The Light Painter

“In no way can we get such an overwhelming idea of the grandeur of Nature than when we consider, that in accordance with the law of the conservation of energy, throughout the Infinite, the forces are in a perfect balance, and hence the energy of a single thought may determine the motion of a universe.”

The words of Nikola Tesla were immensely interesting. Just as one form of energy is transferred to another, so is thought and imagination to pen and paper. We then recollected that as children we loved scribbling out elaborate stories all over the potentially infinite canvas of walls in the house. 

The Light Painter, therefore used light, instead of pigment, as a medium of transference of energy and thought. Light energy, broken into its constituent colours formed an almost infinite palette, which could then be transferred onto the wall by converting it to electrical signals and back to light again.

Sandeep Mathew 
Concept Development 
Processing Code
Arduino and Physical Computing
PCB Design
Permanent Exhibit @ Jawaharlal Nehru
Planetarium, Bangalore

How it Works

The colour wheel (A) is used to pick the colours of light from back-lit projection on the table top (B). This light is then used as the colour to paint with, using the Light Pen (C). The hacked Wii-mote (D) Picks up the movements of the Light Pen (C) in space, and the resulting drawing is projected on the wall using a projector (D)

Audience & Reception

I Designed and built the installation in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Astrophysics and Indian Institute of Science. It was exhibited at the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium Bangalore, during the Kalpaneya Yatre 2010, commemorating the International Year of Astronomy.

The light painter was met with wonder and excitement from the public especially children. The Kalpaneya Yatre Festival ran from November 26th 2010 to December 5th 2010 with nearly 8000 visitors daily.

Features and hardware

All artwork made with The Light Painter could be saved on the Kalpaneya Yatre Website. I designed custom PCBs that embedded all sensors and actuators to ensure robustness of the hardware. The Colour Wheel housed the RBG sensor to pick colours, and pivoted around a 1/4″ jack which provided the necessary power, and the free rotation. 

“Are not gross bodies and light convertible into one another; and may not bodies receive much of their activity from the particles of light which enter into their composition? The changing of bodies into light, and light into bodies, is very conformable to the course of Nature, which seems delighted with transmutations.” – Isaac Newton

Standing by the words of Newton, and the impartial sustenance that light provides to aesthetic, displeasure and everything in the visual order, The Light Painter invites the public to create their own art with light and its constituent colours as their medium.