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The Corporation

Posted: 03/08/23

Virtual reality painting inspires creative students

Art and design students at West Nottinghamshire College brought their three-dimensional fantasy landscapes to life using virtual reality.

  • Artist Joseph Doubtfire (second right) with students (from left) Reece Reddish, River Smith and April Barlow at a VR painting workshop that he ran.
  • Art and design student River Smith paints in 3D using a VR headset and hand-held controller.
  • River Smith created a Victorian-style bench surrounded by greenery and brightly-lit butterflies in the air.
  • Student Sadie Vincent (left), pictured with Joseph Doubtfire, said VR will “open more doors to the creative world”.
  • Sadie Vincent created a lake with a lily pad occupied by a crab-like creature about to be eaten by a whale, with a waterfall and reeds in the background.

Instead of painting on paper or canvass, they donned VR headsets to make their colourful creations utilising the rapidly-evolving technology usually associated with video gaming.

Before the academic year came to an end, more than 20 students on courses from levels 1 to 3 took part in ‘Introduction to VR’ workshops run by Manchester-based musical theatre and technology company Leo&Hyde, which has delivered almost 100 similar sessions to people of all ages across the country.

Led by artist and former college student Joseph Doubtfire, each workshop taught students how to get to grips with the headsets and hand-held controllers to paint in 3D. They were tasked with creating a fantasy versus reality landscape, turning the ordinary into the extraordinary, using some of their favourite virtual paintbrushes from an earlier practice session.

Visual arts and design teacher Kerry Bryant, who organised the activity, said: “Virtual reality is revolutionising the way practitioners and audiences are engaging with, and creating, art and design. It’s a brilliant way of enabling our learners to potentially make and explore different environments or backdrops for interior, architecture and performance art purposes.

“Students were excited, enthusiastic and surprised at how immersive it was. Going forward, I’d like to incorporate VR into more projects next academic year.”

Sadie Vincent, who studied the Level 3 Advanced Diploma in Art and Design Practice Image Making, created a lake containing a lily pad occupied by a crab-like creature about to be eaten by a whale, with a waterfall and reeds in the background.

She said: “It was the first time I’d ever done anything like this and it was really enjoyable. I felt like I was actually inside the picture and it was really cool to see it all come to life around me.

“I’ve learnt there are other ways to create art so this will open more doors to the creative world. I’d definitely like to do this again.”

Joseph, who studied Level 3 Art and Design at the college between 2009 and 2011 before returning briefly in 2017 to undertake a teacher training placement, said: “The VR technology is super-immersive and you feel like you are inside your painting. You’re not thinking about painting on a flat surface – you can move around your artwork, so people often get very animated when they are doing it.

“It’s always interesting to see how people react because it’s painting like they’ve never experienced before.

“Each student made something completely different. It was fun to watch them using different brushes in the app and working so enthusiastically, creating colourful, surreal environments.

“It’s nice to come to different places and let people experience this technology and be creative with it. VR is only going to get bigger as the technology becomes more available and more accessible.”

Click here to see students taking part in one of the VR painting workshops.