Easel looks like a painting easel with a blank canvas stetched on a frame mounted to it. The painter uses a small paintbrush in the same manner a painter would. Instead of solid colors, the brush applies live video from cameras positioned nearby. Each new stroke of the brush brings a new coat of “current video” to the canvas. The painter can select between a few live video sources by dipping the paintbrush into a few paint cans that are mounted on the easel. The computer that runs the Easel software is hidden in the background and there is no computer screen in sight.
At the heart of Easel are a video camera and a video projector aimed at the canvas. The camera is sensitive to infrared light only, and the projector projects the computer screen. The paintbrush’s bristles are made of fishing wire that serve as fiber optics and emit infrared light through the canvas. The infrared light is captured by the camera that transfers it to the computer via a video digitizing board. A second video camera is connected to the computer and inputs a picture of the surrounding view. The computer mixes both video sources according to a few simple algorithms, and the result is sent through the projector back to the canvas. The effect is an illusion that the images are being applied by the brush. Sensors in the paint cans switch between video sources for the input of the second video board.
Easel is interesting aesthetically both as a work in progress and as a final piece. As a work in progress every new stroke of the brush brings a new coat of video to the canvas; since there is no erasing, the background is always some previous video. The changing proportions between new and old strokes change the viewers’ perception of positive and negative spaces. As the piece is completed various patches of video blend into a soft collage with multiple levels of transparency, a hint of three-dimensionality is present due to the layering effect of the Easel coats of video. The content of a piece painted with Easel is not set. However the placement of the video sources does imply a set of expanding circles around the painter. The first circle is the closest. It is a camera pointed at the artist allowing him/her to portray themselves or any objects near by. The second circle is a video camera pointing at the surrounding environment such as the room. The third circle is a live feed from TV or a camera pointed out the window. Using these three inputs the artist can create a picture that reflects a certain moment in time at a certain location and state of mind.
This piece was created with funding by Interval Research Corp. and NYC-ITP.