Creating my own magical worlds and walking through them… an unreal experience in VR with Google TiltBrush at the Refinery29 Offices a few weeks ago. Watch me walk you through the entire experience here.
Last year, I came across this video which I found to be incredibly inspiring (I’ve watched it a million times) . Not only because it features the work of Glen Keane, but because it displayed how real an artist’s work can be and exist within their mind. The act of imagining is pretty incredible in itself. I imagine many of the things I create in my mind to be real. To be able to visualize those imaginations on paper so that they can be seen by others is a powerful tool. But, to be able to physically portray those ideas within a 3D environment takes them to another level.
This past January, Google’s Data Arts Team invited me to San Francisco to immerse myself into a virtual world where I could create art within a three dimensional space. I spent a full day with the Google team, playing with Tiltbrush for the very first time. Stepping into a giant room covered in black drapes, I was handed the headset which was attached to a long black cord. Once I had the headset on, it was like I was in another world straight away. I had stepped into a dark and serene desert landscape, surrounded by 360º of distant mountains and a subtle starry night’s sky as I looked up over my head. It was a super relaxing virtual space. Everything felt calm, and very similar to how I feel when I paint late at night.
Once I had stepped into the VR world, I was handed two plastic controllers. I could see nothing around me in the real world, I was completely inside the virtual world. Once I had the plastic controllers placed in my hands, two virtual controllers appeared within my hands in the desert. There was a color palette and brush palette in my left hand, and a selector and brush tool in my right hand. They briefly explained how everything worked before I went into the virtual world, but from there they wanted me to fully experience what it’s like to figure out how to use a new tool. I think it took about 2 minutes to figure it all out. It felt more natural than I ever would have thought. I immediately began experimenting with the different brushes, line weights, opacities, and other tools. Instantly hooked!
Over the next few hours, I began timed drawing exercises. 30 min sketches, 20 minute sketches, 10 minute sketches, etc. Within the VR world, my mind completely forgot about the real world around me. A scary but fascinating situation. The only thing snapping me out of the creation of my art were the occasional moments when I was tangled in the VR cording. At the end of each drawing, I would take the headset off to take a quick break or to let one of the team members go in and experience my drawing. It was the weirdest feeling to step out of the virtual world. My artwork felt very real… like I could reach out and pick it up. Each brushstroke appeared to be a three-dimensional form. As soon as I was out and back in the real world it felt as if I had lost something that was just right in front of me. Very surreal. I couldn’t wait to go back in.
I also found TiltBrush to be a challenge. It made me rethink my work completely. Of course, drawing in 2D is a completely different experience than 3D. Drawing a gown on a figure meant creating brush strokes all the way around the woman, so it appeared on all sides as you walked around her. It felt a bit like I was relearning to draw… in a sculptural way.
I loved how physical Tiltbrush made the drawing process. Often, I’m stuck sitting at my drawing table all day when I’m working. In VR, to draw a star in the sky, I had to reach high in the air and physically create that star with my body. It was never something I really thought about while I was using it… it felt natural and intuitive. Unsurprisingly, by the end of 8 hours, I was incredibly exhausted when I came back to reality.
To be able to fill a world around me with my work and imagination was an incredible experience. The future should be fun…