Artist creates interactive paintings with Bare Conductive


This Denver-based innovator is bringing art to life with an audible, tactile and visual experience.


Step into any gallery and you can expect to find “Do Not Touch” signs plastered everywhere. What this means is that, in most cases, the piece of art stimulates only one of the five human senses. However, a Denver-based originator has set out to change that by providing viewers with an audible, tactile and visual experience as they glance at the imagery before them.

Thomas “Detour” Evans is not your typical artist, nor has ever aspired to be. In his recent collection dubbed Art and Decibels, the 30-year-old creator has devised a series of interactive, sensor-laden paintings that are specifically meant to be touched in designated spots. By doing so, the image is magically brought to life through sound.

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“This collection features the evolution of how I perceive art in the 21th century. With music as the foundation, It’s not enough for me to just use conventional methods; it’s empirical that I bring in other amazing artist of various forms to bring pieces alive,” Detour writes.

Upon first glance, Detour’s pieces appear to be meticulously crafted portraits of popular hip-hop stars, ranging from Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac to Nas and Kendrick Lamar. However, beneath the canvas of each image lies a unique combination of electronics and conductive ink. The artist has employed Bare Conductive’s Electric Paint along with a few Touch Boards (ATmega32U4) to enable each still-life to seamlessly double as an actual MIDI controller.

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This gives audience members a dynamic way to interact with the painting and truly connect with the subject matter laid out on the canvas. Unlike countless other forms of wall-mounted art, Detour explains that viewers are now able to become fully immersed, both mentally and physically.

In order to bring this next-gen creations to life, Detour team up with several his close friends and veteran musicians to ensure the proper design of every painting so that they could play music and be manipulated like an instrument. This concept is something Detour has been brainstorming for years.

“In 2009 I became infatuated with figuring out how to connect the viewer with the subject on the canvas… I mulled over the idea of deconstructing and reconstructing a MIDI controller and installing it. Unfortunately the technology and the canvas didn’t mesh well. It wasn’t until I stumbled across the Bare Conductive Kickstarter that I saw some of the potential with the Touch Board. When I got the package and took the Electric Paint and Touch Board to one of my DJ/producer friends, it became the start of a long process to create these interactive paintings,” the artist revealed in his latest interview with Bare Conductive.

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The creative process, which he has elaborated upon in a tutorial over on SparkFun, includes wiring the back of the canvas so that the sensors are emerging through the front in various locations. These sensors are connected to a computer and act as triggers in such a way that, when tapped, they emit a sound. Generally, every painting features around a dozen or touch points, each delivering a unique tune. Once the electronics are embedded, Detour paints his masterpiece just as he would any other portrait. Cognizant of where the sensors are located, he envisions how a particular piece needs to be manipulated — whether that’s using the outline of a milk crate as a matrix MIDI soundboard or lines on a t-shirt as a keyboard.

“I use the Touch Board in two different ways – one is the mode that is installed when it’s shipped. These pieces are usually combined with a bunch of other electronics that allows it to be a touch boom box painting with speakers,” Detour explains. “The other way is with the MIDI mode turned on and hooking it up to a computer. This way is the real ground breaker because it allows me to collaborate with friends and to have performance on each piece. It’s setup more like an instrument.”

Pretty sweet, right? Head over to Detour’s official page to learn more, as well as get started on creating a musical masterpiece of your own here.

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