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Improving the Old Masters' Secret Tool to Draw and Paint from Life, Photos or Make Large-Scale Art with Your iPhone or Smartphone!
Improving the Old Masters' Secret Tool to Draw and Paint from Life, Photos or Make Large-Scale Art with Your iPhone or Smartphone!
Improving the Old Masters' Secret Tool to Draw and Paint from Life, Photos or Make Large-Scale Art with Your iPhone or Smartphone!
357 backers pledged $56,488 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

CAMERA LUCIDA Reinvented the 'New' Old Masters' Drawing Tool project video thumbnail
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CAMERA LUCIDA Reinvented the 'New' Old Masters' Drawing Tool

$56,488

357

If you missed the Kickstarter, click the link above to go to our pre-order page. Then after all the Kickstarter rewards have been fulfilled, it will become a regular order page.

Press Release

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What is a Camera Lucida?

The camera lucida is a classic drawing tool that has been used by artists for centuries. (see the history section).

When you look through the view hole it uses optical mirrors to reflect a right-side-up transparent "ghost" image of the scene in front of you down onto your canvas or paper, so all an artist or art enthusiast needs to do is draw over the reflected image to get correct perspective, foreshortening, proportion, position, overlap, shape. Leaving you more time to develop your art the way you want it without being frustrated by the technical elements.

How You Use It

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For paintings you do not have to start with a pencil sketch, you can also do an underpainting right over the reflected image with oils, acrylics or water paints. And you can reflect the image onto white or dark paper or canvas or anything else you want to: dishes, crafts, rocks, t-shirts, sculpting.

Solving the Image Size Problem

There are three main factors that control the size of a camera lucida's image: the size of the optics, the distance between the drawing surface and the lucida's view hole, and factor X. 

You could set a lucida ten feet away from the drawing surface and get a huge image, but no one could reach that far to draw. You could increase the size of the optics to get a larger image, but then the lucida would be big and bulky and the image would be harder to draw.

The LUCID-Art and LUCY are light, compact and portable, yet you still get a jumbo sized image because I discovered a new way of increasing the size of the image without increasing the size of the optics and maximize the size of the image at every height; I'll call it factor X, but sorry we cannot disclose how it works. 

Here are the results. For the LUCID-Art, even at its lowest possible height, 16in (41cm) from the drawing surface, you get a large 13in x 26in (33x66cm) image, which is larger than any other camera lucida—and it just goes up from there. Set at 21in (53.5cm) high the image is 18in x 31in (46x79cm). And at the highest height, 24 ½ in (62cm), you get a mammoth 20in X 37in (51x94cm) image.

For the LUCY, which has one set height of 18in (46 cm), you still get a relatively large 15in x 20in (38x51cm) image.


Solving the Lighting Problem

Traditionally, even with a good camera lucida, it would only work on white paper if you had just the right lighting, and it was frustrating or even impossible to get the image bright enough unless you limited yourself to drawing on black paper.

My improved camera lucidas eliminate all these traditional lighting problems by incorporating two shatter proof optical filters that can be placed in the LUCID-Art or LUCY  to create nine brightness levels instantly without any lighting changes. This improvement alone changes the camera lucida from a neat device into an indispensable art tool.

Now you can easily use draw and paint on white or dark paper/canvas and adjust the brightness back and forth as you work with out any problems. This feature makes a huge difference-it's like night and day!


Solving the Image Stability Problem 

Earlier prism type camera lucidas had (and the ones today still have) an unstable and elusive image. As David Hockney noted "You must use it [prism type Camera Lucida] quickly, for once the eye has moved the image is really lost.( Secret Knowledge, pg 24)" 

Later mirror type camera lucidas have a more stable image, but they are often only suspended by a thin rod that wobbles back and forth as you try to draw. 

My camera lucidas have the more stable mirror type lucida image and the LUCID-Art is supported by a solid mechanical arm that is steadied by a second diagonal cross support arm; while, the LUCY is supported with a solid stainless steel bar with a locking ball and socket joint.  This eliminating wobbling and giving you the most stable image possible, while ensuring that the support arms will not get in your way as you draw.

Like with any camera lucida, the image is still a virtual image, so it will move if your head moves, but you will have a solid place to anchor your view. And if you move your head or want to take a break, then you can easily line your marks back up with the image and continue drawing.

The ProjectorARM

The ProjectorARM will build a bridge across centuries bringing together the ancient technology of the camera lucida with the modern technology we carry in our pockets everyday. -ProjectorARM Update-

Some camera lucidas in the past have had ways to copy pictures or cartoons, but never before has a camera lucida been able to not only copy both photos and images from a smart phone's screen, but also enlarge those images up to 5x the original size with the LUCID-Art, and up to 3.75x the original size with the LUCY.

 
This table gives you a quick idea how large you will be able to get an image from off your phone
This table gives you a quick idea how large you will be able to get an image from off your phone

The ProjectorARM can hold any phone up to 3.75 inches (9.5cm) wide, which is pretty much any phone in existence. And, as shown in the video, you can also enlarge photos on the same scale.

 
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You may be asking: “besides the cost, what if the difference between your two lucidas?” Well, the biggest difference is the size of the image. The LUCID-Art's image goes up to 20x37 inches, while the LUCY has a image of 15x20 inches, which is still large, just not as large as the LUCID-Art.

Along with the size of the image, the LUCID-Art also has a larger magnification when enlarging photos or phone screens: 5x enlargement for the LUCID-Art and 3.75x enlargement for the LUCY.

The LUCID-Art is also just a little nicer in all aspects as you might expect from the cost difference and the way they look. One specific feature that adds to the LUCID-Art is that the height of the image is adjustable, which is helpful for sizing images and helps you stand or sit more comfortably while drawing.

One other thing is that with the LUCID-Art you have the option at the highest pledge level to get a drawing board with a tripod mount that makes working out in the field easy.

The LUCID-Art's drawing board turns your standard camera tripod into an easel and has a special connecting point that is designed to attach to your LUCID-Art. (tripod not included)

Drawing board measures 16"x 20" (40.5cm x 50.5cm) and is made of hardboard surface with steel base.

So the LUCY is good for most people, but if you want the very best, or you need the larger image or drawing board—get the LUCID-Art.

 Below are some testimonials and examples of art made by artists using my camera lucidas.

Lynne Hurd Bryant

“I LOVE THIS THING! I am so pleased and so excited and it is like MAGIC. It has added to my art degree training and expand what I can do. You can also sit in front of a computer screen with a digital image and use the lucida to draw it. I tried looking at some digital images through the lucida and view is 100% better than with an opaque projector.” -Lynne Hurd Bryant

www.lynnehurdbryant.com

Darice Machel

 “As an art teacher and owner of my own art school in Maui, I was very excited about the new LUCID-Art Camera Lucida. My first project using the Camera Lucida was an 11x14 acrylic painting of a sail boat in the Lahaina harbor. I worked from one of my photographs … once I had it all alined to my satisfaction I was able to draw the image with ease. As soon as I master the use of this wonderful tool, I plan on teaching my students how to use it. They are as excited as I am and can't wait to get their hands on it.” - Darice Machel

http://www.daricemachel.com

Eugene Conway

"The camera lucida opens up a whole new world of possibilities. This instrument, requires a degree of patience and skill which rewards with truly amazing results which are genuinely astounding. The camera lucida reduces the time it takes to measure a subject thus enabling rapid progress for the artist." -Eugene Conway

www.imagefromthevillage.co.uk

Stu Dunkel

Painting by Stu Dunkel made using one of my camera lucidas, Balance of Good, 12x16 oil on masonite.

 Les Bruder

"You feel like part of the camera, in fact you are a part of the camera; the mirror reflects the image onto a surface, the artist plays the part of the developing chemicals which fix the image on the paper. Another and perhaps greater instruction one gets from using the Lucida is practice in seeing and manipulating proportion, which, as Leonardo Di Vinci said, is divine." -Les Bruder

Jim McLeod

Watercolor and watercolor pencils

Terry Elrod

"I like to draw and paint en plein air. It's great for drawings of cityscapes to get the perspective right (even while sitting in a car), but it also works well for painting. ... In just a few minutes I'm started on a well-composed painting while my attraction to the scene is still fresh. Often I let drawn lines show through for an interesting effect." -Terry Elrod

Samuel Paris

"I bought the camera Lucida in the hope it would help my students learn to draw. Some students that had trouble concentrating with normal drawing instruction showed a renewed focus and showed considerable renewed effort in learning to draw. It is easy and fun to use and I would recommend you give it try. Here are some samples of portraits that I have done. The camera is a big time-saver and makes getting a likeness much easier." -Mr. Samuel Paris

When I first learned about the camera lucida while taking a college painting class, I immediately started thinking about ways to build on and improve the devise. With some directions from my professor Mick Sheldon, I built my first camera lucida in 2005 out of salvaged wooden crate material that I pulled from a trash pile at Kodiak Roofing, where I was working at the time.

After 4 years of researching, experimenting with and building camera lucidas in my garage, selling my various creations to artist all over the world in order to fund my efforts and test the effectiveness of my work, I finally created a camera lucida that incorporated the positive aspects of older models of the camera lucida while solving all of its inherent problems. I dubbed this ultimate camera lucida: the LUCID-Art.

Here's a little gimps in to the inventive process that lead to my LUCID-Art and LUCY camera lucidas.

Above is the very first camera lucida style I built. The image was dim and small, but it was sturdy and stable. It was basically the same as the one my teacher showed me in my painting class and was built out of salvaged wooden crate material that I pulled from a trash pile at Kodiak Roofing, where I was working at the time. I sold this style on eBay for about a year while was working on improvements.

Below you can see one some of the first improvements I started to make, which had more to do with design than function. I added a built-in drawing board, which was bulky, but looked a lot better then the ugly c-clamp I was using to keep my first style attached to the table. I also got rid of the screws in the front and used slots in the wood to hold in the front screen. Now it was starting to look a little better.


The first problem I tried to solve the the small image size. I wanted to make a camera lucida with a larger image, so I built a larger camera lucida. And thus the Jumbo Camera Lucida was born:

Same basic design, but larger. The screen was about 18 inches across. It was a beast, but the image was large.

The next problem I tried to solve was the image brightness. This was about 2 years into the process and up until that point I had been using plexiglass for the front screen (beam splitter) of my camera lucidas. A piece of glass (plexi or otherwise) reflects about 5% of the light and allows the other 95% to pass through, so that 5% of the light was all the reflected image was made with. This meant people had to dim the lights and shine a spot light on the subject. I wanted to fix that.

Above is what my first improvement was to brighten the image. I switched out the plexiglass for semi-transparent mirror, which reflected about 35% of the the light. This made the image about 7x brighter.

I later added neutral density optical filters, which helped make the image even brighter and allowed the brightness to be adjusted as needed.

My camera lucidas were starting to look like bulky wooden versions of the LUCID-Art. Really this was the Jurassic Period of my camera lucida building, but a meteor was about to hit.

My nearly four years of tinkering led to an explosive discovery—rather then making the camera lucidas bigger and bigger to increase the size of the image, I found a way (the secret factor X) to make a camera lucida with only a 3 inch screen that created an image just as large as the one made with my Jumbo Camera Lucida with it's 18 inch monster screen. This was revolutionary. Here are a few of the first prototypes:

Now the only problem I had was that the pieces for this new camera lucida were too small for me to make with my woodworking equipment—it'd only be a matter of time before I'd lose a finger trying to cut these tiny pieces on my table saw, and I didn't want that. So I started looking in to different options: injection molding, metal fabrication, but all that seemed out of my reach.

Then in the beginning of 2009, right in the middle of my research trying to find a way to make my new camera lucida, I was contacted by Practical Industries, Inc. They were interesting in using their metal fabrication shop to build camera lucidas. They had already bought one of my wooden camera lucidas and loved it so much that they made an offer to partner with me in my camera lucida making and selling endeavors. This was the answer I was looking for.

I hand built a metal prototype of my new camera lucida pictured below and took it to the engineers at Practical Industries. We work closely over the rest of 2009, and had the first LUCID-Arts ready to sell by that December.

Path to the ProjectorARM

From the very start, I wanted to have a way to copy pictures with my camera lucida. This started with my wooden camera lucidas and what I called the Photo-Arm:

When I started making the LUCID-Art with Practical Industries, I sent over these drawings:

I wanted an adjustable arm that could hold photos at different distances, so it could be used to enlarge the photo to different sizes depending on how far away it was held. But building this adjustable arm in small quantities in the USA was too expensive for just a little accessory. So I compromised on a piece that attached directly to the camera lucida and held a photo at one set distance. I called this accessory the Photo Projector, and it actually turned out to be very effectivefor copying photos:

From time to time, my mind would wander back to the idea of an adjustable arm to hold the photo. Then separately, but during about the same time this little idea, which I crudely scribbled in my idea notebook, was starting to float around in my mind:

Translation: A drawing of a lucida with a phone in front of the screen with the words “make some way of holding it [a smart phone] to copy image.”
Translation: A drawing of a lucida with a phone in front of the screen with the words “make some way of holding it [a smart phone] to copy image.”

I realized that it would be awesome if I could enlarge an image off of a phone's screen in the same way I was doing it with photos, and I knew that it wouldn’t be too hard to find a way. Soon these two ideas collided, and I saw in a flash that I could modify a standard mass produced gooseneck arm with a clamp on one end and a clip to hold a phone/photo on the other end.

I went back to this page in my note book and added the note “gooz arm clip”, which for me encapsulated this entire epiphany. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense, but that's just how I take notes—sorry, I didn't expect I'd be posting it on the internet someday.

So that is where I am today. I have this prototype of the ProjectorARM and with your support we are going to bring my camera lucida into the digital age by connecting it with your smart phone!

The Lost Secrets of the Old Masters:

This is a very interesting interview with David Hockney, where he explains and demonstrates the use of camera obscuras and camera lucidas in the artwork of the Old Masters chronicled in his book “Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters”.

Here is David Hockney's Secret Knowledge Documentary:

Here is some of the scientific evidence for Hockney's theory: 

The manufacturing, assembly and fulfillment for all the rewards will be done by my business partner Practical Industries, Inc., under my close supervision, in their 35,000sq ft facility in Stockton California (less then 2 hour outside San Francisco).

This project will create the new ProjectorARM and produce a run of camera lucidas to use with the ProjectorARM.

Over the past few years, Practical Industries and I have built thousands of my camera lucidas in smaller runs, so the process is set up and ready to build as many camera lucidas as we need to go with the ProjecorARMs.

The LUCID-Art is made all in house. Practical Industries punches, forms and powder-coats all the parts, then assembles and boxes the finished product. Because the head of the LUCY is made with injection molded fiber-reinforced polycarbonate, we have to have that process done in another facility near Sacramento, CA. All the pieces for the LUCY are then sent to our facility where they are inspected, assembled and boxed.

With the ProjectorARM we are going to leverage the mass produced gooseneck products made overseas to keep the costs down, otherwise there would be no way to produce this accessory at a price anyone would want to pay.

I have been working with one of Practical Industries long time business contacts in China to get the ProjectorARM produced. They have all the components they need to produce the ProjectorARM from other products they are currently building, it is just a matter of putting them together to my specifications.

They have already provided a prototype (picture in the video and campaign page), and now we just need an order large enough to get it produced. And that is why we are on Kickstarter to get the funding this will take.

And the gooseneck arm is really just the “ARM” in the ProjectorARM—we also need the “Projector.” That is where the lenses come in. I had the molds for these Fresnel magnifying lenses made years ago when I was trying (unsuccessfully) to make my first vision of an adjustable projector arm (see the “My Story” section). But now with this Kickstarter project, we will have the funding necessary to order the lenses needed to work with my new ProjectorARM. So once we get funded, we will place the orders for the gooseneck arms and lenses, and bring them into Practical Industries' facilities for careful inspection before putting them together and boxing them with my camera lucidas.

Risks and challenges

Because working together with Practical Industries we have already built so many camera lucidas over the years, and because the ProjectorARM is relatively simple with a fully functional prototype, the risks are very low. The biggest risk (which we do not expect) is the risk of delay. It is always possible that things take longer than expected, which means delivery time could be longer than estimated. But we do fully expect to be able to ship all the rewards in or before this November, and I have the full backing of Practical Industries behind me to get these rewards produced and shipped out to you as promised. And we will be open and honest if any unforeseen challenges or delays come up during the production process.

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    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    Giving a buck or 2 gets you in the door with access to all updates and the ability to comment. Every backer at all levels get these privileges.

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    The MAKER Kit. All the benefits of the last level -PLUS- One piece of the semi-transparent mirror (a beam splitter) used as part of the optical system in my camera lucidas. This includes a video tutorial on how to use this piece to build a rudimentary camera lucida with common household items, which will give you a glimpse at the camera lucida's image. The MAKER Kit is included in all higher pledge levels.

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    Just the ProjectorARM please... If you already have either the LUCID-Art or LUCY Camera Lucida and just want the all-new ProjectorARM, then this is your pledge. This level includes the ProjectorARM with necessary lenses, instructions on how to use it to enlarge photos and/or images off your smart phone, plus the MAKER Kit.

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    Pledge $115 or more About $115

    LUCY w/ ProjectorARM. Get the complete LUCY Camera Lucida (the smaller of our two lucidas) with the ProjectorARM and lenses. These are the full working and assembled devices, which will allow you to do everything shown in the video: reflect images to draw from life, photos or images off your smart phone. Includes instructions and of course the MAKER Kit. This would cost $174 in a store.

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    Pledge $185 or more About $185

    LUCID-Art w/ ProjectorARM. Get the complete LUCID-Art Camera Lucida with the ProjectorARM and lenses. This is our top model and the best camera lucida ever made, which will allow you to do everything shown in the video: reflect images to draw from life, photos or images off your smart phone on a larger scale and with all the bells and whistles. Includes instructions and of course the MAKER Kit. This would cost $264 in a store.

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    Pledge $220 or more About $220

    LUCID-Art w/ ProjectorARM and Drawing Board. Everything in the last level -PLUS- A Specially designed drawing board that connects directly to the LUCID-Art and mounts on your standard tripod. Without this drawing board you just clamp your camera lucida to your table or workspace; this drawing board acts like a portable workspace and allows you to work out in the field—great for plein air. Does not include the tripod—but works with any standard camera tripod. This would cost $303 in a store.

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Funding period

- (37 days)