Creators of Tomorrow: Augmented Reality and 3D Artist Josh Conrad

Josh Conrad is a multidisciplinary artist specializing in 3D and augmented reality (AR) art from the Stó꞉lō Nation, based in Sumas Territory, British Columbia. He currently lives on the traditional, ancestral and unpermitted territory of the Coast Salish communities – Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʙəmations (Muqueməθkəə̓) Self-taught in 3D creation, aims to Josh’s innovative work empowers Canadians to connect and interact with digital art in creative ways beyond the boundaries of physical spaces.

How did you start working in the augmented reality space?

My time as a screen printer sparked an interest in design and all things print. I went to art school to complete a digital design program and later even started a printmaking collective, a community for printmakers to share their creativity. But my career took its first big turn when a close friend of mine, Aaron KaufmanI introduced the field of 3D motion graphics, which is a type of graphic design also known as animation.

Eventually I fell in love with 3D motion graphics and I was working in this field every day. I was creating album covers, videos and GIFs using bubbly shapes, colors and abstract visuals. In my first year, Aaron mentored me, and I connected with others in the art community to learn more about their work. My advice to anyone interested in this field – don’t be afraid to contact those whose work you admire.

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My career journey took a second turn when my studio mates and I started experimenting with AR and murals. We started working together to turn physical art into 3D. We had fun turning some of their murals into 3D objects, and eventually as AR became more accessible, augmented reality pieces to release on social media. This allowed us to make our art interactive and allowed our audience to explore reality-altering art in real environments and in real time.

I started developing my ICT skills by learning from the ground up and accessing resources when I could, especially with MetaSpark. It provided another way to get involved digitally and share not only my work, but the work of people in my community. I helped them bring their artwork into their audience’s homes, in a way where people can interact with shapes and textures within their own space. This helped them create more personalized interactions and engaging content.

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What are some career highlights?

I have worked on some great projects with non-profits that align with my personal values. The ability to transform artwork from physical to digital and increase meaning has given me little to no way to make a difference, and give purpose to the skills I’ve learned. These collaborations show how art is an important tool to support social movements, and how AR can be used to spread important messages not only in an engaging way, but on a larger scale than ever before.

Earlier this year, one of my very good friends, Priscilla Yu, which brought me in to support a project to promote civic engagement in Canada. We co-created an amazing, animated piece based on her artwork we transform into AR. In the summer, I worked with My Thunder to create the immersive experience for her artwork, which celebrates water and the environment. It meant so much to bring Mo’s mural to life online. Then last month, I collaborated with Orange Shirt Society to develop an AR effect for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliationinspired by the experience of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, a residential school survivor.

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What role do you think immersion plays in storytelling and reconciliation?

Immersive storytelling is the future. Static art cannot always be seen by everyone, since it is hosted in a gallery or exhibition space. We can bring that art to social platforms in an accessible way, so more people can engage with these pieces of art and stories.

This allows our voices to be heard, and our culture to be seen not only at the community level, but around the world. It is raising all our voices and allowing our artwork to rise and be shared in a way that is easy, interesting and engaging. I think it will attract not only our youth, but other people and organizations, and increase more interest in our stories, cultures and history.

Learn more about Josh on Instagram.



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