Curved Easel Creates Drawings As Our Eyes See The World

Curved Easel Creates Drawings As Our Eyes See The World
Arts & Culture

This curved device allows a pair of artists to create perfectly proportioned works with nothing but their own eyes.

Angeli Rafer
  • 30 may 2014

Twin artists, Ryan and Trevor Oakes, have combined their knowledge of the human eye with art to offer a new perspective on visual representation. Like the great artists of the Renaissance, the Oakes twins have experimented with traditional techniques and innovative thinking to devise a revolutionary tool that produces accurately scaled artwork: the concave easel.

The ingenious, curving design of the easel mimics our spherical vision, thereby preventing the distortions that occur with flat drawings. There is also a head-stabilizing device that helps keep the head focused in one spot for extended periods of time. However, the real secret to the easel’s success lies in the twins’ understanding of optical doubling.

Objects optically appear “twice”, with one view from the left eye and another from the right. Hold up a pen to your eyes, then close one eye and switch back and forth between your right and left eye. Note the way that you have two “views” of the object in front of you; your eye creates a full image by combing both of these views simultaneously.


With this knowledge, the twins devised a method to consistently produce an optical double that could be used as a drawing reference. In a Tedx talk, the twins explained that if you take a piece of paper and insert it halfway in your vision to block one eye, your sight would be separated at the paper plane as you look into the distance. This separation will then cause an optical double to appear; you will still be able to see the paper and pen, while an optical double of your tools will “float” off to the side on top of the scene you want to draw. Thus, an artist can trace any scene in proportions that match how the eye actually sees it.

With the concave easel and its special grid frame, the twins are able to manipulate these planes and can attach paper to the easel and cut it away as needed to keep that edge needed to create an optical double.


Of course, there are some limits to this method. While tracing an image, you can only trace in segments that are 2.5 inches wide, just about the width of your eyes. Therefore, one margin needs to be traced then sliced away and removed to keep the plane edge for the optical double. Thus, a single painting may take three days of work, and the twins draw as a team to sketch and cut away pieces.

Their work is currently on display in the Compounding Visions exhibit at the MoMath Museum in New York City now through July 21. Ryan and Trevor Oakes have also been spotted in the area, working on a project to draw the Flat Iron building.

To see how the concave easel works and how the Oakes twins work as a team to create their artwork, check out the video below:

[h/t] Gizmodo, Collabcued

Images: Oakes

+curved easel
+perspective drawing

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