Friday, August 30, 2013

Drawing in 3D

You will have no doubt seen the amazing 3D street art pictures that get emailed around. Ever wondered how they created them. I will go through the basics for you.

I was lucky enough to head over to the Sarasota Chalk Festival in Florida, USA a couple years back. I was attending the festival as a guest artist. As I normally work on paper and not 3D optical illusions. I was drawing a 2 D picture based on Japanese wood block print that year.

                                          detail from my chalk work.

Kurt Wenner, one of the 1st 3D street artist in the world was running some workshop on the techniques of 3D art for chalk artist.  

I was also lucky enough to see (in action) International 3D Maters such as 
Remko Van Schaik,

Eduard Relero and  

Leon Keer (just to name a couple of the incredibly talented arts) working.

The principals are quite simple, designing the work can be hard. Some basic point;

1.     All the 3D illusions are based on a fix viewing point. At all other viewing points the image is distorted.

2.     A single focus point as gained in photographs from this fixed point complete the illusion. The human brain and stereo vision is harder to trick (in most of us). This is not to say things don’t look 3D when you in the street. If they are big enough they do, but they ‘pop’ more in a single focus point instrument like a camera or viewing lens.
3.      Few people have the brains and mathematical ability of Kurt Wenner, most modern street workers (certainly all commercial 3D artist) would use a software package to plan their designs. A program like ‘Sidewalk 3D’ by BionWare is cheap and works well. See

4.     The illusion operates by altering a persons visual reading of the world around them. Our brains organises all we see with the understanding that perspective alters how we see. Simply put, things that are further away look smaller than they are.
5.     Perspective starts to take effect on a horizontal (the ground) surface, when a viewers line of sight decrease below 45 degrees. i.e height from ground to eyes is the ‘point of view. The same distance to a point on the ground will result in a 45 degree view point.
6.     Images laid on the ground beyond this point distort. To make the illusion work, you have to distort the original image to counteract the effects of perspective. I strongly recommend looking the Sidewalk 3D software.
7.     Point of view can be controlled in the street buy drawing 2 foot prints on the asphalt with the instructions ‘Stand Here’.

That is the basics. I have left out the gruelling pain that results from 3 days working, bent over on hot tarmac, in the blazing sun, on your knees, rubbing the skin off your knuckles as you work.

You will find lots of demonstrations done on Youtube, but nothing beats seeing it done in the real world. Next time you see someone chalking in the local plaza or hear about a chalk festival, check it out. You will be amazed.
If you wanting have a go, start small and then work up in scale. The 1st step is as always, to start.

These images are of Leon Keers amazing Terracotta Lego Warriors being drawn.

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Sarasota Chalk Festival
Kurt Wenner
Remko Van Schaik
Leon Keer
Eduard Relero
Sildwalk 3D

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