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Sandringham SchoolSandringham School

School No: 442

Using iPads in Art to create work inspired by David Hockney


1 April 2012

Subject Coverage:

Art & ICT

Key Stages:

KS3 (relevance to 2, 4, 5)



Chris Carter
Tel: 01438 843918

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Sandringham School is an academy in St. Albans with specialisms in Art, Science and Leading Edge.

In the Spring term of 2012 a group of able, gifted and talented students in years 8 and 9 took part in a project where they used iPads to create artwork inspired by ‘paintings’ by David Hockney, also created using an iPad, which have been exhibited in London.

About the Project

Artwork by
Hannah Daniels ConroyBetween January and April 2012 the Royal Academy of Arts in London held an exhibition of new works by artist David Hockney, entitled ‘A Bigger Picture’. Some of these works had been created using an iPad with the app ‘Brushes’ by Taptrix Inc. One room at the exhibition featured a selection of Hockney’s iPad creations, under the theme “The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate 2011.”

Sandringham school own a set of 32 iPads which are used across the curricululm. A group of 28 students from the school made a visit to the exhibition with a view to observing the artwork created on an iPad, following which they would create their own artwork using the same app as that chosen by David Hockney. The theme of their artwork would be “The Arrival of Spring.” Using the ipads would introduce the students to a different, modern way of creating art, embracing the latest technologies and techniques that are being adopted by some of the great living artists.

The project took place over a 3 week period. Before visiting the exhibition the students were given a training session on using the Brushes app, from a member of staff familiar with the software. They were shown some of the techniques used by Hockey to create the works shown at the Royal Academy of Arts. They also watched a video from the BBC about David Hockney’s use of iPads to create artwork.

The students took sketchbooks to the exhibition so they could make notes and sketches for visual research for the project. Following the visit they began to experiment with the iPads and the Brushes app. They used the iPads’ cameras to take pictures outside the school and used these photographs as templates over which they could layer ‘paint’ to create their artwork. They used their fingers as paint brushes, using the touch sensitive screens on the iPads, though styli can also be used if preferred. Overall, the students involved spent around 2 1/2 hours creating their own artwork.

The ‘Brushes’ app

The ‘Brushes’ appThis app is an advanced virtual painting program with several different brushes, and the ability to use layers, so, for example, the user can paint over another image and then remove that original image. Also, the opacity of each layer can be adjusted to create interesting artistic effects. You can also record all of the user’s actions when painting, and play back these actions at a later time to see the formation of the artwork.

The virtual paint brushes in the app can be adjusted for size and spacing, and the user is able to zoom in and out of their work to paint with finer detail. Finished paintings can be exported as a high resolution image (6144 x 4608) for printing, if desired.

Project evaluation

The feedback from the students is that this was a very interesting and enjoyable project. Using the app gave them the opportunity to explore alternative ways of working. The functions of the app enabled them to create a high standard of work which was motivating for the students. Being able to work with different layers and filters, to zoom in to smaller areas of the painting so that they could work with more detail, and finess, and being able to undo mistakes are all things that of course cannot be done using traditional painting techniques.

They commented on the fact that a certain level of skill in using the app is necessary and it could be a little frustrating to use without this familiarity.

The teacher was very pleased with the way the students had engaged with the project and had an opportunity to explore a different way of creating art.


Artwork by Hannah

Artwork by Daisy

Next steps

Whilst this project was for a group of able, gifted and talented students, the teachers involved definitely feel there is great potential in using the iPads in art, for all students. Therefore they plan to write a lesson using these tablet computers into all of the art schemes of work.

Already planned is a year 7 project for the summer term 2012, using the Brushes app to create landscapes.