Twin Artists Make A Machine That Lets You Draw In Perfect Perspective
Linear perspective’s been around for a while, ever since the 15th Century to be exact, when the architect and engineer Filippo Brunelleschi ostensibly invented it. Brunelleschi developed the idea of the “vanishing point,” which led painting to emerge from its flat, two-dimensional form into the three-dimensional realism that came to define the Renaissance period. And while Brunelleschi’s ideas continue to form the basis of all three-dimensional renderings, from artist sketches to fancy design software, not a whole lot of innovation has been made on the linear perspective front since the mid-1400s.
Brunelleschi’s invention, above, confirmed the idea of perspective. By placing a hole in the back of a canvas over the spot where the vanishing point would be, the viewer glances at the scene represented in the painting through the hole. Looking in a mirror that reflects the painted image back at him, the viewer is able to match up the reflection of the painted image alongside the real-world setting and see the two optically blend into one another.
The Oakes brothers are a pair of twin artists who are picking up where Brunelleschi left off and offering up a fresh perspective on perspective. They’ve devised an “easel” machine that enables you to draw in perfect perspective, achieving that all illusive realism that can only be accomplished through accurate proportion and scale.
Following a similar track of scientific inquiry, the pair explored the nature of stereoscopic vision and its effect on our idea of what three dimensional space is. What they’ve developed is essentially a technique for willfully activating “double vision,” isolating the images captured by each eye. In doing so, they’re able to let one eye scan the scene while the other plots it on the canvas. Their custom constructed concave “easel” plays tricks on your eyes, making the paper melt away and allowing the artist to trace the scene beyond it.
The twins work in linear strips of paper since only a small area of the scene is visible at a time. The strips are then assembled to create the finished drawing.
There’s something terribly apropos about two twins breaking apart the nature of stereoscopic vision to create a new tool for drawing in perfect perspective. And while their invention looks like something out of Leonardo’s (or, perhaps more accurately, Brunelleschi’s) sketchbooks, it’s interesting to see contemporary artists giving a fresh perspective to age-old ideas.
(Thanks to Helen Papagiannis for the tip!)