digital sketch of a sculpture on my ipad. It is an occasional pleasure, drawing whilst visiting a show, as much to make me look a little harder as anything else. Drawing on the glass screen really doesn’t feel to me at least as anything particularly different to paper in a book. Yet it does leave me feeling a little conspicuous amongst the tourists visiting what feels a pretty traditional sort of art exhibition.

I’ve been experimenting quite a lot in the last couple of weeks with drawing software for on the tablet. I want to experiment with my pupils at school after the summer with various digital drawing ideas. I am hugely curious to see whether the speed and directness of the drawing on the tablet can help bridge the nervousness that all art teachers will recognize when their pupils approach the virginal whiteness of a new sheet of paper. the urge to match this perfection can be quite inhibiting.

My own paintings have undoubtedly been effected by the possibilities offered by the digital age. I use a computer to create geometric forms and also painterly effects that are later transferred to canvases. For my pupils that is not likely to be the result or what is desired. Instead, what I am hoping for, is a less inhibited approach to their drawings, a directness of just making the work, yes kind of like the qualities found in the work of Bonnard and Vuillard and their paintings of 100 years ago.

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