Double Vision: Twin Artists Create Curved, Lifelike Landscapes

Field Museum Drawing
Twins Ryan and Trevor Oakes have developed a drawing technique that captures perspective images on the inside of a sphere. (Image credit: © Ryan and Trevor Oakes)

Twin brothers Ryan and Trevor Oakes have an unusual talent. The siblings have developed a method for creating lifelike, perceptual drawings on a curved canvas.

The brothers, 32, invented a drawing technique that involves splitting their vision in two, so that they can then trace a scene onto a curved canvas that more accurately captures how it appears in real life.

From now through June 13, the brothers will be drawing the iconic Flatiron Building in New York City, from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. EDT daily. An exhibit of the twins' work, called "Compounding Visions," is currently on display at Composite: The Gallery at the National Museum of Mathematics. [See Twin Brothers' Lifelike, Curved Drawings]

Using their technique, the twins have produced detailed drawings of the Cloud Gate sculpture (also known as "The Bean") in Chicago, St. Paul's Cathedral in London and the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy, among other landmarks.

To understand their drawing method, hold your hand out in front of your face, then focus on the scene behind it. Your hand will go transparent. The twins do the same thing, using a curved canvas in place of a hand, and tracing what they see onto the canvas. The canvas is curved, Ryan Oakes said, so it can better represent how the human eye bends light to produce an image.

The twins have developed a special apparatus to keep their heads steady while they draw. Both twins are proficient at the technique, but Trevor Oakes does most of the drawing, while Ryan makes sure everything is set up correctly.

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Tanya Lewis
Staff Writer
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.