Digital Media Art Project: The Creative Process
The creative process is an essential part within the developments of a digital media art project. For those readers who are first landing here, I recommend you to check first this previous post where I briefly introduce this project (that it has no name yet 🙄).
The methodology that I am following is called a/r/cography (da Veiga, 2019), and it is structured with the following (non-linear) steps (Figure 1):
Two stages of the creative process
I will develop the 7 steps of a/r/cography in two parts:
I - Concept and design
This stage includes the first five steps, namely: Inspiration, Trigger, Intention, Conceptualization and Prototyping. This stage focuses the pairs narrative/development, interaction/evolution and experience/fruition.
II - Implementation
This phase includes steps 6 (Testing) and 7 (Intervention), and it focuses into testing with a restricted audience, error detection, and correction. The restricted testing aims to prove and improve the artefact pre-public presentation.
Conceptual, technical and funcional aspects in a work of digital media art
Let’s quickly remember some words from what should the artefact do?: “to fully appreciate a spherical anamorphosis it is necessary to transmit the correspondence between the “normal view” (seen in VR), and the distorted drawing”. A spherical anamorphosis is a way of immersive drawing, so let’s try to see what digital art has done in this regard, and how that affects the creative process.
I will analyse some existing examples of digital media art projects that focus on immersive drawing. The aim of this analysis is the identification of their conceptual, technical and funcional aspects. Then, I will locate these case studies within the 3D space of intention/intervention proposed within a/r/cography (Figure 2).
Within the current repertoire of artefacts for immersive drawing, we find examples applying methods and theories based on polyhedral projection surfaces, as an alternative to the single plane of classical perspective. Such applications have been solved both physically and digitally and in that regard Oliver Grau (2003, p. 349) divides immersive artefacts in two groups: “large-scale spaces of illusion that fully integrate the human body (e.g., rooms with 360º frescoes, the panorama, Stereopticon, Cinéorama, Planetarium, Omnimax and IMAX cinemas, or the CAVEs) and apparatuses that are positioned immediately in front of the eyes (e.g., peepshows, stereoscopes, stereoscopic television, Sensorama, or HMDs).
Most of these immersive artefacts mainly allow just the immersive fruition of a certain content. Nevertheless, what I would like to focus are artefacts that should allow: first, the creation of an immersive drawing, second, the interactive immersive fruition and visualisation of such a drawing, and third, an instant stream back of such a fruition.
CavePainting and Sketching in Space
Some of the digital artefacts that achieve these goals are recent CAVE-based projects promoting the so-called 3D sketching. For instance, CavePainting (Keefe et al., 2001) and Sketching in Space (Israel et al., 2009, 2010). Both projects have been exploring CAVEs implementation within early conceptual design.
These proposals explore a paper-detached sketching tool, analysing the impact of drawing inside an IVE (Immersive Visual Environment) and using ad-hoc tools. The aimed workflow is to go directly from the designer’s thoughts to a digital model: “3D sketching has the potential to develop towards a new tool that supports creative work and extends the human understanding of the expressive potential in digital space” (Israel et al., 2009, p. 11).
These proposals are presented as a viewer-centred perspective artefact, which implies “a mythical camera positioned along an axis extended perpendicular from the center of the screen. Viewer-centered perspective simulates the perspective view from the location of the viewer. To maintain correct perspective, a sensor that continuously reports the viewer’s position to the simulation is commonly used” (Cruz-Neira et al., 1992, p. 65).
This characteristic of recreating the right perspective from the simulation accordingly to the observer’s position, highlights either the pre-existence of a 3D digital model, or an automated computing of the image. Therefore, this means that, technically, the artefact works:
- mapping the movement of the tools within the CAVE device,
- creating a 3D model,
- streaming back instantly the image onto the CAVE’s walls accordingly to the user’s position.
Thus, we can consider CavePainting and Sketching in Space within the greener zone of the 3D intention/intervention space since: first, they stimulate the artist towards an impressive aesthetical experience, second, they can be used by both neophyte and expert users, and third, their functioning looks fluid and intuitive.
Another interesting example of immersive drawing is Fluid Sketching (Eroglu et al., 2018). This project is IVE-based and follows the same logic than the previous projects, that is, it creating 3D models on-the-fly. The main difference is that in this case the 3D models behave like fluids: “Fluid Sketching refers to works of art based on the aesthetics of fluid motion, such as smoke photography, ink injection into water, and paper marbling”.
Fluid Sketching has been very well solved in their technical aspects of setup and implementation (Eroglu et al., 2018, sec. III, IV). The intention of testing Fluid Sketching is well connected with the output of the test intervention. Users’ feedback gives a clear panorama about what the artefact is like.
The overall reading of the project shows that many details of this artefact have been successfully covered. Indeed, the users’ feedback does not point to basic functional features, but mainly to advanced features and functionalities, like color selection, previews, save and interaction with preload models, etc.
However, as pointed out by some of the interviewed artists that tried the artefact, Fluid Sketching might actually be a bit overwhelming due to its specificity on fluid-based tools: “There are so many parameters, I can barely keep them in my mind” (Eroglu et al., 2018, p. 6). Some of the future features asked by the artists during the feedback survey is the possibility of a “preview mode to inspect emitted particles without altering the piece of art” (Eroglu et al., 2018, p. 7). Finally, in their official video it can be seen the many steps the artist must do before actually drawing.
All in all, I suggest a positioning of Fluid Sketching at the centre of the diagram of intention/intervention since it has a wonderful vision but some unsolved things suggest that it needs a further development.
A last example, is Mobi3DSketch (Kwan & Fu, 2019). This proposal explores a mobile application that brings the advantages of 3D drawing to our phone, that is detaching 3D drawing from the dual dependency on CAVEs and ad-hoc tools.
This project still carries a lot of complications for its very basic use (Kwan & Fu, 2019, p. 8). As expected, many of those complications lie in the fact that within IVE artefacts one must wear VR glasses and therefore has a better perception of depth. Instead, Mobi3DSketch reduces not just the field of view (and with that the spatial relation between drawing and context), but also the stereoscopy vision through which we perceive depth.
Therefore, considering: first, that many of the cons of this project are related to the genesis of the artefact itself (mobile phones have a certain size and they are not stereoscopic); second, that the project does not seems to be very user friendly; third, that the final result has not a particular aesthetical impact; fourth, that the project is evolving and improving regarding previous works of this same team; I will place this example within almost the most red zone of the 3D space of intention/intervention.
These examples show the usefulness of digital interfaces for binding two stages of design, i.e., sketching and 3D modelling. As these CAVE-based devices capture early conceptual design ideas and build the digital model on-the-fly, the designer is creating and literally being immersed in a 3D model at once (Israel et al., 2009, 2010; Keefe et al., 2001).
In other words, these artefacts consider 3D space as a different and more direct medium for exteriorising thoughts, a mean in which modelling happens automatically and there is no need for projecting anything, neither in paper nor at all (Israel et al., 2009, p. 4). Such a logic gives to drawing a new dimension of freedom: “VR allows for drawing and freely expressing ideas directly in a 3D context. Artists can draw and perceive their creations in life-size, unconstrained by the two-dimensional world of paper or computer monitors” (Eroglu et al., 2018, p. 1).
So, problem solved?
Not at all, and there are many reasons why, just for mentioning two: first, 3D drawing might be in its way to become more natural and common among artists, architects, and designers, but their current availability is still reduced for creative artworks, technical surveys, critical analysis of existing architectural spaces, for massive education, etc. Second, an analogical option will always keep its safe place as a necessary alternative for those who think and construct in other terms, but we will develop this concept further during the next stages of the creative process.
Cruz-Neira, C., Sandin, D. J., DeFanti, T. A., Kenyon, R. V., & Hart, J. C. (1992). The CAVE: Audio Visual Experience Automatic Virtual Environment. Commun. ACM, 35(6), 64–72. https://www.doi.org/10.1145/129888.129892
da Veiga, P. A. (2019). A/r/Cography: Art, Research and Communication. In Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Digital and Interactive Arts. Association for Computing Machinery. https://doi.org/10.1145/3359852.3359859
Eroglu, S., Gebhardt, S., Schmitz, P., Hausch, D., & Kuhlen, T. W. (2018). Fluid Sketching―Immersive Sketching Based on Fluid Flow. 2018 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces (VR), 475–482. https://doi.org/10.1109/VR.2018.8446595
Grau, O. (2003). Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion (G. Custance, Trans.). MIT Press
Israel, J. H., Wiese, E., Magdalena, M., Rainer Georg, S., & Christian, Z. (2009). Investigating three-dimensional sketching for early conceptual design—Results from expert discussions and user studies. Computers & Graphics, 33(4), 462–473. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cag.2009.05.005
Israel, J. H., Zöllner, C., & Müller, A. (2010). Sketching in space. The Constitute. http://theconstitute.org/sketching_in_space/
Keefe, D. F., Feliz, D. A., Moscovich, T., Laidlaw, D. H., & Viola, J. L. (2001). CavePainting: A fully immersive 3D artistic medium and interactive experience. Proceedings of the Symposium on Interactive 3D Graphics, 85–93. https://experts.umn.edu/en/publications/cavepainting-a-fully-immersive-3d-artistic-medium-and-interactive
Kwan, K. C., & Fu, H. (2019). Mobi3DSketch: 3D Sketching in Mobile AR. Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1145/3290605.3300406