About this project
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Two New Rewards!
Thanks to the overwhelming response so far the NeoLucida XL, I’m excited to announce TWO NEW NeoLucida XL Reward Tiers!
Your pledge for NeoLucida XL at these two tiers will support NeoLucida donations to US public Middle and High School art programs in need.
- $5: Your pledge will go towards the cost of NeoLucida XLs to be donated to public school art programs.
- $105: Get One/Give One. You get a NeoLucida XL delivered to you. I will also send one NeoLucida XL to a public school art program in the United States.
Want to know more? Read Campaign Update #2.
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The NeoLucida XL: Even easier to trace what you see.
The NeoLucida is a modern reinterpretation of the camera lucida, a 19th century optical drawing aid. It superimposes an image of your subject onto your paper. You see your pencil and your subject at the same time. Trace what you see!
Back on Kickstarter!
In 2013, along with fellow Art Professor Golan Levin, I launched the NeoLucida project on Kickstarter. Our goal was to make this amazing—but obsolete—tool available again. We hoped there was a small group of art/tech/history nerds like us who might want to try a camera lucida, but couldn’t afford a vintage one. To our surprise, over 11,000 (!) backers helped us make many more NeoLucidas than we ever planned. Most had never heard of a camera lucida; they just wanted to draw and the NeoLucida gave them an entry point. We scaled up production by bringing Kickstarter veterans Big I Design on board as manufacturing partners. We even won a prestigious Core77 Design Award along the way! There are now over 25,000 NeoLucidas helping people in 90 countries draw from real life.
"Um, this is hard!"
One thing became clear from the feedback. People said, “This is harder than I thought!” We said, “We know!” After all, the original NeoLucida copied the prism design of vintage 19th century camera lucidas, which made sharp, clear images, but has a tiny viewing area. To us, it supported the idea that great artists of the past were still incredibly skilled; using a tool wasn't "cheating." This was a provocative media archeology project: NeoLucida users could test what it was like to be an artist 200 years ago.
But thousands of people were just excited by using a tool that might make drawing a little less frustrating. Many people appreciated the art history story, but they just wanted to draw. Maybe they used to draw and gave up as a teenager. Maybe they never learned to draw but always wanted to. Many parents wanted to support their kids' creative impulses. The NeoLucida offered an accessible and inexpensive motivation to draw.
I was inspired. Years of lecturing and running NeoLucida drawing workshops in a half-dozen countries gave me direct exposure with hundreds of aspiring artists. With all the feedback in mind, I went back to the drawing board.
After two years of research and testing prototypes, the NeoLucida is back! People asked for a larger viewing area, but why stop there? The all new design has an extra large viewer to make drawing from life just a bit easier. Say hello to the NeoLucida XL.
First, A Little Art History.
If you wanted to make a realistic image in the days before photography was invented, you had to draw it.
For centuries, artists and inventors developed clever optical drawing instruments to assist with the difficult task of drawing from real life. Devices with mirrors, lenses, and prisms helped with the most challenging part of drawing: flattening a three-dimensional world into the two dimensions of your paper.
Drawing would be so much easier if you could hold up a piece of glass to your subject and trace its likeness directly onto the flat glass. Your page and your subject would be aligned; you wouldn't have to look away from your subject to see your drawing. Simple devices like the Sighting Grid did precisely this. Instead of glass, a grid of wires made a reference plane.
Sighting Grids were accurate, but slow and cumbersome. As optical technology advanced from the early 17th century onwards, artists and inventors found ways to project images onto paper for tracing. The most advanced of these technologies was the camera lucida, invented by scientist Sir William Hyde Wollaston in 1807. A prism acts like a beam-splitter: part of your vision is directed towards your subject, part towards your paper. This overlap makes it possible to trace directly from real life.
The NeoLucida XL borrows from this tradition of simple, effective drawing instruments, but leveraging some modern technology to make a simple and inexpensive version of these ancient tools.
Want a little more history and a look at the vintage tools that inspired the NeoLucida? Check out this chat and demo with Norman Chan of Adam Savage's Tested.com:
How does it work?
The main suggestion we got for the original NeoLucida was: "Can't you just make the prism bigger?" Actually, no. When you look into the prism, you look at the exposed edge of the prism. It doesn't matter how big the prism is, you still look at the edge. And as the prism gets bigger, the more the image shifts when you move your head. This is bad for tracing (trust me, we made and tried larger prisms. No good). To make the viewing area bigger, the NeoLucida would have to be completely redesigned. Ditch the prism and find other materials to create the ghost reflections.
The NeoLucida XL uses mirror and glass to combine a virtual ghost image of your subject and the real view of your hand. Setting it up is easy:
- Clamp the NeoLucida XL to a table or sturdy drawing board.
- Bend the adjustable gooseneck so that the viewer is facing your subject and positioned over your paper.
- Look straight down into the viewer to see your page and a ghost image of your subject superimposed.
- Trace what you see!
Part of your vision goes through the glass to your pencil. Simultaneously, part of your vision bounces off the glass, then the first-surface mirror, then out to your subject. The result is a ghost image on your page.
Look down into the NeoLucida XL and a ghost image of your subject appears on top of your page.
Here's an actual view through the NeoLucida XL. You can see your hand and your subject superimposed. This drawing only took 4 minutes, but proportion and perspective are rendered accurately. Tracing really works!
No matter your skill level, the NeoLucida XL helps you make more accurate drawings. Proportion—the relationships between elements of your subject—and perspective—accurate rendering of space—are laid out for you in the ghost image. You can even compose your scene before you draw so your subject fits on your paper the way you want it to. All of this means you can focus on the most important part of drawing: putting pencil to paper. Controlling a pencil to make beautiful lines takes practice. With the NeoLucida XL, you spend less time on laying out your drawing and more time drawing.
The basic elements in the NeoLucida XL are simple enough: A piece of glass and a mirror placed at a certain angle to each other. This arrangement is the same as it was in the early 19th century. After testing dozens of samples and prototypes, we've developed the NeoLucida XL to be the best version of the glass-and-mirror camera lucida ever made.
Glass and Mirror. The quality of the glass and the mirror are key to make the camera lucida ghost image as sharp and clear as possible. The mirror we use is a First Surface mirror. Typical mirror is made with a reflective surface applied to the rear of a piece of glass. This is how most commercial mirrors are made. Because the light travels through the glass to get to the mirror, there are additional reflections from the glass surface and tiny distortions from scattering light. This isn't usually a problem for your bathroom mirror, since the mirror is thin and you're not standing that close to it. But if you want a precise reflection with your eye up close to it, you need a sharp reflection. Usually used in scientific applications, a first surface mirror has only one surface reflecting light rays. One surface exposed, one crisp reflection.
Portability. Making the NeoLucida viewer larger makes drawing easier, but it also makes the device bulkier. To make the NeoLucida XL as portable as the original NeoLucida, the glass-and-mirror viewer neatly folds into a flat package. Slide it into the custom pouch provided, and toss it in your bag with your art supplies. Easy! The folding action also protects the glass and mirror inside a sandwich of hard plastic to keep the delicate optics safe while in transit.
Legacy Support. The NeoLucida XL is an all new optical design, but it uses the same adjustable gooseneck from the original NeoLucida. If you have the original NeoLucida, you can swap viewers between the gooseneck stands. Save space! Carry both NeoLucida viewers but only one clamp!
Lighting Control. The NeoLucida XL comes with a removable shader to help balance the lighting. It's like custom sunglasses for your NeoLucida! Is the page too bright to see the ghost image? Insert the shader in the bottom slot to dim the image of your page. Is your subject too bright and you can't see your page? Insert the shader in the forward position. When you're not using it, store the shader in the rear of the NeoLucida XL viewer.
A little easier for the little ones. I have two daughters who love to draw, but they couldn't use the original NeoLucida. At 8 and 4 years old, the NeoLucida's requirements of precise eye placement with a tiny prism made it frustrating to them. The NeoLucida XL isn't a toy, but it was made with kids in mind. I've tested it with kids and found that, depending on the skill level, children as young as 6 and 7 can draw with the NeoLucida XL!
Almost every child draws. But many give up in their teenage years when drawing skills don't seem to improve. Practicing with tools like the NeoLucida XL to advance skills can help keep kids drawing into adulthood.
Backed by Primary Research
The NeoLucida XL isn't just a product, it's the result of years of primary research. As an art professor, the NeoLucida is part of a decade of research into the relationship between technology and art history. I have one of the most complete camera lucida collections in the world, and have used this personal collection to reverse engineer both the original NeoLucida and the NeoLucida XL.
The glass-and-mirror design is inspired by several different historical designs. The desire to draw more accurately from life is an old one; 19th century finely crafted brass devices and mid-20th century toys all responded to demand from aspiring artists.
(Prices include WORLDWIDE shipping!)
Let's get drawing!
Who's behind this?
I'm Pablo Garcia, Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and the history of drawing and technology is my life. I've spent a decade researching historical and contemporary drawing techniques and tools. I have over 30 different camera lucidas spanning 200 years, making it one of the largest and most complete private collections of its kind in the world. I also run drawingmachines.org, a growing archive reference site covering 600 years of drawing technology. With Golan Levin, I made the award-winning NeoLucida in 2013, earning over $424,000 from 11,406 backers in our first-ever Kickstarter. I also exhibit art and lecture about art, design, and technology. Find out more here. Or tweet me!
Manufacturing partner Big Idea Design is Chadwick Parker and Joe Huang. Veterans of 21 Kickstarter campaigns, Big Idea Design has earned over $1.4 million from their high-quality titanium pens and clever tool designs. As manufacturing partners for the original NeoLucida, Big Idea Design helped us scale from a few hundred planned units to tens of thousands after our Kickstarter went viral.
Want to keep up with NeoLucida? Want to dive deep into the history of optical drawing tools? Visit us at NeoLucida.com for more. Or keep up to date by following NeoLucida on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
("NeoLucida" is a registered trademark of NeoLucida, LLC)
Risks and challenges
We've made over 25,000 prism NeoLucidas in the last three years. We've got our manufacturing process down, and I have been to China several times to oversee production. So are we confident that the NeoLucida XL will be delivered as promised? Yes. But there are some new challenges we have our eyes on:
• The new NeoLucida XL has some moving parts the original NeoLucida didn't have. When we get to producing molds there is a chance that parts don't fit or move smoothly. We have a plan to do final prototype modeling before we invest in the injection molds, but if there are problems, there's a chance for a delay if we need to make new molds.
• The glass and mirror are thin and very precisely cut to be as flat as possible. This gives the truest image for tracing. We have planned for a higher-than-usual spoilage rate before we assemble the NeoLucida XL to account for possible irregularities and damage as we produce and package the NeoLucida XL.
But our team is battle-tested and have been manufacturing high-quality NeoLucidas together for three years. We are ready for this newest phase of the NeoLucida Project!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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