How We Immersed 7 Artists Inside Virtual Reality

3 minute read

The following details the process behind creating TIME’s Virtual Reality Is For Artists

After adding the final brush strokes, Tim O’Brien raised his hands to his head and pulled off the HTC Vive virtual reality headset he had been wearing. Back in our reality, he looked confused. Chuckling, he exclaimed: “Where’d it go?” O’Brien had just spent hours tirelessly working to create a stunning sculpture of a bird about to be bitten by a snake. Now, he was left staring at an empty room.

For the release of the HTC Vive headset, we asked seven artists to test Google’s Tilt Brush, a program that lets users create art in a three-dimensional virtual space. Using a powerful computer, two controllers and two cameras set up in opposite corners of the room, the artists’ movements were tracked to create the virtual drawings. In Tilt Brush, each controller offered different functions: the right controller functions as a paintbrush where the thickness of the brush can be adjusted with the swipe of the thumb; the left controller offers a dynamic pallet, letting the user select not only paint styles and colors, but also whether to draw in paint or fire, among many other functions.

Each and every one of the seven artists we selected intuitively started drawing in two dimensions – using a virtual flat surface. It’s only when they realized that they could move around and through the art that they started to draw in three dimensions, filling the virtual space with figures, landscapes, and in the case of one young painter, a pizza and a doughnut.

Each artist spent between one and two hours in Tilt Brush to create a single piece of art. I recorded the entire process, before immersing myself into their creations, recording what I was seeing. With TIME’s International Art Director Victor Williams and the magazine’s development team, we’re bringing these creations to life.

This is only the beginning. With the HTC and Tilt Brush now available to the public, artists will begin to get comfortable with the app. We expect incredible creations to begin coming from the app from professional and amateur artists alike. A time will come when the full experience of this show will be available in virtual reality to the masses, but for now we hope we have succeeded in portraying the unique experience of creating and viewing art in an entirely new dimension.


Tom Small

Experience the full interactive page at Virtual Reality Is For Artists

Josh Raab is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

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