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VR And Digital Work From Observational Drawing

Below are several examples of digital work made from observational drawings. Students from the 3D Animation (games) course at Middlesex Uni are encouraged to draw from observation as to develop a unique voice and that is where I come in. As a result the idea of combining observed drawing with digital tech has taken my interest.

I teach at several courses at several institutions including the NFTS (National Film School), RCA (Royal College of Art), Middlesex and Kingston. The areas of study are animation, game design, illustration and so on.

Below are several examples of personal (videos from Tilt) and student work that combines digital and observational drawing.

The following videos show my first attempts at using Tilt Brush in VR. They are memory drawings from previous sketchbook images I have made while drawing around London. Below the videos are several stills from them. This of course has huge potential due to the flow of marks and illusion of space that can be achieved.


Some stills from the videos that show the pull of space and imitation of brush marks. Also how, with Tilt Brush, flat linear drawing can be sculptual and create three dimensional forms.


Images showing VR pre vis for a sculpture. The sculpture was a hand drawn image to begin with that was made in ZBrush. Digital tech such as ZBrush and Tilt allow for the organic feel of human touch to be retained. Something that I have noticed in the past was missing or not negotiable for most animators/painters/illustrators and such. This has changed with the advent of Oculus. Artists and designers feel liberated.

Torso sculptures in ZBrush from a 3 hour drawing session. 1.5 hours spent in the life drawing studio drawing the figure followed by 1.5 hours in ZBrush. This time limitation really pushed the students to go with it, to let go of pre conceived ideas and as a result these strange, energetic human forms appeared based on their experience and memory of drawing from the figure.

Again the same idea was used to approach head drawing. Unique characters appear through methodologies of drawing in combination with software.

When the software allows the individual to work freely, when their minds are allowed to play and move – new ideas are generated. The issue with ZBrush is its complexity where as Oclulus and image making software in Oculus such as tilt Brush, Quill and Medium allows for a much greater freedom, not just because these pieces of software are easy to navigate but also the freedom of expression and movement combined with the feeling they allow through an illusory space.

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MAMO Martins Drawings

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MAMO @ Imperial College, Class 05, 06 and 07

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David Bowie – The artist, the viewer, art and the Internet


Broadcast on Newsnight BBC in 1999, interviewed by Jeremy Paxman

On the effect the internet will have

‘’……the actual context and the state of content is going to be so different to anything we can really envisage at the moment’’

‘’Where the interplay between the user and the provider will be so in-simpatico it’s going to crash our ideas of what mediums are all about.’’

On art

‘’People like Duchamp were so prescient….the idea that the piece of work is not finished until the audience come to it and add their own interpretation….What the piece of art is about is the grey space in the middle’’

‘’The grey space in the middle is what the 21st Century’s going to be about’’ – Note; and so will our class.

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Ogilvy Detroit Found Art Class

In the summer of 2016 Paul Smith at Ogilvy invited me to Detroit to run a found art class based on the ideas of Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg and Ai Weiwei.

I had to develop a method and approach that enthused the delegates, convincing them that they were artists and as artists they could see the world and the objects in it in different ways. How do you become and artist? You just declare yourself one and decide to move about the world around you more intensely.

Faced with Motor City at a time when it is broken, when junk is strewn everywhere; how could they reclaim these discarded objects? Raise them up, find meaning and show them to us in a new light?

This was the most challenging but also the most successful project I have taken on. As usual Paul Smith pushed me to my limits and thus my outlook on what is possible, not just in the students but myself.




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RCA Textiles Classes Early 2017

RCA Printed Textiles asked me to run a series of workshops, over four sessions, to help the students engage in drawing and step away from the computer as the main design tool.
In this short space of time we covered line, tone and expressive colour (via drawing from paintings at the Tate Britain Hockney show) before finally applying these ideas to repeat pattern. The aim to take the results of the life drawing room and plug them into studio practice.

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RCA Case Study 2015


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Francis Bacon, Meat, X-rays and Degas

after_the_bath_edgar_degas_-_national_galleryFrom Interviews with Francis Bacon
DS David Sylvester – FB Francis Bacon

Pg 46

FB …..we are meat….we are constantly seeing images of the human body through X-ray photographs and that obviously does alter the beautiful Degas pastel in the National Gallery of a women sponging her back. And you will find at the very top of the spine that the spine almost comes out of the skin altogether. And it gives such a grip and twist that you’re more conscious of the vulnerability of the rest of the body than if he had drawn the spine naturally up to the neck. He breaks it so that this thing seems to protrude from the flesh. Now, whether Degas did this purposely or not, it makes it a much greater picture, because you’re suddenly conscious of the spine as well as the flesh, which he usually just painted covering the bones. In my case, these things have certainly been influenced by X-ray photographs.

Interviews with Francis Bacon
By David Sylvester
Thames and Hudson
Reprinted 2008
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Francis Bacon On Velasquez’s Pope And Photographs

From Interviews with Francis Bacon
DS David Sylvester – FB Francis Bacon

Pg 24

Bacon talking about Velasquez Pope Innocent X 1650.

DS…you do in fact paint other pictures which are connected to religion (apart from the Crucifixion he painted several Popes).

…But why is it you chose the Pope?

FB Because I think it is one of the greatest portraits that have ever been made, and I become obsessed by it…it haunts me, and it opens up all sorts of feelings and areas of – I was going to say – imagination…

Links to existing images generating new ideas through the act of observevation, also Duchamps idea that the view changes a work of art by coming to it.

Bacon paspsort

Pg 30

FB…99% of the time I find that photographs are very much more interesting than either abstract or figurative painting. I’ve always been haunted by them.

DS Do you know what it is especially that haunts you about them?…

FB I think it’s the slight remove from fact, which returns me onto the fact more violently. Through the photographic image I find myself beginning to wander into the image and unlock what I think of as its reality more than I can by looking at it. (Photographs) are often triggers for ideas.

DS I suppose the Muybridge’s are the photographs you’ve made use of the most continually.

FB Well, of course, they were an attempt to make a recording of human motion – a dictionary, in a sense. And the thing of doing series may possibly have come from looking at those books of Muybridge with the stages of a movement shown in separate photographs….


Pg 38

DS…in recent years, when you’ve planned to do a painting of somebody, I believe you’ve tended to have a set of photographs taken especially.

FB…I very much prefer working from the photographs than from them (the actual person)…I find it easier to work than actually having their presence in the room…if I have the presence of the image there (the actual person in the room), I may not able to drift so freely as I am able to through the photographic image…I find it less inhibiting to work from them through memory and their photographs than actually having them seated there before me.

DS You prefer to be alone?

FB Totally alone. With their memory.

….What I want to do is distort the thing far beyond the appearance, but in the distortion to bring it back to a recording of the appearance.


DS Are you saying that painting is almost a way of bringing somebody back, that the process of painting is almost like the process of recalling?

FB I am saying that…

Velasquez’s Dwarf painting is almost alive and what he says earlier in section about his memory (or imagination) used in conjunction with photos to invoke the person.

Interviews with Francis Bacon
By David Sylvester
Thames and Hudson
Reprinted 2008
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Francis Bacon On The Ambiguities Of Paint In Painting

francis bacon close

From Interviews with Francis Bacon
DS David Sylvester – FB Francis Bacon

Pg 17

DS What is it above all that happens with the paint? Is it the kind of ambiguities that it produces?


FB And the suggestions. When I was trying in despair the other day to paint that head of a specific person, I used a very big brush and a great deal of paint and I put it on very, very freely, and I simply didn’t know in the end what I was doing, and suddenly this thing clicked, and became exactly like this image I was trying to record. But not out of any conscious will, nor was it anything to do with illustrational painting.

What has never been analysed is why this particular way of painting is more poignant than illustration. I suppose because it has a life of its own. It lives on its own, like the image one’s trying to trap; it lives on its own, and therefore transfers the essence of the image more poignantly. So that the artist may be able to open up or rather, should I say, unlock the valves of feeling and therefore return the onlooker to life more violently.

Bacon Portraits

….there is a possibility that you get through this accidental thing something much more profound than what you really wanted.

I think I tend to destroy the better paintings, or those that have been better to a certain extent. I try and take them further, and they lose all their qualities, and they lose everything. I think I would say that I tend to destroy all the better paintings.

Interviews with Francis Bacon
By David Sylvester
Thames and Hudson
Reprinted 2008
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