Hi guys, I'm Kurt Wenner, inventor of 3D street art illusions. Ask me anything. You might know me from my past work or have enjoyed 3D street art and wondered, "who did that?" I'm taking your questions today on the heels of my most recent project with Silk - to create an expansive 3D art installation which is a visual representation of the depleted Colorado River. i'm here to raise awareness for freshwater issues and encourage the public to pledge at ReuniteTheRiver.com.

I'll be answering your questions live starting at 11:30 am EDT. I'm very much looking forward to my first AMA!


Comments: 58 • Responses: 18  • Date: 

_artfag12 karma

Hi Kurt! Thanks for the AMA!

How did you get started with such art? Were you interested with street art to begin?

Have you ever been hassled by the police?

KurtWenner22 karma

1) I started pavement art in 1982 on the streets of Rome where I was studying classical drawing.

2) Actually I was not. I was interested in Classicism and Renaissance art. I ended up on the street because I was an American who did not speak Italian and needed to make money. Pavement art is a sacred art, traditional in Italy.

3) I have several stories about encounters with the Police. The most dramatic story took place in the city of Naples, Italy. On this occasion, the spectators actually physically carried the policemen away. This was not terribly helpful, as they came back in force during the quiet lunch hour. I took refuge in the church and then escaped.

_artfag8 karma

Wow! I can imagine how chaotic that must have been with the police.

Since you weren't interested in street art prior, do you have a new found respect for other forms of street art? I know the subject is different, but I was curious on your take on public art such as graffiti.

KurtWenner13 karma

Pavement art and graffiti are very different, not so much because of the subject matter, but because of the artist's relationship to the public. The graffiti artist mostly does the work at night in secret and attempts to escape, while the pavement artist works constantly in front of the public. I think that the most valueable aspect of pavement art is the experience of executing a work in front of the public. Therefore I do not envy the graffiti artist for this reason.

KurtWenner8 karma

Thank you for all of the questions! We are closing up now. Arrivederci!

eliyastein6 karma

Hi Kurt, I remember being amazed at these pictures when I first came across them years ago!

Here are a few questions:

1) What goes into securing a location to paint one of these? 2) What is the typical life span of such a work?

KurtWenner4 karma

In the early years, the works were done spontaniously and I simply had to draw and hope. Now that they are done mostly for large events, the organizers secure the permission properly. For the second question, the works used to last only several days but now there are techniques that can make them more durable.

jlwalk9055 karma

Thanks for doing a AMA. Out of all the pieces that you have done, which one is your favorite? Which one are you the most proud of?

KurtWenner10 karma

Of the pieces I'm most proud of, the first one is entitled Dies Irae It was done in 1986 and was the first piece that premiered the 3D pavement art form. Another piece is called Office Stress and that can be seen at KurtWenner.com. I've also done large pieces for Greenpeace and a piece called "The Sea Dragon" in Taiwan.

AllDayRedditDay5 karma

Hey Kurt! I have one quick question for you! Can you please do the reddit Snoo with your own take to it! Thank you! :)

KurtWenner7 karma

How much are you offering?

dfetz34 karma

What's the best/craziest reaction you've gotten from someone walking down the street viewing your work?

How long will you stick around after you've finished. Do you just drop your brush and peace out or do you hang out on the corner all day and watch people admire your work?

KurtWenner8 karma

1) In the early years the reactions were more dramatic because people were not used to seeing this kind of work. One time, a woman described to her husband that I had painted a hole in the ground and dead souls were coming out of it. The next day the husband came to the site and where my picture had been, there was a real hole because they had dug up the street during the night to repair some drainage lines. The couple had a terrific argument until a photo of the piece appeared in the newspaper the next day.

2) I generally like to leave the work when it's done. Mostly because I'm tired.

Fadeshyy3 karma

How the F did you become such a god of perspective?

KurtWenner5 karma

I've always loved perspective and illusion. I taught myself the geometry and when I went to art school, I found that I had created an entirely different technique. By studying early Renaissance perspective, I noticed that there were some mathematical problems that had not been solved, particularly with ellipses and spheres. By solving those problems, I was able to invent the 3D effect.

NotSoNaturalRed3 karma

Hello Kurt,

Do you have to be standing at a certain angle to appreciate the full dimensions, or if you walk around it do you still get the 3D effect?

KurtWenner6 karma

The art is calculated to be seen from one point in space. Technically, the illusion should not work from other points. Many people, however, feel they get the illusion from other points. Ultimately, it is impossible to know what other people's perceptual experiences are. One interesting thing about working in the public is being able to see the reactions of the audience.

numero_youknow3 karma

Hello Kurt. I'm a huge fan of your street art.

  • What's the typical process — from start to finish — like?

  • Which paints do you use?

  • And how long do you take to finish each work?

edit: placing bullets

KurtWenner4 karma

1) from start to finish, the start is the geometrical calculations. The second part is composing the drawing. The third part is the creation of a tonal drawing for a presentation, and the fourth part is the execution of the full-sized art.

2) I use pastels, most of which I make myself.

3) A work takes approximately one week to design and one week to execute, depending on its size and complexity.

chiggachonck2 karma

Were you ever forced not to do this type of art? Did anything ever hold you back?

KurtWenner4 karma

Like all pavement artists, I have had the experience of being moved on. Oddly this has not happened as many times as one would think. I am sensitive to the possibility of being moved on and try to make good choices about my venues.

mishmaster50001 karma

How do you create illusions like those in your work? As in, when you're painting, how are you capable of visualizing what the painting will seem to look like from a certain angle?

KurtWenner2 karma

It occurred to me when I was in Italy that the painters that did the enourmous Frescoed ceilings never had any way to see what their work looked like from the ground. This was because the scaffolding that was necessary for doing the work blocked the image from the ground. Therefore, for many images the artist needs to work blind. The artist cannot see the effect of the final work during the execution. This is the same with the 3-dimmensional pavement art.

bobby_pendragon1 karma

Hi Kurt!

I've always loved your work, and they were definitely some of the coolest pictures on the Internet when I was young.

My question to you is: What was your inspiration to start doing this kind of art?

KurtWenner2 karma

For me art was never a way to "express myself." Art has always been a way to understand my relationship with the world. When it is studied in this way, an enormous amout of information becomes available. In many ways, all of the real world is an illusion and therefore studying illusion is a way to understand the real world.

baconteste1 karma

Hey Kurt.

Just wanted to say i am amazed by this piece in particular

Was there ever a piece that you gave up on?

Thank you for the AMA

KurtWenner2 karma

This piece was created for the film "The Mummy" at the Waterloo train station in London. I used a different technique for the piece in order to include a stand-up element of The Mummy on the chariot. This part of the piece would have gone to infinity, had it been painted on the ground. The stand-up piece also gave me the opportunity to pose the spectators behind part of the art.

2) Yes, I have given up on more than one piece. On one piece I spent six weeks without being able to finish up because it rained every second day, and the piece needed three days to complete.

jamesno261 karma

Hello, Kurt, what do you think is the best street art anyone has done?

KurtWenner2 karma

I am partial to my own, but I also appreciate the work of others. I don't like to compare art or artists because I think the point is that each thing is unique and therefore incomparable.

livevil9991 karma

Hi Mr. Wenner. First of all you do some wonderful work and the cause of reuniting the Colorado river is a very noble one in my book so thank you for taking up the cause.

I have two questions for you if you'll indulge me.

  1. How did you come up with the idea for 3d street art?

  2. What techniques do you use to make the street art appear 3d? I've heard of the use of projectors in some cases but in general I'm woefully ignorant to the processes used.

KurtWenner4 karma

1) The 3D pavement art is a combination between wide angle perspectives I used to depict planets and spacecraft for NASA and my studies of Italian Renaissance Classicism. I wanted to see whether historical imagery could be inserted into a contemporary environment.

2) The 3D effect starts with geometrical studies. I create two different images. One is of the composition as it appears in perspective, and the other is the image as it is actually drawn. There are different techniques to interface these two geometries.

lurch9401 karma

Have you ever witnessed someone fall down thinking they were actually falling into your piece?

KurtWenner1 karma

There is sometimes this effect but it is hard to know what is going through the person's mind. Disney was once sued for trip and fall, simply by painting asphalt two different colors. The plaintiff claimed that they expected there to be a step and because there wasn't a step, they fell. So it is very difficult to know what a person perceives.

Northwait0 karma

Why do you call yourself the inventor of one-point perspective art when it was clearly a 15th century development?

KurtWenner8 karma

I don't call myself the inventor of one-point perspective art. The perspective I personally use I call hyperbolic perspective. This reversed the curve of the human eye. It is the outward projection of the geometry of the back of our eyes. This was not an invention of the 15th century or any other time. Some artists that do 3D pavement art use the more simple one-point anamorphic projection that was popular in the 17th century. They imagine I use this and continually screw up the Wikipedia section on "street painting." I have given up trying to fix this - sorry if you were misinformed.