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 lives on the traditional, ancestral and pristine territory of the Coast Salish peoples – Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθusəmʷam. Self-taught in 3D creation, Josh’s innovative work aims to empower 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 also started a printmaking collective, a community for printers to share their creations. But my career path took its first major turn when a close friend of mine, Aaron Kaufmanintroduced me to the field of 3D motion graphics, which is a type of graphic design also referred to as animation.

I ended up falling in love with 3D motion graphics and working in this field became my every day. I was creating album covers, videos and GIFs using bubble shapes, colors and abstract looks. In my first year, Aaron mentored me and connected with others in the artistic 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 mates and I started experimenting with AR and working on murals. We started working together to turn physical art into 3D. We had fun turning some of their murals into 3D objects, and then, as AR became more accessible, into augmented reality pieces to post on social media. This allowed us to make our art interactive and give our audience the opportunity to explore reality-altering art in real environments and in real time.

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

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What have been some career highlights?

I’ve worked on some amazing projects with nonprofits that align with my personal values. The ability to transform artwork from physical to digital and amplify meaningful causes virtually has given me an avenue to make a difference and give purpose to the skills I’ve learned. These collaborations show how art is an important tool for supporting 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, brought me to support a project to promote civic engagement in Canada. We co-created a wonderful, animated piece based on her artwork we converted to AR. In the summer I worked with Mo Thunder to create one comprehensive experience for their artwork, which celebrates water and the environment. It was so meaningful to bring Mo’s mural to life. Then last month, I collaborated with the Orange Shirt Society to develop an AR effect for National Day for Truth and Reconciliationinspired by the experience of residential 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. Static art cannot always be viewed by everyone, as 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 artworks and stories.

This will allow our voices to be heard and our culture to be seen not only at the community level, but by the world. It’s raising the voice of all of us and letting our artwork be lifted up and shared in such an easy, interesting and engaging way. I think it will attract not only our youth, but other people and organizations, and it will increase more interest in our stories, cultures and histories.

Learn more about Josh at Instagram.


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