You never know what you may cross when walking down Fifth Avenue… just a few weeks ago we spotted a curious duo doing (and wearing) even more curious things. You see, we’re quite used to usual window-watching activity — pausing to photograph windows with smart phone, posing before window to be photograph with window (we advise doing this just before dusk so both you and the window can be seen) and quietly gazing at window for great stretches of time — but live-sketching our windows was something new and unexpected.
Meet Colorado-born twins Ryan and Trevor Oakes. They’re best known for creating perspective drawings using a concave easel which mimics the shape of human vision. The effect? Drawing space onto curved surfaces freehand and by eye alone.
The Oakes’ drawing method represents a significant moment in art history. It has been described by Columbia University’s perceptual historian Jonathan Crary as one of the most original breakthroughs in the rendering of visual space since the Renaissance. In 1425, Brunelleschi unveiled linear perspective at the Baptistery in Florence, setting the cornerstone of the Renaissance in a grand paradigm shift from the stylized figures of the Medieval era towards a more naturalistic mode of representation. Following similar lines of inquiry into understanding human vision, the Oakes’ drawing method illuminates fundamental perceptual truths regarding the spherical nature of vision itself. Re-examining the canon of Western Perspective, their discovery introduces the most naturalistic mode of drawing visual space to date.
So why do they choose to draw on a curved easel? Let’s let the Oakes explain that:
We invented a spherically curved easel to draw on a picture plane that’s in harmony with the light entering our eyes. The flat picture plane is common but in fact light rays we see fan out from our pupils, each ray perpendicular to the surface of a sphere.
Our hats are off to Bergdorf Goodman’s window display designers. Last year’s holiday window with the floor flipped vertically offered a truly unique vantage point. When does one ever get to hover above six gorgeous musicians decked to the nines in dazzling 1920’s garb? It stopped so many people in their tracks, ourselves included. We had to seize the opportunity to draw it before it came down.