There are always pains to every great achievement and while creating 3D paintings may seem like fun for artists, it is not without its share of challenges and knee aches.
This highlight piece has real bubbles coming out of the painting’s mouth.
The "Living Arts Festival @ Ratchaprasong", which runs until Sunday, celebrates "living" art by gathering more than 10 international artists to create 3D and 4D paintings around the area, on streets or skywalks.
Coined as the very first outdoor festival to showcase 4D paintings in Thailand, spectators can now experience these wondrous creations for themselves (get your cameras ready, Bangkok shutterbugs). This curious art form can be perplexing yet enigmatic, so Life talked with two of the 3D painters from the US, Melanie Stimmell Van Latum and Julie Kirk Purcel, who have been giving colourful splashes to different surfaces around the world for over 15 years.
Julie's 4D work is of monkeys riding a roller coaster dragon, while Melanie's is a roundabout of pigs with a clown blowing real bubbles from a wall attached.
What is 4D art to you and what are some things you like to do?
Melanie: It's something more recent but is basically taking a 3D painting and taking it to the next level where you're not only viewing the 3D painting, but you're also experiencing it by feeling, hearing and really getting into the environment of the painting itself.
You do that by bringing in other elements other than the painting, such as the wall, or props. Let's say it was a painting of mermaids, I might add rocks you could actually sit on, with the scene behind you. For this piece, bubbles come out and there will also be shiny ornaments on top of the saddles, that you can actually touch and feel so that's an added element.
What are the techniques behind 3D street painting?
Julie: Some of it is just how you use perspective to build the illusion. Another is anamorphic distortion, where everything that's further away is stretched out basically in a fan shape, longer and wider as it goes away from you. Anamorphic distortion corrects that because you are looking at it from an angle, instead of flat in front of your face. The last thing is how we use light and shadow. When scaled correctly, it really finishes what the perspective starts. I first make a rough sketch, then start stretching it. Some of it you can do on computer, but mostly you just need to understand how perspective works and you need to correct it manually because the computer can't do it.
What is the process and some of the challenges of a 3D painting?
Melanie: After you have your sketch, you start by stretching the image in the appropriate way so the perspective reads when you stand at the bottom. Then we grid it and when you lay down the same grid appropriately using strings on the floor, what is in the grids in your sketch should be the same on the floor. After that you can take the strings out and can just start painting the image.
The biggest challenge is stretching it because I just draw the final picture the way it is but then I have to draw it wrong. You learn as an artist is to draw things just the way they look: a certain shape and proportionately correct.
But with 3D you must draw everything incorrectly. Especially, if you are new to 3D, what can be a challenge is how much to alter things. Plus, sitting on the ground and crawling around for five days is not great for your knees or body.
Is this something taught in art schools?
Julie: There weren't classes to teach me how to do it when I was still a student. This art is all about learning by doing.
How do you deal with different surfaces?
Julie: Sometimes paper or canvas can be laid on anything that's hard and smooth. I was going to do my painting right on the ground at first, but the type of paint I wanted to use was more permanent so it went on paper instead.
Surface types depend on the weather and how exposed to it you are and how well the surface can take the application. My preference is asphalt with pastels because that's what I started out with.
So why is it that people use chalk if it comes off easily? Do you ever feel sad about your art being fleeting?
Melanie: Chalk is the tradition of street painting and it began in Italy about 500 years ago. Most of the time, when it first started, it was all paintings of Mary and her baby Jesus. It's meant to be a temporary art form because these were the only materials they had back then. As things moved to 3D, it became more important that it would stay longer and not rub away when people stepped on them. I like it actually and I think some other artists feel the same because the root traditions of street painting is that it's temporary. I think people appreciate it a little more, knowing it's on the ground only for a certain time.
Is this art only found at festivals or can artists randomly draw wherever they want?
Melanie: It depends on the city and location. Most of the time, it's for an organised event. It's usually in a place where there's a lot of foot traffic or car traffic so the area has to be blocked off in some way, so to a certain extent, it has to be planned ahead.
In Italy it's still very much a tradition for people to just go out on the street and paint and leave a can for tips, but not so much everywhere else. In the US, you would need permits.
What do you like most about street painting?
Julie: I like the size of it and working big, as well as the feeling of accomplishment when you're done. I like being out in public where I get to share what I do with people, not just being alone where no one ever sees it. I travel a lot now so I'm always growing as an artist. I like getting to meet people who like what I do, but also to see what people do over there and that's one of the best things about street art.
Julie’s painting is on the skywalk right at the intersection.
About the author
- Writer: Parisa Pichitmarn
Position: Life Writer