Art Is Like Augmented Reality – A Ramble

2017 Artwork Augmented reality ramble

Although this is a very short (and rambling) article about art, I’m going to have to start by talking about technology and gaming for a little while. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

Last summer, augmented reality seemed to be all over the news thanks to a Pokemon-themed game that was released for *ugh* smartphones. Leaving aside the obvious point about how Pokemon games are best experienced on an original Game Boy between the years of 1997-2000, I thought that I’d talk about augmented reality since it has some surprising similarities to the creative processes involved in making art.

The first thing to point out is that augmented reality is hardly a new technology. I mean, I remember seeing a demonstration of an earlier version of it in a French amusement park (called “Futuroscope) that I visited during a holiday about nine years ago. But, thanks to the smartphone infestation that the modern world is currently suffering from, augmented reality is a lot more widespread and well-known than it used to be.

And, yet, the basic idea behind it is older than the telephone. In fact, it might even be older than the printing press.

At it’s core, augmented reality is just a new way of superimposing imagined images onto real locations. This is something that artists have been doing in one way or another for as long as art has existed. In fact, being able to do this is one of the many cool things about being an artist.

In fact, there’s even a term for it – “artistic licence“. This is where you alter a realistic location in order to make it more visually interesting. This can be as simple as giving a well-known building more prominence in a painting (than it has in real life) or changing the weather slightly. Or it can involve extensive changes to the composition, layout, colour scheme, background etc… It can be very subtle or it can be very obvious.

Augmented reality is just a modern (and limited) technological version of the way that artists have played with reality for years. In fact, it’s just a logical extension of the way that all of our imaginations shape the way that we think about the world.

To give you a personal example of what I’m talking about, I’m a massive fan of the movie “Blade Runner“. Whenever I see a cityscape at night, I can’t help but mentally add a few futuristic buildings, oil towers, flying cars etc… to it in a way that is slightly inspired by the film’s dramatic opening shots.

Naturally, I’ve made at least one digitally-edited painting inspired by this experience (based on my memories seeing Portsmouth from the top of Portsdown Hill at night).

"Portsdown Hill Cyberpunk" By C. A. Brown

“Portsdown Hill Cyberpunk” By C. A. Brown

This sort of thing can even happen sometimes when I see something interesting at night, like this digitally-edited painting I made of some roadworks in Havant quite a while ago:

"Havant Roadworks, In Imagination And Memory" By C. A. Brown

“Havant Roadworks, In Imagination And Memory” By C. A. Brown

I’m sure that there’s probably something in the world which prompts a similar type of imaginative reaction in you. Your imagination shapes how you see and think about the world in more ways than you might think.

In fact, I’d argue that this is perhaps one of the reasons why augmented reality is such a popular thing now that the technology exists (albeit in annoying smarphone form) for it to be used widely. It’s a mirror of the things that artists etc.. have been doing for centuries beforehand.


Sorry about the short article, but I hope it was interesting 🙂