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Creating a hand drawn virtual art exhibition

A virtual exhibition for Easterly Artists

The “In Isolation” virtual exhibition for Easterly Artists was put together over a period of about two weeks from a standing start with no prior knowledge or experience of creating virtual experiences other than a curiosity about the way Google Street View works.

Google Streetview

The initial focus was on understanding Google Street View. Downloading the Google Street View App ( Android and iPhone) made me realize that many of us have the ability to create the raw data of virtual experiences in our hands every day. The capture function in Google street view allows mobile phone users to capture 360-degree photographs by automatically stitching together upwards of 30 or so individual photographs taken standing in a single spot.  It’s impressive but you do quickly realize the limitations. It’s difficult to rotate the phone about a consistent position so inevitably some of the stitching struggles to work. However, there are specialist cameras that simultaneously take just two fisheye lens views to create 360-degree images in a single shot. Surprisingly entry-level cameras such as the Ricoh Theta start at only £250.

File Formats

As I wanted to be able to create virtual experiences outside of the Google Street View project I wanted to understand what file format is used. It turns out it’s both very simple and a bit clever. The simple bit is that it’s just a jpeg file,( like every other photo in your digital world)  but one that needs to meet some specific criteria. Firstly it has to be a landscape format rectangle with a size ratio of 2:1. It also has to fit within quite a broad range in terms of the number of pixels ( generally more is good but there is a limit). But most importantly the image has been mapped onto the rectangle as an equirectangular projection. You may think you know nothing about equirectangular projections but wait. You all will have seen large rectangular wall maps of the world. Well, they are equirectangular projections of the surface of the earth. 

A Paper Template

Software or cameras composing equirectangular projections use lots of fancy maths but a quick google of equirectangular projection and you find template drawings that transpose a grid of horizontal and vertical lines within a space and lay them out as an equirectangular projection. Armed with this it is possible with a fair degree of spatial imagination to draw directly in equirectangular projection in a not dissimilar way that you might draw in a perspective projection. 

Creating the image file

So armed with a printed out grid, some tracing paper, and a pencil you can create an equirectangular projection drawing of a 360-degree view. All you need to then do is photograph it with your mobile phone ( take care to align it up as straight as possible). The photograph then needs to be edited down to an exact 2:1 ratio ( I use Photopea its a free online image editing tool that has been designed to replicate the full capabilities of Photoshop. To get the software to recognize that the jpeg is intended to be interpreted as a 360-degree view rather than just a rectangular image you need to then add a little tag into the file. 

Exif Editing

All cameras automatically add lots of information into jpeg files. 360-degree cameras and stitching software add a special tag and this is what needs to be replicated to complete the creation of a hand-drawn 360-degree view.  Initially, a bit stumped but then I came across a help page on Facebook which quickly clarified that the required additional tag is an Exif XMP tag which specifies that the “ProjectionType=equirectangular”. Also, the article recommends Exifier (https://www.thexifer.net/) a web-based tool for editing the tags in image files which makes the job very simple to do.

Testing the experience

Next test your 360-degree drawing. The simplest way is uploading it to Facebook. As long as you have fulfilled all the criteria set out above then the platform immediately recognizes your file as a 360 virtual image and displays it appropriately with the usual navigation and control functions. Hey, presto you can experience your own hand-drawn virtual environment. You can also view the image with specific 360-degree viewer apps for computers, Android, or iPhone.

Authoring on WordPress

I wanted to be able to host my virtual space on a website and enrich the experience with content embedded into the space. I already knew that there is a whole world of great and geeky plugins available to the WordPress community so I looked. Sure enough, there is a plugin that has been developed for authoring virtual tours within WordPress sites ( and to think it started off as a text blogging tool) The plugin is called WP VR. There is a limited functionality free version and the paid version is $45 per year for a single site.  It’s not the most intuitive of interfaces but with a lot of trial and error and a fair few late nights I was able to create the “In Isolation” exhibition. I took care to test the experience on laptops and a series of different mobile phones. Over 50% of visits to websites are now from mobile phones so I wanted to make the experience as accessible as possible.  It may have 48 hotspots with on hover links and on click pop up images but the exhibition is just 1 scene.  Creating multiple linked scenes would allow an experience that moves through the imagined space rather than standing still and looking around. There are more sophisticated options than WPVR available. The potential to create an even richer experience is there to be tried. Watch this space!

Contact Hugh Davies at paper-works to find out how we could help you create hand-drawn virtual spaces.

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Paper-works* @ The Ness

Paper-works* led  two free workshops for The Ness project at unit 22 The Britten Centre.

Participants were invited to two separate printmaking workshops. In the morning Linocut and in the afternoon Drypoint.

Within each 3 hour workshop participants were given instruction to create and print their own prints in each technique. The results were brilliant!

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Paper-works* @ First Light

Paper-works* led Cyanotype workshops at the First Light Festival on Lowestoft Beach on the 23rd and 24th of June

Participants were invited to make prints using driftwood and sunlight using paper treated with iron salts.  Operating from a beach hut on the beach the workshops werw provided from 12noon til 5pm on the Saturday and from 8pm til 12 noon on the Sunday.

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Paper-works* @ The Scores

Paper-works* working with Hilary Barry led a full day linocut course as part of the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust Scores Project in Lowestoft.

Participants were invited to explore the Scores making sj=ketches and then return to the Lowestoft Heritage Centre to develop their designs into unique linocut prints.

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Exploring Ferric Chloride Etching

The ethos of paper-works* is to use low tech, low impact techniques so we were immediately drawn to avoid the strong acids, organic solvents etc used in traditional etching processes . Reading around the subject the use of a Ferric Chloride solution to etch copper plates seems like the way to go.

Advantages of ferric chloride

Ferric Chloride has immediate advantages. It is a salt rather than an acid. It is a less noxious chemical to have in the studio than an acid. However it still needs to be treated with care!. Also when etching copper it produces no gaseous by products so fume extraction is not an issue. It can also produce a good quality clean etch. However it has suffered a couple of drawbacks which has limited its use historically as an etching medium. Namely the slow speed of etch and the way that the sludge that develops as a by product can inhibit the etching process.

At its simplest a copper plate can be etched in a shallow tray of a ferric chloride solution. Occasional agitation of the tray will help move the sludge out of the way of the etching process. The etch can be achieved but it is slow. The slowness of the etch increases the chances of breakdown of the resists used in the etching process resulting in etching of the copper plate in areas that it is not wanted.

A better etching tank

Electronics enthusiasts have used ferric chloride as a means of etching copper circuit boards for many decades. Their approach to improving the etching process has been to develop vertical tanks rather than horizontal trays and to equip them with aquarium style air bubblers to provide constant agitation and aquarium heaters to speed up the etching reaction. We have looked at a number of such tanks and opted for the “Velleman ET20 etching tank” which complete with air bubbler and heater can be purchased for as little as £90. It is capable of accepting plates up to 300mm x 200mm.

Ferri chloride etch tank

A better etching solution

Printmakers have meanwhile adopted a differing approach to improving ferric chloride etching by experimenting with the solution itself. The result has been the “Edinburgh etch” a combination of controlling the strength of the ferric chloride and adding citric acid to obtain an etching solution which both acts faster and minimises the production of sludge.

To progress our experiments we have decided to go for the combination of the improved tank system tank and the improved etching solution.

Acrylic resists

The other element in copper plate etching is of course the resists being used. Again our desire for a low tech, noxious free approach led us straight to acrylic based resists. Acrylic resists can be quite simple from the use of acrylic based floor varnishes to a variety of proprietary acrylic resist systems. For our initial experiments we have opted to test Lascaux acrylic resists which come in a wide variety to provide hard ground, soft ground and aquatint style formulations. The full set are obtainable as a relatively modestly priced boxed set of nine 85ml bottles obtainable for around £60.

Chemical Disposal

Edinburgh etch solution is reported to remain potent for up to a year even with regular use but at some point it will need to be replaced. Unwanted Edinburgh etch should be disposed of appropriately. The following advice was obtained from MG Chemicals website

“The solution must not be put down the drain because of residual copper ions left in it. To make it safe for disposal, you can add sodium carbonate (washing soda) or sodium hydroxide to it to neutralize it, until the pH value goes up to between 7.0 and 8.0, testing it with indicator paper. Copper will be deposited as a sludge. Allow the sludge to settle, pour off the liquid, further dilute it with water and then it can be poured down the drain. Collect the sludge in plastic bags and dispose of it as required by your local waste authority”.

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Pinhole Cameras on the Market

There are a wide range of pinhole cameras available on the market. They can be a useful guide to selecting appropriate sizes of focal length and pinhole size for making your own. Here is a selection grouped together by the size of the film/paper.

8″ x 10″ 

Zero 810, 80mm focal length, 0.35mm pinhole

Zero 810, 160mm focal length, 0.5mm pinhole

ONDU, 130mm focal length , 0.5mm pinhole

Lensless Camera Co. 150mm focal length, (pinhole dia unknown)

5″ x 7″

ONDU, 97mm focal length, 0.4mm pinhole

Lensless Camera Co. 125mm focal length, (pinhole dia unknown)

4″ x 5″

Ilford Obscura, 87mm focal length., 0.35mm pinhole

ONDU 65mm focal length, 0.35mm pinhole

Lensless Camera Co. 75mm focal length (pinhole dia unknown)

Harman Titan 72mm focal length, 0.35mm pinhole

120 Film, 2 3/8″ x 2 3/8″ 

Nopo 120, 35mm focal length, 0.25mm pinhole

ONDU 6×6 25mm focal length, 0.2mm pinhole

35mm film

Zero 135, 25mm focal length, 0.18mm pinhole

Lerouge 26mm focal length, 0.2mm pinhole

 

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Hand printed edition from an antique woodblock

paper-works* was recently been commissioned to create an edition from an original antique woodblock. The woodblock, thought to date from the early 19th century, was of substantial size and thickness. It remains true and flat so with careful adjustment, a thick blanket and a flexible pressure plate the block was carefully passed though our large manual press . The resulting prints reveal a delicacy and fine detail in stark contrast to the dark heavy nature of the block itself. Using our  water washable vegetable oil based inks the block was cleaned with vegetable oil only to avoid moisture movement in the block

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Dry Point Day Course at the Fisher Theatre

 

On the last day of our exhibition at the Fisher Theatre we held a dry point day course in the Gallery space. Following on from other events held away from our studio we’re getting quite used to providing a portable printmaking experience.

Our participants had a very productive day and printed great work. Many thanks to everybody who came along and to Nicholas, Leila and all the staff at the Fisher for making it happen.

 

 

 

 

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Paper-works* print exhibition at the Fisher Theatre

Exhibition at the Fisher Theatre ends 25th August

An exhibition of works on paper by Lisa Hurcum and Hugh Davies. Working individually they share a wide ranging exploration of techniques in their printmaking studio in Lowestoft. Lisa’s work takes inspiration both from her writing and the domestic realm. Hugh’s architects training fuels his interest in space and form in marine, urban and architectural environments.

The exhibition space includes- the Café, the Ramp & the Gallery.

Entry to the exhibition is free and it can be viewed between the hours of 10am and 3pm Monday to Saturday, and again from 6pm on show nights. Occasionally the gallery may be in use and not open for viewing. If you are travelling any distance please call the Box Office: 01986 897130 to check availability..

Prints are available for sale at the exhibition.

jug

Trawl dock linocut

 

Fisher Theatre, Bungay, Suffolk

 

 

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Linocut at Fisher Arts and Social

Another great morning today with all the folks at Fisher Arts and Social Club

We brought our press along again, this time to do linocut printing. After a quick demonstration of the technique everybody got stuck in. Two hours later all the folks had finished their designs and printed off at least two prints!

Many thanks to Sophie for inviting us back and to all the participants who made it so enjoyable.


To find out more see their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/fisherartsandsocialclub/