NeoLucida (2013 crowdfunding video, long edit)

This is a camera lucida. And for the whole of the 19th century,
it was the indispensable drawing aid for great masters and technical illustrators alike. And yet, it’s virtually unknown today. The camera lucida allows you to trace what
you see. Technically, it superimposes a virtual image
of your subject onto your paper, so you can see both your hand, and your subject,
at the same time. This works for landscapes, figure drawing,
and even copying other images. It radically transforms how you see, and how
you draw. So you may ask: “Where can I get one?” Well, a portable camera lucida hasn’t been
manufactured in generations. An original camera lucida on eBay will run
you $300-500. At that price, it’s a collectible or an antique—not
an everyday tool. We decided to bring it back: with authentic
optics, lightweight portable construction, and at a price that even broke art students
could afford. Hi. I’m Golan Levin. I teach new media art at Carnegie Mellon University. And I’m Pablo Garcia. I teach contemporary practices at the School
of the Art Institute of Chicago. And we’re here to destroy arts education 😉
No, we’re not! No, we’re not. We’re here to make it better. Maybe destroy some myths, and demonstrate
some little-known secrets. We both have a lot of students who think that
drawing realistically is the most important thing. These students frequently also worship the
Old Masters as if they had almost freakishly superhuman drawing abilities. Which is fine because we like the Old Masters,
too. They’re great; they really are great. And drawing is great. I did nothing but draw for years. It’s important, and we both love drawing. But, not always the way it’s taught—which
often overlooks the tightly interconnected historic relationship between drawing, visual
culture, and imaging technologies. Which brings us to: media archaeology. About twelve years ago, the artist David Hockney
proposed the ideas in this book, “Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost
Techniques of the Old Masters”. In it, Hockney presents compelling evidence
that the Old Masters used various optical devices, like the camera obscura, concave
mirrors—and the camera lucida—to help create their masterpieces. By the way: some people really hate this book. They want to believe that the Old Masters
somehow had superhuman drawing abilities, and they think that Hockney is suggesting
that the Old Masters were somehow “cheating” by using optical drawing aids. But really, it’s the opposite! We think it shows that the Old Masters were
even more amazing, because they made it their business to engage with the most cutting-edge
technologies of their day: optics. After first reading about Hockney’s argument
about ten years ago, I bought an antique camera lucida, and started drawing. One day, I asked Pablo if he’d ever happened
to have read Hockney’s book. Pablo brought in his camera lucida for me
to try. And it blew my mind. I used to draw a lot, but my drawing skills
had become pretty rusty. With the camera lucida, I was suddenly able
to draw a live subject, with the precision of a camera. Perspective, foreshortening—it was so easy
I was giddy. When I tried to purchase one for myself, it
eventually cost me $350 on eBay. I suddenly understood why hardly any of my
art students had ever even heard of one of these things. Pablo and I realized that we had to make this
device cheaply available for everyone. And why shouldn’t it be cheap? A camera lucida is basically just a prism
on a stick. Well, it’s a bit more than that. The prism has to be specially mirrored. And, the stick should be adjustable. Like gooseneck! That didn’t exist a hundred years ago. So we set about designing a camera lucida
for today: the NeoLucida. We wanted to get three things right. First, optics. We use the exact same prism design as they
did a hundred years ago, which allows you to draw right-side-up. Second, portability. This is not bulky studio equipment. It’s small, foldable, and you can keep it
in your bag. It weighs just nine ounces, or about a quarter
of a kilo. And, it’s multi-purpose, too. The neck ends in a standard 1/4″-20 thread,
so it can also double as an adjustible mount for your pocket camera. And third, price. If you were an artist in 1880, an entry-level
camera lucida would cost you at least $120 of today’s dollars. This was fussy equipment, too, with lots of
hand-tooled parts. The NeoLucida is designed with modern, off-the-shelf
components, and just a few, custom-manufactured pieces,
to replicate the precision of the classic design, but at a fraction of the price. In fact, the NeoLucida is the least expensive
camera lucida of all time. So, why are we doing this? We’re doing this as a provocation, not as
a business. We genuinely believe that using a camera lucida
will profoundly change how people see, how they draw, and how they think about art. We want to see what would happen if art students
and art schools suddenly had lots of these. And we want to prompt questions about the
relationship of art and technology— and, to disrupt business-as-usual in the classroom. But to produce the NeoLucida, and to keep
costs as low as possible, we have to leverage today’s mass-production marketplaces. Our suppliers require minimum orders of 500
pieces for things like prisms and thumb nuts. And that’s where you come in. By supporting our project, you’ll help us
in our dream to transform the studio arts classroom, revive an amazing tool,
and educate people around the world about the history of art and technology. This is your only chance to get a NeoLucida. Once we make this batch, we’re done. After that, we’ll open-source our designs,
CAD files, and manufacturing information. One last thing. We’re really interested in how the NeoLucida
is used, and we want to involve you in our project. Each NeoLucida comes with an addressed, prepaid
postcard. Do a drawing, send it in the mail, and it’ll
go into an online archive, and may end up in a book of your NeoLucida
drawings. Thanks!

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