Sometimes in life, it takes tragedy to put things into perspective and help you realize there’s no time like the present to pursue your dreams.
New York-based artist Anthony Cappetto worked in corporate architecture after finishing school. He and some coworkers were in SoHo on a day like any other when the horrific events of 9/11 occurred right before their eyes. Together they witnessed the second plane hit the second tower and its subsequent collapse. This tragedy had an enormous impact on various job sectors, and both Cappetto and his wife were let go from their jobs at the time. In the aftermath, the two realized no one knows what the future holds, so they might as well do something in the moment. They had a longstanding plan in the back of their minds to get involved in chalk street art as the emergence of 3D street art began. They decided to turn their idea into a business with a “what could possibly go wrong?” mindset. As it turned out, this business was the right move. They called it Art for After Hours since Cappetto was still working at a corporate job at the time and only had time for his artwork after company hours. At the time, street painting hadn’t quite taken off yet, but since the creation of his company, Cappetto has done client work in various countries including the Middle East, Japan, India, Europe, South America, Mexico, and across the U.S.
But he didn’t stop at 3D street art. At Art for After Hours Cappetto is pioneering an exciting innovation that blends traditional hand-drawn art and existing technology to work together as one. They call them 4D immersive installations. Using AR (Augmented Reality) technology, their unique pieces use the X, Y, and Z dimensions with a sphere at the origin, allowing for each axis to move within the confines of the sphere while allowing models to be a part of it. It all started with his interest in AR at its most simple level. After learning some more about it, he worked with AR-based companies to to place models as overlays over his 3D chalk art. There’s been a lot of trial and error, but he’s had success with a few simple overlays so far including AR robots and a fluttering flag placed over a piece of his named “Collapsing Ramp” which he did in Garden Grove, CA. They have some more in the works including more sophisticated pieces involving painted artwork that have yet to be announced.
As one of the first companies of its kind, Art for After Hours started receiving numerous requests from clients to create commissioned pieces for their various needs. The company is small but mighty, comprised of Cappetto, his wife, and assistants he can call upon if needed. They’ve worked on pieces for a wide array of clients including US State Department/Embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay, US Swim Team, Doctors Without Borders, Verizon,, Snapple, and many more in the US and internationally. The creative process initially begins with the client’s contracting. Together they look at different references to figure out subject matters that work in creating the desired 3D illusions. After creating a group of originally designed sketches, he’ll present them to the client and go through a bit of back-and-forth until they’re both agreed on an exciting and executable design.
A very traditional artist, Cappetto prefers the methodology of creating hand-made artwork and almost always draws exclusively by hand: “I think it’s very important to have a traditional, hands-on [approach] with this artwork”. He realizes there are quicker methods of execution, but feels that in blending art and technology, we’re going to start to lose “the hand-art” of creating things. His approach is a middle ground where technology and hand-work meet to work together as one: “Computers are everywhere now. Sure we can shortcut things, but are you really doing the art, or are you just standing on the shoulders of something you’ve created through a machine?”. When it comes down to the more technical side of things, Cappetto prefers to work with tracing paper, colored pencils, and just a little bit of Photoshop as a checking step as part of the anamorphic (3D illusionary) process. His pieces can take roughly between 3-4 days to execute, depending on the scale and complexity. Each work requires either drawing directly on the floor or on panels, but all must interact at the centerpoint of the illusion, much like the original ceiling anamorphics of the Renaissance. To best witness the 3D illusion of his works, viewers must view each piece through a lens at a set point by the artist. One example of a more complex work? An impressively huge castle illustration that stretches all the way up and across the ceiling of a large entertainment room.
Cappetto’s most involving piece was called “Visions of Cambodia”, a sprawling detailed street mural made for the 2011 Sarasota Chalk Festival in Sarasota, Florida. 30’ wide and 40’ deep, it too combines art and technology with a specialized app that overlaid 3D AR visuals such as animated butterflies and birds viewed through a tablet for public viewing. This was the first ever combination of 4D use of animated augmented reality overlaid upon a 3D chalk art installation.
Cappetto says the most challenging part of creating his works is the executional phase itself. Artists can talk all they want about their work, but when it comes down to it, they actually have to make each come to life. After that, preparing the AR tech to be placed atop the anamorphic illusion adds another layer of complexity. Everything must be undertaken and approved to work alongside one another, the sketches for both the art and the AR effects, the models to be included, the app itself, and finally the models placed within the app over the art. The end result is well worth all the effort, however. He always loves seeing the public interact with his finished works. For years, the most exciting part of the work was having others see it come to life right before their eyes, and it’s especially impactful when both the traditional painted art and AR tech are interacted with together.
He finds it easy to remain inspired throughout the creation of his art: “I’m inspired because I like what I do”. Whatever you’re doing in life, “The day you’re no longer interested in what you’re doing, you need to be doing something else”. As for why Cappetto decided to share his art with the world, it’s because he believes “If you’re gonna do it, you might as well share it. Otherwise you’re just entertaining yourself on the weekend, and that’s not my cup of tea”. Drawing and art are very meaningful in his life, after all, it’s something that he loves enough to have dedicated a fair chunk of his adult life doing. Everyone wants to leave behind some kind of legacy in life, and he says that “this is what I want to be known for”.
Cappetto had some solid advice for anyone who may be interested in the arts: “Just do it. If you’re in school, take your art classes, listen to your teachers, grow from the criticisms they give you. Don’t let people around you start criticizing you and pulling you in every direction”. He believes it’s important to have “some degree of structured guidance, but you can’t be a slave to other people’s criticisms or you’ll never achieve”, which he says applies to almost anything that you do.
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