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From Paint Brush to Tilt Brush

Ever thought about drawing with stars and fire? Now, it’s finally possible … virtually at least!

Surely, after reading the first blog post on oil paint and graphic tablets, you might be aware of the different digital art forms there are! Here is another one that was developed very recently – painting in virtual reality!

Virtual Reality: A technology that enables a person to interact with a computer-simulated environment, be it based on a real or an imagined place (Tate)”

The Early Stages Of VR

Virtual Reality, in the way we know it, has been around for a few years now. But it started off quite differently. In the 1950s, cinematographer Morton Heilig came up with an idea to put his audience in a physical film. A few years later, the Sensorama came to life! Essentially, it is a big machine that made the viewer believe to actually be part of one of his films. By using stereoscopic 3D images, stereo sound and even wind and scent, Heilig engaged all the viewer’s senses – hence its name Sensorama!

As advancement in this field were made, prototypes of different devices were constructed. There have been developments in flight simulation systems, but no commercial successes yet. But it was clear that a new research field was born.

It was not until 1987 when this research area was finally named ‘virtual reality’. The term was coined by Jaron Lanier, who also founded his company VPL. He managed to advance in the area of VR, making him the first to sell head mounted display as well as VR gloves. Ground breaking at that time. And just as some bonus information, he called his goggles EyePhone (I see what you did there, Steve Jobs).

Photo of Sensorama prototype
Minecraftpsyco [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

VR today

Fast-forwarding to the 21st century, 2016 marks an important date for the VR industry. Both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive were released for consumers! While there have been a few VR headset prototypes before, the commercial release is what was crucial for the advancement of the virtual reality itself and its application on art.

Tilt Brush

Along with the newest VR gear comes new opportunities. So, upon release of the HTC Vive on April 5th, 2016, Tilt Brush was released by Google. And while current sales on Amazon for different VR headsets are now decreasing, the impact it has left for artists remains. The app allows anyone to paint three-dimensionally. When putting on the headset, the artist is taken into a dark space, which acts as the 3D canvas. And the best thing is: one can draw with mediums like stars and fire, making it unique to the digital world.

Virtual reality now allows artists to create digital art in three-dimensional space. Something that has never been done before. Originally, digital art started off in the two-dimensional space on the screens. Tilt Brush, however requires allows the artist to physically move around in order to create their work. In a sense, it could be described as digitally painting sculptures.

The fact that Tilt Brush offers brushes/paint that, physically speaking, is impossible to paint with proves how ahead it is from its time.  There already are stunning pieces of art online, demonstrating how accessible it all is. Artists can reach more audiences in the digital space than they would when showcasing their artwork in a set physical space.

The future of VR art

As affordable and accessible as VR headsets seem, the issue with creating digital artwork is simple. The exhibition. How would museums, now and in the future, display artworks that physically just aren’t there? Are they willing to provide VR sets for all the visitors?

Well, there currently are permanent and public VR spaces, but none of which put focus on just displaying an artist’s three-dimensional work. More emphasis is put on the gaming experience, so there even are cafés in South Korea in which you can rent a room to immerse yourself in the VR experience.

As for museums themselves, some have used VR to reconstruct their galleries digitally. The National History Museum in London has succeeded in doing this, by making it seem as if an extinct creature came to life as the visitor puts on the VR set. But the issue here is that museums have not yet found ways to exhibit paintings from artists that mainly work with apps like Tilt Brush. Currently, the only platform on which people can appreciate 3D artworks is either on YouTube (an example video shown below) or on the Tilt Brush website. Even though, digital art is easier to share and spread, it much is harder for artists to curate their own physical exhibition.

So, what do you think about using VR as an art medium? Comment down below or tweet me!


What to read next?

Google Tilt Brush: Impossible Now A Reality?, CNN

How Can Museums Use Virtual Reality?, MuseumNext

Tilt Brush – Artists in Residence, Tilt Brush by Google

Virtual Reality Is For Artists, TIME

Virtual Reality Is The Most Powerful Medium Of Our Time, Molly Gottschalk

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