The LUCY Drawing Tool: A Reinvention of the Classic Camera Lucida

The LUCY Drawing Tool: A Reinvention of the Classic Camera Lucida

As artists, we all strive to create masterpieces that stand the test of time. And throughout history, artists have used a variety of tools to aid in their craft. Among these tools are optical devices like the camera obscura and the camera lucida. The latter was not patented and given the name 'camera lucida' until the early 19th century, but the optical concepts behind this device have been known for over 400 years.

These tools and techniques were a closely guarded trade secret in a time when competition between artists was fierce and the line between magic and science was only beginning to become differentiated. But these tools were gradually replaced by modern electronics such as cameras, projectors, and computers, then all but forgotten.

However, in 2001, artist David Hockney ignited controversy with the publication of Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters. Hockney argued that advancements in realism and perspective during the Renaissance were due in part to innovations in optical devices. His book revealed a large body of evidence that many of the Old Masters, in addition to being gifted and dedicated to the development of their craft, employed the aid of early optical devices to create some of society's most cherished masterpieces.

This growing interest in these optical devices inspired me as well. In the fall of 2005, I found myself standing in a darkened classroom, crowded around a mysterious box-like device suspended on the edge of a table. An old desk lamp illuminated a few gourds arranged at the center of the table, and I peered through the device, seeing a vibrant ghost-like image of the gourds hovering over some drawing paper.

After the demonstration, my painting instructor told the class that the device was called a camera lucida, but I was left wondering why people didn't know about or use these devices anymore. I spent the next four years researching, reading, experimenting, building, tinkering, and testing, determined to reinvent the camera lucida into something that was useful for today's artists.

My resulting creation, the LUCY Drawing Tool, solved all the historic problems with the classic camera lucida while retaining all the magic. I created a bright adjustable image with no need for dark rooms or spotlights, a larger and steadier image, and the ability to enlarge photos along with drawing live objects.

As artists, we have always used tools to aid in our craft, and the use of tools is one of the distinguishing characteristics of mankind. The eternal drive to create rolls forward unabated, reminding us that what was old has become new again, and that the lost secrets and tools of the Old Masters are once more poised to revolutionize the way we make art. The LUCY Drawing Tool is just one example of how we can build upon the past to create something new and innovative for the future.

Learn more about the LUCY Drawing Tool


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