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

Josh Conrad is a multi-disciplinary artist specializing in 3D and augmented reality (AR) art from the Stó꞉lō Nation, located in Sumas Territory, British Columbia. He currently resides on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish-Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓am Nations (Musqueaməy̓aməy̓am)əy̓aməməmə. Self-taught in 3D creation, Josh’s creative work aims to empower Canadians to connect and interact with digital art in creative ways that transcend the limits of physical spaces.

How did you start working in the field of augmented reality?

My time as a screen printer sparked an interest in design and all things printed. I went to art school to complete a digital design program and later even started a printmaking collective, a community of printers to share their creations. But my career path took its first turn when a close friend of mine, Aaron Kaufmanintroduced me to the field of 3D animation, which is a type of graphic design also known as animation.

I ended up falling in love with 3D animation and working in this field became my daily life. I’ve been creating album covers, videos and GIFs using bold shapes, colors and abstract images. During 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 reach out to those whose work you admire.

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My career journey took a second turn when my studio partner and I started experimenting with AR and mural work. We started working together to turn body art into 3D. We had fun turning some of their murals into 3D objects, and then eventually as AR became more accessible, into actual unpopular pieces to be released on social media. This has allowed us to make our art interactive and give our audience the opportunity to experience reality-altering art in real environments and in real time.

I started improving my AR skills by learning from the ground up and finding resources where I could, especially with The Meta Spark. It provided another way to participate digitally and share not only my work, but the work of those in our community. I’ve helped them bring their artwork into their audience’s homes, in a way where people can interact with the shape and texture within their space. This has helped them create personalized interactions and engaging content.

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What are some of the highlights of the job?

I’ve worked on some amazing projects with nonprofits that align with my personal values. The ability to transform artwork from visual to digital and promote meaningful causes has probably given me a way to make a difference, and give purpose to the skills I’ve learned. This collaboration shows that 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 best friends, Priscilla Yu, brought me to support a project to promote social engagement in Canada. Together we created a beautiful, animated piece based on his artwork we changed to AR. In the summer, I worked with him Mo Thunder to build i deep feeling for their artwork, which celebrates water and nature. It was purposeful to bring Mo’s painting to life online. Then last month, I partnered with the Orange Shirt Society to develop an AR effect for National Day of Truth and Reconciliationinspired by the experience of boarding school survivor Phyllis (Jack) Webstad.

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What role do you think immersive art plays in storytelling and reconciliation?

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

That will allow our voices to be heard, and our culture to be seen not only at the community level, but also in the world. It elevates all of our voices and allows our artwork to rise and be shared in an easy, interesting, and engaging way. I think it will attract not only our youth, but also other people and organizations, and it will increase interest in our stories, culture and history.

Read more about Josh on Instagram.


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