Drew Struzan Gallery and Studio to open in Sansar

Opening on Friday. March 23rd, 16:00: Drew Struzan Gallery and Studio at the Hollywood Art Museum

Drew Struzan is a giant in the fields of art and film. Over his 40-year career, his talent has graced more than 150 movie posters for some of cinema’s most memorable films – including Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, and Star Wars – and extends to book covers, album covers, and other fine art. And on Friday, March 23rd, his art will be available within Sansar as a part of the The Hollywood Art Museum (HWAM) project, established by Greg Aronowitz.

HWAM’s mission is to encourage 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. Its first major exhibition, featuring reproductions of pieces – models, production drawings, props, merchandise from the Star Wars franchise films – which came ahead of the US opening of the latest film in the series Star Wars: The Last Jedi (read more about the Star Wars exhibition here).

Drew Struzan

The Drew Struzan Gallery and Studio marks HWAM’s second gallery space in Sansar, and presents visitors with a unique opportunity to view the work of one of the greatest illustrators of modern times, and to also get a peek inside his private studio.

Born in Oregon City, Oregon in 1947, Drew Struzan fell in love with art and drawing while a boy. “I didn’t go to movies, I didn’t watch TV,” he once recalled. “I didn’t have comic books. The closest I would ever come, is I would go to the library and get out art books and draw from the old masters. So I had an education and background in the masters of the art I liked to paint.”

A school Counsellor asked him about his interest in art and told him he had a choice between fine art or illustration, saying that as a fine artist he could paint what he wanted, but as an illustrator he could paint for money.

Struzan opted for the latter, later saying, “I was poor and hungry, and illustration was the shortest path to a slice of bread, as compared to a gallery showing.”

The 1977 Star Wars “Circus” poster, featuring Drew Struzan’s oil painting portraits of the film’s characters (1977)

From college, Struzan started his career not in film, but in music, creating the album covers art for artists like  Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Beach Boys, Bee Gees, Roy Orbison, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind and Fire, Liberace and Alice Cooper.

In 1977 he was contacted by fellow artist Charles White III, who had been hired to produce a poster for the upcoming 1978 re-release of the original Star Wars film. Uncomfortable with portraiture, White asked Struzan for help, and between them they came up with a distinctive poster design, which became known as the “Circus” poster, depicting what appears to be a torn posted bill on a plywood construction site wall.

It was the start of an enduring relationship with top-flight movies. For the next 30+ years, Struzan would create some of the most iconic and memorable one-sheets for some of Hollywood’s biggest and highest grossing films and film franchises, including the Indiana Jones franchise, the Star Wars franchise, Blade Runner, the Police Academy series, Back to the Future, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Hellboy, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and many, many more.

For the Sansar exhibition, Greg Aronowitz work closely with Struzan and members of Linden Lab’s Sansar Studios team led by Jason Gholston, to carefully and painstakingly reproduce Struzan’s art – including the “Circus” poster – within an immersive virtual setting. Many of the pieces have interactive elements associated with them: wall-mounted buttons can be pressed to hear audio relating to the pieces.

Also involved in the work is Kevin Cain, CEO of Insight Digital. This is the company that, working with the Lab’s Sansar Studios team, brought three real-world sites of antiquity in Egypt into Sansar, allowing people to visit and appreciate them in ways which cannot be shared in the physical world because the sites in question are not open to the public (read more about this project here).

A poster celebrating George Lucas and his filmmatic legacy, by Drew Struzan

For this project, Kevin Cain brought the same techniques used by Insight Digital to map ancient Egyptian tombs and monuments – laser scanning and photogrammetry to accurately reproduce Struzan’s own private studio and then upload it into Sansar as a place for people to visit.

The result is a stunning environment – gallery and Studio together – in which Struzan’s art and artistry can be fully appreciated, as a sneak previewed via livestream video by Deviant Art on Thursday, March 22nd revealed.

From left to right: Jason Gholston, Drew Struzan, Greg Aronowitz discuss the Drew Struzan Gallery in Sansar during a Deviant Art livestream event with host Matthew Holt. Credit: Deviant Art

The grand opening of the Drew Struzan Art Gallery and Studio in Sansar will take place between 16:00 and 20:00 PDT on Friday, March 23rd, and will comprise the following events:

  • 16:00-17:00: Greg Aronowitz and Drew Struzan reflect on their careers in film and Hollywood, and on Drew’s artistic legacy.
  • 17:00-18:00: an exclusive walk-through of Drew’s never-before-seen private studio, 3D-scanned into Sansar, and find out how the space came together from Insight Digital’s Kevin Cain and Jason Gholston, Head of Sansar Studios.
  • 18:00-20:00 the grand opening party and a chance to tour the entire experience on your own or with friends.

To attend the gallery opening, go to the Drew Struzan Gallery & Studio – Grand Opening in the Events section of the Sansar client or on the web 15 minutes before the event is due to start and click the Join option.

And for those who want to know a little more about Drew Struzan, here’s the trailer for the 2013 documentary, Drew: The Man Behind The Poster.



Two quirky stops in Sansar for the holidays

Sansar: The Violin Tree

As it is the holidays and a time for fun and games, I thought I’d blog about two quirky experiences in Sansar which are easy to hop into and enjoy.

The first is the Violin Tree, by Mikki Miles, which offers a fun little trip into the world of music in an abstract kind of way – and one easily missed if not careful. The setting is simple enough: a square, hilly island rising from open waters, a circular lake at its centre. To one side, a down the slope from the spawn point, a wooden jetty points towards a raft floating on the water. A walk out along the jetty will reveal several things: the first is that half of it is a xylophone, which is playing randomly. The second is that a voice is singing over on the raft – but don’t try to walk to it over the water! The singing comes from a megaphone sitting on the raft alongside a wooden frame containing Sandro Botticelli’s Venus from The Birth of Venus (circa 1480-1490), with a granite sculpture sitting on the other side of the frame (if you want to get close use F4 + the movement keys to freecam over the water).

Sansar: The Violin Tree

Atop the island, each flanking a central body of water, sit a tree – the titular violin tree – and the 40,000 year-old bone flute of the experience description. On the lake, a little rubber duck scoots around, attracting attention; walk towards it and as you reach the edge of the lake, the duck vanishes as a gigantic piano rises from the water, the fall board and main lid opening before the piano starts to play Handel’s Water Music – albeit it slightly tinny. Similarly, approach the tree and / or bone flute, and they will also impart a music excerpt, while the brass “piping” rising from the outer slopes of the island are revealed to be the tubing of trumpet, horn or trombone.

But that’s not all. To one side of the island there sits what appears to be the entrance to a mine.  Visitors can enter it and follow the tunnel down into the island, where a little more musical fun is to be had, including a nice tip-of-the-hat to the Rolling Stones.

The Violin Tree isn’t a hugely ambitious experience – but it is one cleverly considered, which makes good use of ambient sounds and trigger volumes to offer an eclectic little musical / art / historical  visit.

Sansar: The Violin Tree

Back in September I visited the Reverse Perspective Art gallery by JackTheRipper, which offers a fascinating tour into the world of reverspective art, as conceived by Patrick Hughes (see here for more).  This is actually one of two art / optical illusion focused experiences created by JackTheRipper, and I for my second little recommendation, I offer the second: his Optical Illusions Arena.

Exceedingly simple in presentation – to the point where it might initially seem to be just a random space where someone has been playing – the Optical Illusions Arena again has more to it than may at first appear to be the case. As the name suggests, it is a space containing images and items designed to trick the eye through the use of set observation points, forced perspective and so on. What’s more, it works in either VR or Desktop mode.

Sansar: Optical Illusions Arena – from one vantages point, an odd painting on the floor (l); from another, a ladder against a wall (r)

Scattered around the single-room arena are a number of elements, some in 3D – such as what at first appears to be a collection of sticks hanging in the air – through to seemingly random paintings on the floor. Also appearing on the floor are a series of red dots with arrows indicating a direction in which to look. When standing on one of these and looking in the direction indicated either in VR mode or first-person (F3) view in Desktop mode, will reveal the secret of one of these random collections or paintings. Thus, the group of coloured sticks becomes as set of painted wooden chairs, the odd splodge of white-and-grey on the ground becomes an opening in the floor, and so on.

If visiting with a couple of friends, the reproduction of an Ames room can offer the most interesting effect. When viewed from the observation point outside of the room, two avatars entering it through the doors on either side will appear to be very differently sized, one to the other, and interesting effects – from the observer’s perspective – can then be had as they move around the room.

Sansar: Optical illusions Arena – the Ames room will make two avatars appear to be different sizes when they are apparently the same distance from the observer (note: the disjointed element of the image is due to my attempt to demonstrate the effect with one avatar and two photos, not a reflection of the build)

Neither the Violin Tree nor Optical Illusions Arena are going to set the world on fire in terms of being major attractions – but that’s not the intend of either. They’re about having a little bit of fun while experimenting in 3D and with Sansar’s tools. As such, if you find yourself with ten or fifteen minutes on your hands, why pay them both a visit?

Experience URLs

The art of Jay Salton in Sansar

Sansar: Jay Salton Art Gallery

Jay Salton is an Australian digital artist with a remarkable eye for creating stunning images which encompass fantasy, surreal and abstract elements and which are rich in colour and depth. He’s long held a desire to see his art evolve into a virtual space which people can explore and experience with their own senses. As Renegade Rabbit, he has taken a step along the road towards this evolution within Sansar, where he presents the Jay Salton Art Gallery.

Set within a walled meadow, the gallery building is fronted by a small garden with a lean towards Japanese influences. The spawn point is at the end of a footpath that leads beneath a Torii gate and over a water feature from which rise two small islands, each topped by a tree – one of which has something of a Bonsai-like topiary around it. A young lady sits on a rock before the water feature, while Jay’s love of the surreal is catered for by the presence of two gigantic mushrooms flanking the gallery building in the meadow.

Sansar: Jay Salton Art Gallery

The gallery, wrapped in the greenery of young birch-like trees, is of modern design, with clean lines with the interior finished in soft tones – an ideal backdrop for Jay’s stunning art. At the time of my visit, fourteen pieces of Jay’s work were on display, eight in individual alcoves or mounted on their own on walls, the remaining four grouped together along the rearmost of the gallery’s walls.

These are all visually stunning pieces, presenting marvellous scenes that range from might Saturn (at least I assume it is Saturn) rising over one of Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes, to images of fabulous islands one can easily picture in the South Seas, to studies of fantasy settings and images hinting at mysticism and magic. All are fabulously evocative, carrying rich narratives that speak to us as we look at them – and which perhaps reveal something of the artist himself, and his love of the digital medium.

Sansar: Jay Salton Art Gallery

“My artistic pursuit started at a young age when I dreamed of creating worlds and realities of my own,” Jay notes, before going on to reveal his life took a darker road. Drugs, a diagnosis of schizophrenia at 18, and a decent into hopelessness from which he escaped through glass blowing after his uncle stepped in and gave him a job at his glass studio. And thus his delight in creativity and art was renewed.

He goes on to note, “When I discovered digital art I was given the tools to turn my childhood dreams into a reality.” With a gift for working with Photoshop, 3Ds Max and Bryce, Jay now offers his worlds and his imagination for all of us to enjoy – and having visited his work in Sansar, I’m looking forward to see how else he might use the platform where he might further realise his dream of evolving his art as a virtual space.

Sansar: Jay Salton Art Gallery

Experience URL

Sansar: the art of Silas Merlin

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

I’ve been an admirer of the art of Silas Merlin since first coming across his pastel art in Second Life. A Maître Pastelliste of the Société des Pastellistes de France, his painting are remarkable, and I urge anyone who has not seen them in-world to do so. Over the last two years, Silas has also been branching out into 3D art, developing his skills as a sculptor – something I’ve been at times been privileged to witness.

For the last several months Silas has been working in Sansar, creating an experience to showcase his work. Called Felsenmeer, Silas describes it thus:

A sea of rock, peopled by creatures frozen in time. When you encounter the more detailed rocks, observe them from different angles, sometimes they reveal figures that want to be carved in more detail.

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

It’s a perfect description for the setting, in which sits a large house and smaller cottage, surrounded by a field of boulders  – genuine felsenmeer, together with larger rock formations, in turn surrounded by hills.  Look closely enough at some of the rocks, and you just might see sculptures waiting to be found: one formation, for example, suggests it might become a dancing couple, or perhaps a grandfather sitting his grandson on his knee…

Other stones and boulders have already had the sculptures within them released. Finely crafted, several sit close to the house. Others, further away, have the look of being cast in bronze – as do the trees, which add a certain alien feel to the landscape.

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

The ground floor of the main house is occupied by many of Silas’ circus characters, complete with one of his pastel pieces – a jester, appropriately enough. The house is also the home of a modern sculpture  – and find this, and you’ll find a ramp leading up to the upper floors (you may need to SHIFT-teleport to get onto one floor from the ramp), where more of Silas’ expressive pastels reside, together with some more sculptures; these are not to be missed, so do make sure you explore the house.

The rest of this intriguing landscape should also be explored; the landscape is all boulders and rock formations. Follow the paths outward from the house and you’ll find there are surprises to be found tucked away here and there. So don’t limit your explorations to just the vicinity of the house and cottage.

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

Experience URL

Minimalisms in Sansar

Minimalisms – Zafia Vesta

Update, November 14th: when I originally posted this article, I passed a comment about it perhaps benefiting from in introduction. A few days after I posted this article, Zafia IM’d me in Second Life to offer her thanks for the piece (thank you, Zafia! Feedback like that is always appreciated!), in which she indicated she would be adding such an introduction, which she has now done (thank you, Ryan for nudging me on this!). It adds further depth to what was already a superb exhibit, being personal in nature, and I was particularly delighted to learn how Wim Mertens and Michael Nyman influence Zafia with this experience, both (Nyman particularly – hence mentioning him in the article below) having been a part of my own exposure to minimal music. As a result of the new introduction, I’ve revised the last paragraph of this article.  

Minimalism is a form of expression using pared-down design elements. It can be found in the arts, design, architecture and the use of space.

Within the arts, minimalism encompasses to 2D and 3D art, music and even performance arts. It began in post-World War II Western art, most strongly with American visual arts in the 1960s and early 1970s, where it was also known as “literalist art” and “abc art”. It can encompass works in both colour and monochrome.

Minimalisms – Zafia Vesta

Musically, the term “minimal music” was coined in the 1960s by Michael Nyman when  describing a ten-minute piano composition by the Danish composer Henning Christiansen, although the first piece of minimalist music is generally regarded as the Monotone Symphony (1949), by Yves Klein. With architecture and space, minimalism is founded on the principle that “less is more” (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) and focuses on the elegant use of lighting, the connection between two perfect planes and the space left by the removal of three-dimensional shapes.

I mention all of this as a means of introducing Zafia Vesta’s Minimalisms, her Sansar experience which brings together all of these elements in an immersive celebration of minimalism.  The space itself utilises lighting and a contrast between light and dark to great effect, while incorporating the connection between planes of colour along the single, fully definable hallway in the space, which also offers a void in keeping with minimalism, with the gap in the “roof”.

Minimalisms – Zafia Vesta

Within this pace is a series of elemental sculptures and geometric shapes – the very definition of minimalism – some of which are animated through spinning (which itself could be said to be a minimalist form of animation). These are spotlighted across the display space, inviting exploration and study. Surrounding all of this is a piece of minimal music, The Grid by Philip Glass and taking from the visual tone poem, Koyaanisqatsi, to complete the experience.

Minimalisms is an imaginative, expressive means of exploring an art form from within. As such, I hope Zafia will continue to curate the experience and add features and capabilities to it as Sansar grows.

Minimalisms – Zafia Vesta

Experience URL

The beauty of Digital Arts in Sansar

Digital Arts Gallery: from left to right – Natalie Shau, Ben Heine, Keith Webber Jr (far wall), Grégoire A. Meyer, and Martina Stipan

While it is still gaining form, Sansar is already attracting both artists and those with an interest in art, and I’m slowly working my way through the art-related experiences currently available in the Atlas and dropping into whatever catches my eye. Places such as the Digital Arts Gallery, designed and curated by Mad Max, and which focuses on the work of digital artists from around the globe – which I admit piqued my curiosity for a very specific reason when I saw the Altas entry.

The setting is well conceived and executed. Visitors arrive in a small lobby area with windows to three sides offering a view of a late evening sky – it’s as if we’re high in a skyscraper somewhere, about to enter an exclusive gallery space. A larger hall opens off this foyer space, neatly dissected by a central display area of alcoves, and which offers choice of routes through the gallery: right and through the Featured Artist display, or left through the “collected artists” section.

Digital Arts Gallery: Adam Martinakis – Golden Boy and Materialised

The Featured Artist at the time of my visit was Adam Martinakis. It was seeing his name in the Atlas entry for the experience that caught my eye; I first encountered his digital sculptures in 2012 through a piece written for Don’t Panic. I was immediately struck by the depth of his work: digital it might be, but it carries with it a realism and texture which truly makes it physical and tangible. It’s hard not to look at them and feel you’re looking at a 3D creation, one which if you could touch them, would reward you with the feel of cut stone or slick paint finish beneath your finger tips; there is a marvellous quality to the filigree elements of Golden Boy (featured in this exhibition and seen above left) which is so beautifully rendered it presents a wonderful sense of it own existence in the physical world.

The images selected for this exhibition span Martinakis’ work from 2011 through to the present. Alongside of Golden Boy, and among his more established works offered here are Love for Light,  The Departure of Innocense [sic] and The Remains of a Memory. His more recent work is also represented, and I found myself strongly drawn to Adam, rich in substance and metaphor, while Last Kiss is simply mesmerising. I do admit to hoping to see Baptised by Fire – Prometheus or The Divisions of Pleasure offered here, but only because both pieces made such an impression on me when seeing them for the first time five years ago. However, their absence in no way detracts from the exhibition.

Digital Arts Gallery: Adam Martinakis

To the left of the entrance the gallery displays selected works by Keith Webber Jr., with a focus on his Abstract Fractal series, the remarkable and simple absorbing, Martina Stipan, who at just 19 years of age is already renowned for her digital landscapes, Natalie Shau,and  the remarkable Ben Heine with a trio of his remarkable digital portraits. To the rear of the gallery is art from famous music albums and series of panels by Zoran Cvetkovic and Zdravko Girov, tracing the history of Skopje from earliest times to the 20th century.

Digital Arts Gallery is beautifully minimalist in approach, offering the perfect environment in which to showcase the work of these artists. The lighting is almost perfect, thanks to the considered use of emitters (“almost” because Ben Heine’s Marilyn Monroe was unlit at the time of my visit). Even the looped music track feels appropriate to the gallery (although I’m admittedly biased towards music with a new age Celtic leaning, particularly when a Bear McCreary like hint weaves through a part of the music, as it does here).

Digital Arts Gallery: Grégoire A. Meyer

This is an exhibition which can be visited and appreciated with or without a VR headset. When visiting in Desktop mode, I would suggest moving to first-person mode (F3) and touring the gallery to more fully appreciate the art. If you’re adept with Sansar’s (still basic) camera controls, then F4 and flycamming offers another good way to appreciate the art here (in fact, I admit to spending a lot more time flycamming in Sansar than walking or running at the moment!).

Mad Max is open to feedback on the gallery, and to suggestions for future artists he might exhibit there. I have a couple of names I’ll endeavour to get to him for consideration. Should you visit and think of an artist you’d like to offer to Max, contact details are on the rear wall of the gallery.

Digital Arts Gallery: Martina Stipan

Experience URL