Chronicles of an Aeronaut (VR + Oil Painting) - 2021
this project is generously funded by the Ontario Arts Council
Unity, Oculus Rift, Substance Painter, Photoshop, Houdini Side FX & Oil Painting
Watching the invisible ocean of air that we live in, it's hard to forget that our bodies do not end at the lining of the skin. Our existence is not bound by physical presence. Consider this an invitation to feel the forms, plights and sensitivities of other species. Consider this an invitation to broaden your sensoria, to understand the mystery of existence through the eyes of the other. Mixing the spirit of poetry and science, the flights of the early aeronauts, the travelers of the sky, transformed our view of the world. These atmospheric adventures captivate every human's inner soul, as the medium which forms the aeronauts practice is air, the same medium which fills our lungs everyday; the medium in which we live, die, move, and exist in. "Chronicles of an Aeronaut" is a project that creates connections between futuristic and analogue image making techniques. Using virtual reality and painting, my objective is to create a series of oil paintings that are inspired by the aeronauts fascination with our world, and their desire to explore and reach new heights never reached before. I am specifically inspired by the sketches and words of meteorologist, aeronaut and astronomer, James Glaisher in in his 1971 journal, Travels in the Air. At the heart of the below renders lies a hot air balloon, the traveling vehicle. The balloon exists in an empty landscape, coexisting with birds and butterflies. During the travels of the early aeronauts, birds were used as a measurement for oxygen levels. As the aeronauts ascend further up into the skies, they would release birds, some would fly down and survive, and some drop down towards earth like a stone drowning in the ocean, having no chance of survival because of the low oxygen levels. The spirits of the birds embody the ghosts that exist in this world. Within this environment, I used virtual reality and painting to play with a sense of infinite perspective and interact with its simulated height. The beauty of VR as a tool for process was being able to experiment in virtual space with the skybox, delicately exploring each terrain in different times of the day. The skybox is a catalyst of immersion, enveloping the viewer within the corners of the cosmos. Using Unity I rendered this 3D world as an equirectangular image. This image was then translated into the real world via painting. This process allowed me to translate the infinite and distorted quality of VR landscapes into a two dimensional painting.
Terrain Modelling & Textures
(Houdini Side FX & Substance Designer/Painter)
Phase 1 is VR world-building, and Phase 2 is oil painting. In the first step of VR world-building, I used Houdini and Substance Designer/Painter to create terrain explorations. The terrains include mountains, cliffs and dunes, craters, islands, and finally canyons. These terrains act as the location where the journey of the aeronaut will take place.
VR Skybox & Perspective Studies (Unity)
Exploring the landscapes of Mountains, Cliffs and Dunes, Craters, Islands and Canyons with various skyboxes (4 AM, 5 AM, 4 PM and 5 PM) with various perspectives (straight view, over cloud view, aerial view, birds eye view, and butterfly view).
Equirectangular Renders (Unity)
Phase 1 begins with a VR world and ends with an equirectangular image. Equirectangular projection is a term that refers to the default output format of a 360 panorama image. Traditionally equirectangular images are plugged into a third party that enables you to view the image in 360. With this series I was more intrigued with using the 360 format without the plug in. This creates a paradoxical image that is both flat, and has a 360 degree view. The curvature in the horizon line creates the illusion of infinity, where the non linear perspective distorts the experience of viewing this image, making it difficult to know where the earth ends and where the sky begins. VR is used as a tool to create compositions that play with perspective, scale, depth and vanishing point.
The Final 3 Chosen Renders
Oil Painting - Phase 2
The second phase is using oil painting to paint the virtual compositions, mimicking their sense of infinite perspective and perceptual depth. Virtual reality is chosen as the first medium, not to produce the final result but as a tool in the production pipeline. Using the translucency and delicacy of oil paints, the sensation of infinite depth in VR will be translated to the real world through layers of paint. The final three paintings are a work in progress.