Artsy App Provides Glimpse Into Creative Process
Preliminary drawing and two later mid-production states of Transamerica.
CREDIT: Nathan Walsh.
Wondering what the “creative process” looks like? There’s an app for that. Repentir is a new iPhone app that allows curious gallery patrons to peel back the layers of a work of art and observe how a painting is created from the ground up.
Created by researchers at Newcastle and Northumbria universities in the United Kingdom, Repentir was developed around the work “Transamerica” by Nathan Walsh, the internationally-acclaimed painter of hyper-realistic cityscapes.
Repentir, which is artist slang for the changes made to a work in progress, functions using a process known as scale invariant feature matching.
In other words, gallery visitors take a picture of the painting with an iPhone or iPad. When they look at the painting through Repentir, the app automatically replaces prominent features, like the corners of a building, with multi-layered photographs taken while the work was still being painted.
With the simple swipe of a finger, iPhone users can see what’s underneath that top layer of paint. In fact, they can see all the way down to the pencil drawing that forms the skeleton of the painting.
“The app means that you’re not limited to just looking at the art – you can interact with it and feel your way through it,” said Jonathan Hook, a professor at Newcastle University specializing in human-computer interaction.
And the computer vision algorithms that comprise Repentir’s inner workings allow the app to function flawlessly even if a gallery user gets an incomplete photo of the painting. So if you’re particularly interested in how Walsh captured the reflection of a neon sign in a puddle, for example, you can focus on just that aspect of the painting using the app.
“Because every visitor will capture the image from a slightly different angle, rub away the layers in a different way and focus in on different points, it means everyone’s appreciation of the piece will be totally unique,” said Hook.
The app’s preloaded images were captured with a digital camera installed in Walsh’s studio, which took daily snapshots of the painting over its four-month metamorphosis from pencil drawing to masterpiece.
Researchers said that today’s effortless copying and sharing of digital files was what inspired them to create the app, which they hope will be used to add value to art and the artistic process. [See also: Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ Most-Loved Painting on Google]
“In the digital age there is no ‘original’ or ‘limited edition’ anymore,” said Mark Blythe, the lead researcher behind Repentir and professor at Northumbria University. “The changes in the music industry have shown that you can’t limit digital files. Therefore we need new approaches to making digital originals.”
As for the artist himself, he isn’t the least bit concerned about revealing the tricks of his trade via Repentir.
“The app allows people to get a feel for my journey through making this work,” Walsh said. “It gives an indication of my methodology and the honesty of my creative process.”