Pixelized Paint on a Computerized Canvas: A Look at VR Painting

Recently, I heard about a kickoff event that was sponsored by DC Virtual Reality (DCVR) called "Paint the World: A VR Painting Pop-Up Public Event". Held last week on October 2nd in downtown DC, the event promoted VR technology and education and to raise funds that will assist in getting VR tech to communities. While this is a worthy goal, some of you might be asking: What exactly is VR painting? Read on to find out ...

Conceptually, VR painting is what it sounds like: painting in virtual reality. Instead of real paint, real canvases and real brushes, VR painters use VR headsets and motion controllers to paint inside of a virtual space. This simple description does not do full justice to the VR painting medium; in fact, a more accurate name for VR painting might be 3D painting, because artists in this medium are capable of layering, shaping and animating their works in ways that a flat canvas cannot accommodate.

So far, VR painting has attracted the interest of major players in the VR industry. Google released Tilt Brush back in 2016, and Oculus has experimented with its own VR art software--Medium and Quill--for the last few years. Owners of low-end headsets such as Google Daydream headset can get an introduction to VR painting through apps such as Paint VR. There's even a group called Magik Gallery that's determined to make VR art something that can be readily exhibited, collected and traded. The video gaming aspect of VR may be grabbing the most headlines--especially in the press coverage of recent events such as Oculus Connect 5 and the Magic Leap creator conference--the artistic applications of VR continue to appeal to users who would otherwise be indifferent to VR.

Fortunately, the internet is filled with examples of VR painting, so you can see for yourself how VR provides unique opportunities for both artists and art connoisseurs. Plenty of Tilt Brush videos are available on the Google AR and VR channel on YouTube, and the Vimeo and Veer sites both have ample selections of VR painting videos. Of these videos, I highly recommend the 360-degree videos, which will give you a better sense of VR painting’s potential as an artistic medium.

The GW Hatchet video channel on YouTube recently posted a video about the DCVR event, which includes an interview with event co-organizer Joey Cathey from Capitol Interactive. A second DCVR Paint the World event is scheduled for next Tuesday, October 16th, and you can reserve a spot on the DCVR Meetup space.


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