Thursday, 26 March 2009
Google’s Street View was launched in the UK last month, with 360 degree views of 25 cities now available as part of its mapping service. This is handy for such things as checking what the hotel you are heading for looks like or whether your mate really lives in the mansion they are boasting about. And because most of the images were taken last summer, they offer a vision of that time before the recession, when we still had Woolworths and MFI on our high streets.
It’s also been handy way, I have found, of reminding myself when I get home of the details and surroundings of some of the places I have drawn. As I draw in ink on site and then work with colour back in the studio this can be a handy way of recalling how buildings look, and how the colours may work. It’s probably better to use images from a digital camera, which will at least be free from companies now collapsed into liquidation, but the online option is a handy alternative.
This system presents problems, of course, for the visual artist. For a start, Street View only offers the view from a road, so you are unlikely to quite get the panorama that may have grabbed you from a park, for instance, or pedestrian routes. It’s a car-centric view that it offers, and bike-centric to an extent, which is only a part of any town or city. I will find it much more useful when Google finally gets around to introducing Cafe View, showing panoramic views from cafe windows around the globe.
The other overriding problem is that there is nothing quite like the experience of being somewhere. Why add information to my drawings that didn’t grab me when I was there? Drawings don’t have to be comprehensive to work — in fact the opposite is true. Patience, energy, threatening rain clouds, the amount of ink a page can take, children who needing picking up from school: all have an effect on when I consider a drawing “finished”. Getting everything in has nothing to do with it.
My point is, Street View may be quite handy sometimes. That’s all.