Virtual Flight Sketching

The New Microsoft Flight Simulator has opened a new location for me to take my sketching: anywhere in the world. One of the first games that I played on my first computer, an IBM PCjr was Microsoft Flight Simulator in the 1980s and that started my journey into computation with a fascination of a three-dimensional environment represented on a flat screen. The technology has advanced amazingly since then and so have my drawing skills.

San Francisco Bay from my Aviat Pitts Special S2S drawn with Adobe Fresco

The imagery and geometry that is now in Microsoft Flight Simulator is very accurate, lifelike, and for me, an urban sketcher, good enough to sketch. The application give me the foreground, an airplane cockpit, the midground, buildings and geology, and the background of scenic vistas with accurate weather rendering.

Sydney Opera House from my Icon A5 drawn in my journal

I pick a location, an airplane, and fly to get just the right point of view, then I press [Pause]. I then start sketching in my journal from Iona Handcrafted Books, Adobe Fresco, or even my Sketch 360 app. Since these sketches aren’t from real life, I shouldn’t call them Urban Sketches, so I’ve decided to call the Virtual Flight Sketches with the hashtag #VirtualFlightSketch.

Manhattan at Sunset from my JMP VL-3

I’ve always wanted to see the pyramids of Egypt.

Giza Pyramids an Sphinx from my JMP VL-3

I created my latest Virtual Flight Sketch with my Sketch 360 app and exporting as an animation video that you can interact with.

San Francisco from EX ZLin Savage Cub

For this sketch, I had the Flight Simulator in the left screen and Sketch 360 running on the Wacom One display tablet for the drawing canvas and on the right display where it showed the 360 view.

360 Sketching studio setup.

The funny thing about pausing in Flight Simulator is that the plane stops in mid-flight but the clock does not stop. This means that if I’m doing a sketch at sunset, the lighting is going to change during the time of my sketch. It adds a realistic aspect to the experience. I know that I could easily take a screenshot and work from that, but I choose not not.

Chicago at Sunset in Icon A5 Virtual Flight Sketch
Chicago at Sunset in Icon A5 Virtual Flight Sketch

Where should I fly for my next #VirtualFlightSketch ?

Analog + Digital 360 Sketching Workshop

Workshop lead by Michael S. Scherotter, Creative Experience Engineer at Microsoft
Codame Art+Tech Festival
GitHub, San Francisco
November 26, 2019 2-5 PM

Come learn a new fun way of sketching to create immersive panoramic drawings from a single point of view looking in all directions. This workshop will cover both drawing by hand on paper aided by an equirectangular projection grid as well as with digital tools. See examples here of 360 Sketches Created by the Instructor, Michael Scherotter.

  1. Introduction to Equirectangular Projections
  2. Exercise: Drawing on Equirectangular Grid Paper
  3. Photograph drawings, crop, and load into tablets & VR Headsets (like Oculus Go)
  4. Demonstrate 360 Drawing with Sketch 360
  5. Exercise options
    1. Make 360 sketches with Sketch 360
    2. Make 360 sketches with any drawing app using Equirectangular Grid underlay
    3. Continue Paper 360 drawing
  6. View results in tablets & VR Headsets


Equirectangular Projection Grid

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Analog + Digital 360 Sketching Workshop at CODAME Festival and Creative tool Chains

On October 26 2019, I will be leading a workshop on analog+digital 360 sketching at the CODAME Art+Tech Festival in San Francisco, CA. The festival is 3-day conference about the intersection of art and technology with many mind-expanding workshops and exhibitions helping people see how artists, musicians, technologists, and researchers are fusing technology to artistry and creativity.

Ever since studying architecture in college, I’ve thrust myself into this intersection focusing my passion on creative tools both analog (journals) and digital (computer tablets) and using the digital to make the analog (3D printing). People have often asked me on how I draw the line: will I ever give up my journaling? Which do you like better analog, the fountain pen, or the digital pen? It’s not simple but recently, I’ve clarified it by asserting that for the digital mediums, I focus on things I can’t do easily with my analog tools of pens, pencils, watercolors, knifes and glue sticks.

Recently I’ve been focusing on a specific type of medium that I’ve created the app Sketch 360 for, and that’s the domain of the workshop on Saturday at the CODAME festival. I’m going to start the workshop with pens and paper, helping the participants understand the equirectangular projection that 360 sketching is based on and then move to digital tools.

Sketch 360

Creative Tool Chains

The aspect of creativity that has always interested me is the process that people take in their creative endeavors and the tools that people use in this process. After my architecture degree (BArch), I got master’s degree (MArch) in design tool development and have been passionate since then in crafting tools to help people be more creative. I have done experimenting recently in creating chains of creative tools like this:

  1. Using OpenSCAD (a creative tool that lets you write code to make 3D models that can be printed on a 3D printer) to design a parametric watercolor kit.
  2. Hosting that model on Thingiverse where people can customize (a creative tool) it and output a model to their exact specs that they can print
  3. Using the watercolor kit that I printed (a creative tool), to paint a watercolor
Watercolor kit

In this way, I look at a watercolor brush and code both as creative tools. Sometimes the chain has parallel links:

  1. Creating a stand for my GoPro camera that allows me to record video while creating artwork
  2. Pens and a journal creating a drawing in an airport
  3. Creating a song with a Teenage Engineering sequencer while creating the drawing
  4. Creating a video of the process.

I’m looking forward to going to the CODAME Art-Tech festival because I want to meet others who look at creativity and technology like I do: people who want to mix it up, bounce ideas, experiment, try new things. DM me at @Synergist if you want a discount code for the festival.

See you there – create with me!

Thirty Years of Artwork

I’ve been creating artwork, primarily in journals and sketchbooks for over thirty years and have recently started cataloging it in Adobe Lightroom CC to share. Starting with a simple pencil drawing of American Airlines food dish in 1987 to a pen and watercolor sketch of Central Park last week, I’ve scanned, tagged, and uploaded much of the work. Please browse it, add your comments and give me your feedback. Create. Every. Day.

All Artwork by Michael S. Scherotter

Artwork by Michael Scherotter

Interaction 19 Conference

This week I journeyed to snowy Seattle to participate in the IxDA Interaction 19 conference. This was my first time coming to this annual conference though I have spent much of my career around the world of interaction design. For the first eight years of my career at Microsoft (2007- 2013) I focused on working with media and entertainment companies explaining and demonstrating Microsoft’s interactive media technologies giving myself a fitting moniker of Media Experience Evangelist. For me, user experience and design were always areas where I gravitated towards – so I was excited to be a part of this conference.

A light snow came the day I arrived in Seattle on Sunday.

Bringing my journal with me (as I always do) I was able to capture some of Seattle.

An evening sketching at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery

I was able to catch some great talks about design, accessibility, inclusivity, and ethics, but really one of my favorite aspects of the conference was the people I met from all over the world. Students full of enthusiasm next to recruiters, next to user experience professionals, next to visionaries made an exciting, engaging, conversation. The global reach of the IxDA meant that design perspective from all over were coming together in a beautiful way. The conversations I had with the participants ranged from the tools that people used to the team dynamics that they faced – but there was a definite eagerness from everyone there to learn and grow. Definitely a growth mindset was in the air.

A quick sketch at Starbucks in downtown Seattle before starting my day.

The primary reason that I was at the conference was to deliver a talk about the Sketch 360 app that the Garage helped me ship late last year. Mike Pell the chief designer in the Microsoft Garage and VR author saw an earlier version of the tool and encouraged me to publish it as it would fill a hole in the toolset of VR designers. I put a proposal out and my talk on 360 Sketching for VR Design was accepted. In preparing for the talk, I did a 360 sketch of the conference vendor pavilion where Microsoft, Adobe, Amazon, and other companies had booths. The image is below but it is best in experienced in a 360 viewer like this.

360 Sketch created with Sketch 360

The talk went very well – no technical glitches and I got my point across: Designers have a super power – they can leverage their sketching abilities to design for VR much faster than modelers can.  Many people came up to me afterwards saying wanting to try the tool, and affirm to me that Sketch 360 would be a great tool for VR designers. In fact, one of the speakers in a talk right before me talked about how they used Sketch 360 to sketch out designs for a mixed reality experience. I’m looking forward to hearing from many of the contacts I made who were excited about the app.

Interaction 19 for a TravelArtJournalist.

If you are interested in joining me in a free online demo and tutorial on how to create 360 sketches, sign up here by filling out a short form.

My favorited talk was actually the last one where Ayse Birsel talked about Designing the Life You Love. Her passion and perspective – and straightforward perspective were beautifully presented. Though there are similarities in the title to Bill Burnett/Dave Evans Designing Your Life (one of my favorites), the perspective is different – and I love both.

Palace Kitchen dinner and musician playing at SeaTac

I ended the trip on a humorous note, going to see Cotton Gin a hilarious improv puppet show at Pike’s Place Market. A good find.

Caught in the snow on the way back from seeing Cotton Gin
A night of snow.
View from the Link Light Rain on the Way to the Airport

The snow was crazy but in the end – my flight was changed one a few hours later and I got home safely.

Painting the Blue Sky Crimson

With the warm Cote d’Azur late afternoon sun on my neck, I looked out on the deep blue cloudless sky of Nice and I knew right there that when I painted the blue sky it must be a bright crimson melting to yellow. Capturing the past two weeks in watercolors and sketches was my way of chronicling my family vacation from Spain to France. I have been doing a type of art/travel of journaling for thirty years now, punctuating my travels into individual pages in a leather-bound journal filled with watercolor paper. Now I was taking the scene in front of me and reconstructing it on one of those pages.  To explain how I constructed this specific painting I’d like to give you a bit of the story on how my style developed. Since I started watercoloring 30 years ago, I had learned and perfected a conservative wet-on-dry watercoloring technique perfect for portable watercolors and journals but now I was experimenting with a much more random whatever-may-come wet-on-wet vibrant-color method. I was trying something new and it was exhilarating.

To give a bit of a background, I learned watercoloring when studying architecture and always strived for accurately representing the colors that I saw. I used a travel watercolor set with nine mixing pans which allowed me to mix and develop a color off the page, and when it was just right, I filled my brush with it, and stroked on the page of the journal composing a colorful painting. The synthesis of color adjacent to the white of the paper gave the watercolor it’s unique feel. It’s a very safe method and the interplay of chroma was found in the intersection of opposites, mixing the red with the green, the blue with the orange.

Tarangire Safari Lodge, Tanzania, 2001
Tarangire Safari Lodge, Tanzania, 2001

The funny thing is that my drawing technique is the opposite of safe. My preferred drawing tool is an ultra-fine-point Sharpie pen with a deep black waterproof ink whose marks are indelible, definite, undoable. I always liked deep, dark, marks, never erasable graphite. My affinity towards pens over pencils started also in architecture school when I tried publishing my work with the common tool of the time, a Xerox photocopier. Back then, the photocopier reproduced the subtle shading of pencil drawings horribly so I gravitated towards the crisp, dark, blackness of fountain pens which flowed an opaque contrast onto the white paper. My favorite was the Lamy Safari, which unlike many I’ve used was extremely reliable. The black music of ink flowed from the nib with ease and fluidity keeping up with my ambition to chronicle places.

With that fountain pen, I honed my forgiving

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, 1992
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, 1992

sketching style living up to Mike Lin‘s mantra “be loose.” I developed my
poché styles of stippling, crosshatching, and controlled scribbling, understanding that the texture and tone mattered more than the color. Put together with a mastery of freehand perspective taught by the late Kirby Lockard at the University of Arizona, my style started to develop. I combined accurate perspective with a loose sketch style to quickly capture places, moods, ideas, notions, and the shapes that inhabited my vision. Nothing was out of bounds, musicians, animals, street scenes, doodles, all inhabiting the page along with the ephemera of my travels documenting my journey.

Always wanting to try new tools, I purchased a new travel watercolor kit online with an interesting array of 18 vibrant colors but with only two mixing pans. This forced me to try developing my colors on the page. I used a wet-on-wet on wet technique where I first wet the are that I wanted to color with clean water and then added dabs of color to parts of the water puddle on the page. The pigment particles suspended in the water spidered out across the puddle blending with other colors dispersing with their entropy. The flexibility of my journal meant more difficulty controlling the water as it inched towards the edges of the page aided by gravity and limited by the evaporating water. This was the challenge that I jumped at. A few months earlier, I had met up with some Urban Sketchers in London to spend the afternoon sketching and saw firsthand in Homephoenix Wong a watercolorist who purposefully painted in the wrong colors. It was marvelous seeing yellows, vermillion, and purples in a London overwhelmed by grays and browns. I had to try this.

Girona, Spain, 2018
Girona, Spain, 2018

What draws me to a scene asking me to sketch it is typically a combination of interesting geometry, depth, and contrast. Odd angles, hard and soft edges, and dramatic curves make the interesting geometry. A foreground that draws you into to a midground, in front of a background gives me the depth. Having the darkest points in the scene adjacent to the brightest points introduces the contrast that sets the mood. I then can interleave the colors through the composition to develop the personality of the sketch. The sketch is a scaffolding for the colors.

That gets me a back to the color of the sky. Color affects me. As I walk through a field of sunflowers in Provence, as I touch the red stones of hilltop Roussillon, The colors imprint on me begging my hand and eye to use them to chronicle the journey. By the time I had traveled from Gaudi’s Barcelona to the medieval city of Girona, to Provence and finally to the sundrenched Nice that a striking red and deep yellow had to get out onto my page. That’s why I painted the blue sky of Nice crimson and yellow.

Nice, France, 2018
Nice, France, 2018