Art

Viewing
in the
Future








Art

Viewing
in the
Future

If you’re an artist, do you want more people to see your work?

Do you want people to see your work even if your original paintings are in a private collection or a storage vault?

Do you want people to experience your work in the way you intended and not on a tiny smartphone screen?

Do you want people to see your work even if your original painting is accidentally destroyed?

Would you like future generations to see how you worked?

These are questions that come up a lot with the artists on my podcast. I’ve come up with what I think is a possible solution and I’d like to know what you think.

There’s no question, nothing compares to standing in front of a painting. Looking at art online doesn’t hold a candle. As an artist you know this already. There’s no idea of scale. A 6ft painting looks the same as a 6inch sketch. The surface texture is lost. I can’t see the interplay of light as I move around. The visceral impact is reduced to nothing on the screen of my smart phone.

Yet, most of the art I see is on the screen of my smartphone. It’s quick and it’s easy. I think it would take me a year to actually stand in front of every painting I looked at in one week on my phone.

The Louvre had 8.5 million visitors last year. Instagram has 600 million users and counting. I’d be naive to demand that everyone had to look at my paintings in person ignoring the colossal reach of the internet.

So, what to do?
We need something that combines the reach of the internet with the experience of actually standing in front of a painting?

Virtual and Augmented reality look the most promising to me. Not as they are now but how they will be in 10 or 20 years. The technology looks clumsy now but so did mobile phones when they came out back in the 80’s.

 
If you’re an artist, do you want more people to see your work?

Do you want people to see your work even if your original paintings are in a private collection or a storage vault?

Do you want people to experience your work in the way you intended and not on a tiny smartphone screen?

Do you want people to see your work even if your original painting is accidentally destroyed?

Would you like future generations to see how you worked?

These are questions that come up a lot with the artists on my podcast. I’ve come up with what I think is a possible solution and I’d like to know what you think.

There’s no question, nothing compares to standing in front of a painting. Looking at art online doesn’t hold a candle. As an artist you know this already. There’s no idea of scale. A 6ft painting looks the same as a 6inch sketch. The surface texture is lost. I can’t see the interplay of light as I move around. The visceral impact is reduced to nothing on the screen of my smart phone.

Yet, most of the art I see is on the screen of my smartphone. It’s quick and it’s easy. I think it would take me a year to actually stand in front of every painting I looked at in one week on my phone.

The Louvre had 8.5 million visitors last year. Instagram has 600 million users and counting. I’d be naive to demand that everyone had to look at my paintings in person ignoring the colossal reach of the internet.

So, what to do?
We need something that combines the reach of the internet with the experience of actually standing in front of a painting?

Virtual and Augmented reality look the most promising to me. Not as they are now but how they will be in 10 or 20 years. The technology looks clumsy now but so did mobile phones when they came out back in the 80’s.

Recording for the future . . .

Rather than just taking photographs of my paintings I want to record them in a way that will give future technology the best chance of recreating the experience of actually standing in front of them.

The best way I can see to do this at the moment is using a combination of photogrammetry and light field cameras. Obvious right? Why didn’t I just say so at the beginning?

Photogrammetry is where you take multiple photographs of an object, from lots of different angles, then you feed all the photos into a piece of software and it stitches them together into a three dimensional model of the original object you photographed.

Light field cameras do all the things normal cameras do. They also record an additional  range of computational information about the object, including distance and position in space. The main lens of a light field camera is augmented by a series of 200,000 micro lenses, each of which see the image from a slightly different perspective.

So you could say one light field image contains the equivalent amount of information to 200,000 standard images. Combining photogrammetry and light field cameras will I think capture the most amount of data using existing, readily available technology. You can pick up a light field camera on amazon for about $400 USD.

What does it mean practically?

As well as the normal photos I take of my paintings I’m going to start taking a series of photogrammetry images using a light field camera to capture the three dimensional aspect of my paintings. The recommendation for photogrammetry is to take an image every 5 degrees but that seems excessive for a painting so I’m going to take images every 20 degrees.

And then I’m going repeat that on 4 axes, right to left, top to bottom, corner to corner, and other corner to other corner, like so . . .

Including a full frontal image, that will mean 45 light field images for each painting.

Is the technology already in place to use the images?

Sort of, but not really.

There are a number of software applications that can turn the images into a reasonable 3D model. The most robust seems to be photo scan so that’s the one I will start with.

Once the 3D model is made it can then be used in a virtual or augmented reality environment. It will still be with the godawful VR headsets and pretty clumsy, but that’s just for now.

I’m not really focused on the current technology because it will change and probably a lot.

Trying to plan for what virtual and augmented reality will look like in the future is like being back in the 80’s, with the first mobile phones, and trying to plan for Instagram, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, YouTube, Google maps, Pokemon go, and all the other ways we currently use our phones. They were all inconceivable back then.

I don’t know what the future will bring but I do know the experience I’m trying to approximate. I want to capture enough data so that a future viewer can walk up to a virtual version of a painting. Look at it from any side. Get up really close to it. Crouch at the corners and look at how the raking light reveals the brush strokes. Stand back and let the scale of the painting sink in. Feel the visceral impact of the painting on their body. Get close to the painting and, I’m imagining future technology here, run their fingers over the surface of the painting.

Here I am with Syrian artist Ahmad Moualla's giant painting, "People and Power."

Taking in Syrian artist Ahmad Moualla’s giant painting, “People and Power,” in Dubai – March 2017

Over to you . . .

So that’s what I’ve got so far. It’s far from complete or perfect. I’m sharing it publicly because I hope other artists like yourself will start to record their work in this way also.

In the future when someone hears about your work they could go to your virtual space and see your work as you intended it to be seen, or as close to as possible. You could build your process pictures into the virtual model of your painting so they could see how you achieved the finished result you did. Artist Gretchen Andres is already doing a version of this in her virtual gallery.

In the future someone listening to my podcast could walk around a virtual gallery of the artist I’m chatting with. As the conversation turns to influences and inspiration, the works of the influential artists could appear for comparison and consideration.

In the future a platform like Instagram could be more like a virtual gallery too, or with augmented reality it could be a space on the wall of your home where virtual paintings appear.

As more virtual art is recorded and shared you could curate any number of virtual galleries for your own reference and enjoyment.

And these are just a few of the possibilities off the top of my head. I’m sure you will think of a lot more once you get going.

Nothing compares to standing in front of a painting. No question. As a community of artists we can take steps now to help our future viewers see our work in a better, more authentic way than fast swiping on a tiny screen.

Any suggestions or questions have please leave them in the comments section below and do share this post with your artist friends.

Recording for the future . . .

Rather than just taking photographs of my paintings I want to record them in a way that will give future technology the best chance of recreating the experience of actually standing in front of them.

The best way I can see to do this at the moment is using a combination of photogrammetry and light field cameras. Obvious right? Why didn’t I just say so at the beginning?

Photogrammetry is where you take multiple photographs of an object, from lots of different angles, then you feed all the photos into a piece of software and it stitches them together into a three dimensional model of the original object you photographed.

Light field cameras do all the things normal cameras do. They also record an additional  range of computational information about the object, including distance and position in space. The main lens of a light field camera is augmented by a series of 200,000 micro lenses, each of which see the image from a slightly different perspective.

So you could say one light field image contains the equivalent amount of information to 200,000 standard images. Combining photogrammetry and light field cameras will I think capture the most amount of data using existing, readily available technology. You can pick up a light field camera on amazon for about $400 USD.

What does it mean practically?

As well as the normal photos I take of my paintings I’m going to start taking a series of photogrammetry images using a light field camera to capture the three dimensional aspect of my paintings. The recommendation for photogrammetry is to take an image every 5 degrees but that seems excessive for a painting so I’m going to take images every 20 degrees.

And then I’m going repeat that on 4 axes, right to left, top to bottom, corner to corner, and other corner to other corner, like so . . .

Including a full frontal image, that will mean 45 light field images for each painting.

Is the technology already in place to use the images?

Sort of, but not really.

There are a number of software applications that can turn the images into a reasonable 3D model. The most robust seems to be photo scan so that’s the one I will start with.

Once the 3D model is made it can then be used in a virtual or augmented reality environment. It will still be with the godawful VR headsets and pretty clumsy, but that’s just for now.

I’m not really focused on the current technology because it will change and probably a lot.

Trying to plan for what virtual and augmented reality will look like in the future is like being back in the 80’s, with the first mobile phones, and trying to plan for Instagram, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, YouTube, Google maps, Pokemon go, and all the other ways we currently use our phones. They were all inconceivable back then.

I don’t know what the future will bring but I do know the experience I’m trying to approximate. I want to capture enough data so that a future viewer can walk up to a virtual version of a painting. Look at it from any side. Get up really close to it. Crouch at the corners and look at how the raking light reveals the brush strokes. Stand back and let the scale of the painting sink in. Feel the visceral impact of the painting on their body. Get close to the painting and, I’m imagining future technology here, run their fingers over the surface of the painting.

Here I am with Syrian artist Ahmad Moualla's giant painting, "People and Power."

Taking in Syrian artist Ahmad Moualla’s giant painting, “People and Power,” in Dubai – March 2017

Over to you . . .

So that’s what I’ve got so far. It’s far from complete or perfect. I’m sharing it publicly because I hope other artists like yourself will start to record their work in this way also.

In the future when someone hears about your work they could go to your virtual space and see your work as you intended it to be seen, or as close to as possible. You could build your process pictures into the virtual model of your painting so they could see how you achieved the finished result you did. Artist Gretchen Andres is already doing a version of this in her virtual gallery.

In the future someone listening to my podcast could walk around a virtual gallery of the artist I’m chatting with. As the conversation turns to influences and inspiration, the works of the influential artists could appear for comparison and consideration.

In the future a platform like Instagram could be more like a virtual gallery too, or with augmented reality it could be a space on the wall of your home where virtual paintings appear.

As more virtual art is recorded and shared you could curate any number of virtual galleries for your own reference and enjoyment.

And these are just a few of the possibilities off the top of my head. I’m sure you will think of a lot more once you get going.

Nothing compares to standing in front of a painting. No question. As a community of artists we can take steps now to help our future viewers see our work in a better, more authentic way than fast swiping on a tiny screen.

Any suggestions or questions have please leave them in the comments section below and do share this post with your artist friends.

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