VR Painting plus NFTs: beginning of an artistic renaissance?

30.07.2021, 17:07

It’s difficult to say how the art of painting will translate into the digital world. It’s a medium that was designed for the real world: for ‘seeing’ the physical effect of paint on canvas, and marvelling at the reproduction of natural forces, people, places and emotional abstracts or moods. Painting was once the selfie and photography of the past. It also allowed painters to convey subtle messages about class and society. 



What role can it play in the digital? Memes and games are the eye-candy art in the digital, for our throwaway culture, but artistic designers and painters are getting paid a lot of money for creating stylistic interactive masterpieces. But these painterly video games are very specific projects with whole teams behind them. What about just creating paintings in the digital? What about the voice of the individual?


Well, there will always be room to use Painting VR apps to produce creations that can be sold as NFTs and displayed in the ‘metaverse’, or in virtual galleries. Vivid paintings, designs and messages; they can still find value there, if less so than when printed out, or created and displayed in the real world, like Damien Hirst’s recent cherry blossom bonanza.


And we mustn’t forget that painting is also a process, an exercise, an expression. And this is where the digital world - and now VR painting apps - can still play a part. In fact, VR apps are bringing the painting process to new heights. Not only do they remove a ton of time, effort and money spent on acquiring materials, studios etc. but it’s no bad thing - at all - simply to replicate the joy of painting. Now 3D immersive paintings which apps like Tilt Brush have ground-breakingly enabled have arrived - and could be the next level in 'painting'?


Will there be a renaissance of painting and art thanks to VR, and marketplace NFTs etc? It’s possible to an extent, but more importantly there could just be a renaissance in the process of painting, for painting’s sake. It will certainly be easier, more accessible, even more social (within VR?) - and make it exciting again. Anyone can now create huge (VR) paintings than can be viewed with an Oculus headset, not just super-rich artists like Hirst.


But what about afterwards? Where might it then take these artists of the virtual? It could lead them back out into the physical world, to make amazing real paintings, or it could lead them to lend their painterly art-styles to massive game projects, virtual spaces or places of expression and information, we can only just begin to imagine will exist in some metaverse...


Painting with Purpose


But whether it be real or virtual, art - and painting - remains, crucially, a way to express ideas and feelings, which may or may not find a relevance in others. In both worlds, where today so much imagery exists already, it will help anybody using these apps if they have some... vision or information that needs conveying, for example like the current trend to create ‘green art’ - to convey a love of nature and how humanity is going to co-exist with it. 


Let’s hope VR Painting will not just be about escapism, or big, flash-in-the-pan NFT sales, but re-connection with real or important things. Or just to feel good and focus the mind.


Jackson Pollock, for example, was an artist who already did this, back in the 1950s. He showed anyone that you can immerse yourself in paint, and color, and become an energy of nature. 


Overview of VR Creative Apps (on Oculus Quest)


Oculus Quest 2 is continuing to excite people because it's becoming so versatile for experiences. The variety of apps are unlocking worlds of (less tethered) possibilities across the creative spectrum. There's even talk of AR capability improving on the headsets.


The following apps are more for 3D artists than painters, who may also use other software. But painters will see more and more apps appearing for simulating real paint. 


Note: it’s important to check how easily it will be to export your creations to create high-res images, so they can be printed, sold as static NFT images or enhanced using other 3D modelling programs. 


Tilt Brush


This is the Daddy. An essential buy for the process of creation in VR. Start painting with light, modelling and inhabiting amazing things. However, the export options are a little limited, although it’s easy to share the actual VR creation, where people can ‘visit’ your creations, than actually export them, even as animated gifs. It would be nice to see the Export feature improved. 


Gravity Sketch


A more professional setup, arguably less fun but still intuitive and packed with versatile tools. For proper modelling the sky's the limit and many 3D artists will recognise essential features and tools. You can use it for free, but you'll need to start subscribing to properly export and share your creations. 




This is really up there with the previous two, and will change your ideas of what creativity can be, in a 3D space. Here, the emphasis is of course on: sculpting, including whole landscapes if you like. It's less precise and serious than Gravity Sketch, and it also adds multiplayer into the mix, encouraging endless creative time with friends, not necessarily all silly.


With hardly a tutorial, ScuptrVR encourages you to dive in and explore. Kids will also have a whale of a time, especially Minecraft etc fans. You can export for other 3D programs, and for 3D printing. 


VR Painting


This title is only just available via Oculus Labs (beta). From the Oculus store:

'The experience is very hands-on, easy to understand, and aimed at all ages. Play around and feel the relaxing satisfaction of putting unlimited amounts of fresh paint on a huge canvas. Teach yourself the basics of colors, the painting process and composition. Sharpen your skills by experimenting with the tools and techniques at hand, and become part of a new wave of digital artists. All without having to bother about cleaning up afterward.' 


Note: There are more apps emerging onto the Oculus store which are still in beta, including those which reproduce entire artist's studios so you can physically mix paint, and set up canvases etc. Unfortunately, some of these are still too new to cover and are seeing ongoing development. 



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Contributed by digital NFT artist ade mc at Ade's Press. 2021.




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