On Friday, March 23rd, the The Art of Drew Struzan: The Studio Experience opened in Sansar. As the name suggests, it is a celebration of the art of celebrated illustrator, Drew Struzan – and it is perhaps one of the most visually superb and compelling experiences yet to surface on the platform, particularly for anyone (like me) with a love of films and all that goes with them (I love both film art and film soundtracks).
The Art of Drew Struzan: The Studio Experience is part of the The Hollywood Art Museum (HWAM) project, established by Greg Aronowitz with the aim of encouraging artists in the digital medium to find fresh inspiration in the traditional arts of Hollywood’s past, through the preservation and education of art used in entertainment.
I provided something of a “preview” of the opening, including a (very) brief look at Drew Struzan’s career here – which I hope you’ll read alongside this article. For this piece, I’m focusing purely on the presentation of Drew Struzan’s work as it appear sin Sansar. But first, some preliminary notes:
The experience is in two parts: a gallery of Drew’s work, and a reproduction of his physical world private studio. Access is via the gallery experience, which can be reached in one of two ways – via a direct URL, or via the Hollywood Art Museum experience – just walk to the entrance of Sound Stage 6, which advertises the exhibition, and you’ll be transferred to the gallery experience.
Both experiences can be enjoyed in VR mode or Desktop mode. However, if you’re visiting in Desktop mode, I suggest using first person view (toggled via F3) to get the best view of the art.
Also note that some of the pieces displayed in the “cinema” part of the gallery have associated audio recordings of Drew talking about them, indicated by a set of push buttons beside the art. These buttons work in both VR and Desktop mode. Instructions are provided on a board by the entrance to the “cinema”, but in brief:
- Walk up to a button to trigger the audio track (only audible to you). Once playing, you can move away from the button so others can also trigger the audio. Slowly moving away from a button will stop the audio playback before the end, if needed. VR, users can additionally use their controller’s trigger button to start / stop the audio.
- Note that if you step up to another button while audio from one is already playing, the current track will stop and be replaced by the audio for the button you are next to.
Taking the Tour
The gallery space is divided into a number of distinct areas. The “lobby” area features some of Drew’s fine art, with portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Bob Dylan together with a self-portrait, as well as a more classic piece of art (Autumn) and more. A hallway leads off this, displaying more of his fine art, including a fabulous self-portrait in pencil and a phenomenal study of Albert Einstein, before reaching the “film” element of the exhibition, which starts with some magnificent pieces celebrating George Lucas, 20th Century Fox together with the art used for the cover of Spielberg / Williams collaboration soundtrack album. There’s also a collection of truly amazing portraits of some of Hollywood’s greats, which Drew produced for US postage stamps and for Franklin Mint.
Beyond this is the “cinema” exhibition space, and the collection of Drew’s film-related art, and the point where the audio options are available.
This features individual film posters (including the 1977 Star Wars “Circus” poster Drew produced with Charles White III, complete with the story of the poster’s unique look related by Drew), placed along the main corridors. In the centre of the gallery is a walk-through of “comprehensives” – drawings showing the initial layout and composition of a proposed artwork for the client to approve before going to the final illustration – Drew has produced over the years. There is also a section featuring a Hellboy poster and a Star Wars poster showing the creative process in stages from initial drawing through to final poster; and a special display dedicated to the Back to the Future trilogy.
This entire environment is visually stunning. The set is that of an old-style movie theatre with Deco lighting, red carpets and ornately-panelled ceilings, completed by excellent lighting. There is a richness to it that really give the environment a sense of place; exploring it in first-person genuinely gave me the sensation of being there – no headset required (although I imagine I’ll be totally blown out of my chair when I do get to see this experience in VR). As to the art – it has to be seen to be appreciated; it is just astounding, and the images here do not do it justice.
Beyond the “cinema” gallery is the entrance to Drew’s private studio – just walk up to the door marked Enter Here to be transferred to it.This is again stunning: a complete and accurate reproduction of Drew’s physical world studio. Just how accurate? Well, it has been produced by the Sansar Studios team working in collaboration with Insight Digital, a company specialising in photogrammetry and laser scanning to recreate sites of antiquity in digital format for detailed examination. some of their work has already been imported to Sansar at the Voyage Live: Egypt experience, and you can read about that work here.
For Drew’s studio, Insight took over 4,000 photographs of his workspace and laser scanned the objects and items inside it. “They went front, back, side, top, bottom, behind. Everything!” Drew says of the work. The result is – if I might use that word again – stunning. literally everything from the original studio space is here, beautifully reproduced.
The wealth of detail is extraordinary, and I strongly recommend careful exploration and viewing, simply because there is so much to see (watch out for the drawer with the stash of paints…). While touring, a couple of people did comment that things seemed a little big, but I assume the space was slightly scaled up to reduce issues of avatars colliding with one another when looking around in groups. And when you have (eventually) done, use the door beneath the deer head to return to the gallery.
A truly marvellous and visually impression pair of experiences, and kudos to Greg Aronowitz, Insight Digital and the Sansar Studios team under Jason Gholston for bringing it all together, and very special thanks to Drew Struzan for sharing both his art and his personal space with us in this way.