Skilled artists out there are finding a whole new realm of possibility with Tilt Brush, the VR painting app! The artwork these artists are creating is absolutely mindblowing and is emerging as a whole new art style that is completely enabled by virtual reality. I interviewed three Tilt Brush artists about this new medium and why others should give it a go.
Tilt Brush is a virtual reality app from Google for the HTC Vive that lets you paint in 3D space with virtual reality. You can walk around the space and look at the artwork from any angle in a way that is incomparable to any other medium that has come before it. You can create an entire world through a range of brushes and textures, including ones that respond to music! You enter into an immersive blank canvas and create the whole scene around you from your imagination. It truly is a lot of fun and has great potential for artists looking to express themselves in a whole new way. You can then share your creations via online videos, GIFs, screenshots or — the best option — by letting them explore your VR scene themselves in your headset!
Here’s Google’s Tilt Brush promo video for those new to the concept:
Tamiko Thiel left engineering to become a media artist back in the days when overlap between the two wasn’t a thing! She ended up designing Danny Hillis’ Connection Machine CM-1/CM-2 and then studied art in Munich. She found the limitation of a 2D plane frustrating and chose to work with object and video installations so she could work in 3D! She even worked with Steven Spielberg in her first VR project, Starbright World. Tamiko then set her sights on the world of Tilt Brush and was most recently named a 2017 Google Tilt Brush artist in residence. She first tried out Tilt Brush in 2016 in Valve’s office. As she recalls,
“Chet Faliszek was kind enough to let me try it out. I had seen online videos and thought this was finally the technology that would allow me to do non-realistic virtual worlds, and to get back to my earlier love of drawing and painting that I gave up in order to work in 3D virtual worlds.
I tried some Japanese calligraphy, which is always my test for fluidity of input — you can only draw good calligraphy on a tablet for instance if the response is good and the input strokes react to the dynamic of your stroke. I also drew a horse of course — as a young girl I was horse-crazy, and since I could only afford one hour a week on a horse, I spent the rest of my time drawing them, and “re-making” plastic models: painting them, giving them “hair” manes and tails, making tack for them.”
Her first work, “Land of Cloud”, is absolutely wonderful and even has a concept video with audio behind it on her website that goes beyond just the typical Tilt Brush video:
Daniel Breda is a Sydney artist who works with oil paintings on canvas, drawings, sculptures and painting installations. His experience entering Tilt Brush was definitely a life changing one:
“Oh dear, I was shocked, totally amazed. Appalled that I hadn’t been exposed to it sooner and instantly obsessed. The first thing I made was this big 3-dimensional cartoon head while I was in my house. The head was distorted and pretty sinister looking, made me feel like I wanted to make something bigger and better, I’ve felt the same way each time after creating something in Tilt Brush.”
Here’s a reel of Daniel’s Tilt Brush pieces so far:
Brennan Hatton was our top 2016 Dev Diner Emerging Tech Inspiration for AR and is a talented developer who I first met when he was running the Meta developer program. Today, he spends his time at Devika Learning running workshops on technology to help youth get the skills they’ll need in an ever digital world. On the side, he does a whole range of things, including art! He drew a lot as a child and also loves drawing on his Snapchat — another interesting new medium. Brennan’s Tilt Brush artworks are absolutely fantastic, so I just had to get his thoughts on the space from the perspective of both an artist and developer.
“Absolutely mind blowing, my first thought as a virtual reality developer, was “how do I get this as a 3D model into Unity?” Yes it is possible.” — Brennan Hatton
Spot the surfer in this detailed Tilt Brush piece by Brennan:
Why are artists loving Tilt Brush as a medium? What is it about it that makes it so different from other mediums that already exist?
“Tilt Brush offers a limitless canvas with infinite spatial options. It provokes an entirely new level of perception to the creative process of painting/drawing/sculpture.” — Daniel Breda
Tamiko points out the true difference that comes from this immersive medium,
“The difference with Tilt Brush is that you are inside your creation and use your entire body, not just your hand or arm, to create those sweeps and arcs. Many Tilt Brush works I see are created out of many tiny strokes that build up a solid form. What attracts me is being able to define a 3D form and a volume in a few numbers of calligraphic strokes. I don’t want to imprison myself by saying that is the only way I will work in Tilt Brush, but that is what is exhilaratingly different about working in Tilt Brush right now.”
The immersion is something which all of the artists point out is a huge advantage with Tilt Brush, you can become completely immersed in your artwork — something which artists already know the feeling of… but to a whole new extent. Tamiko explains it best,
“Creation in Tilt Brush is a full-body, full-immersion experience. All artists know that feeling — even in non-digital media — when they concentrate on their artwork so intensely that the real world disappears and they live totally in a world of their own making.” — Tamiko Thiel
Brennan explains the immersion side of this in more detail,
“Tilt Brush really changes the experience of creating art. It is really hard to explain, and something you just need to try. It allows you to be completely focused and immersed in what you are creating, create it all around you or travel around it yourself. It has that analogue feeling traditional drawing has, with all the benefits of digital art like undo, colour selection Photoshop-style brushes.”
“To have a technology come along and invent a entirely new way of doing something isn’t unheard of, but to have it do it better is fantastic.” — Brennan Hatton
Tilt Brush isn’t really comparable to other mediums as it is such a new and entirely different experience, reacting to your own space within the virtual world and even newer inputs like music. Daniel says,
“It’s exciting and I’m still fascinated by it no matter how many hours I’ve used it. You can’t make marks with any other medium like you can in Tilt Brush. It is utterly incomparable to any other media, and it’s stimulating. You know, it moves when you move, if you’re listening to music, the marks you have made are reactionary to what music you hear, just as you are.”
“It’s an extension of your cognitive abilities, as if you are in constant collaboration with your medium, opposed to being in control of it.” — Daniel Breda
While you can video yourself in Tilt Brush to show your creations to those without a headset (Brennan points out this is the most effective way to reach a lot of people), the most effective and memorable way to show people your artworks is to place them in the experience themselves with a Vive headset. It is almost like bringing someone directly into your imagination, into your own world which you’ve created from scratch. The more VR headsets become prolific in homes around the world, the more we’ll be able to have shared VR artwork experiences. This is something that really excites me!
Here’s another really clever piece from Brennan that would be so very cool to experience first hand!
If you’re around Sydney, Brennan recommends checking out VR Corner in China Town — I second that recommendation! If you’re in Wollongong, Brennan has granted Dev Diner readers an open invite to visit the Devika Learning office and try it out! Better yet, get a HTC Vive for yourself, as Brennan says, “If you are an artist, an art school, or just a creative person. Get yourself a Vive!” Daniel echos the need to just get into it and make art — “Jump in, spend as much time as you can in there. Find whichever of the brushes best suits what your style is. Enjoy.”
If you’re looking to learn how to create art in VR, Brennan points out there are classes available:
“We have started running some classes on understanding art in Virtual Reality at Devika Learning. Where we have some leading experts in Virtual Reality and the fine arts teach the understanding of colour and space and how virtual reality can take advantage of these. But the classes fill up fast and we haven’t really started marketing them yet, so just jump into Tilt Brush as much as you can and be sure to be on our mailing list!”
If the price of getting your own Vive is a bit too much, Tamiko has a great idea — join forces with a few fellow artists and really push yourself to go beyond the basics with it:
“Get one if you can, and if it is too expensive, get one together with a couple of people to share. Everyone makes a couple of whirly-gigs in a couple of minutes and calls it their “masterpiece” because it is so easy. To get beyond that and make something of value that is also interesting for other people to experience takes more time.”
Tamiko’s first Tilt Brush work, “Land of Cloud”, is available on the Vive through the Tilt Brush library as part of her Artist Residency. If you don’t have a Vive, you can still see it on the Tilt Brush website. Her own website has a video with an audio soundtrack (audio is not available yet inside of Tilt Brush itself).
A huge thank you to all three of these skilled Tilt Brush artists for taking the time to share their experiences! I’m inspired like crazy to use my Vive for some seriously adventurous artwork after all of that! Also, I’m on the lookout for more great Tilt Brush artists to feature, so if you have anyone in mind, feel free to get in touch with me and suggest them!