From hand-drawn illustrations to huge projections on buildings
What inspires projection mapping content varies from artist to artist. But a passion for creating engaging and captivating experiences that draw in audiences is a must.
We spoke with France-born artist Cindy Lo about her unconventional background, what inspires her projection mapping projects, and some of her recent work.
From pencil to projection mapping
With a background in illustration and animation, Cindy brings a classical and personal approach to her work by hand-drawing images in pencil.
When we talked to Cindy, from her home in a village in France, a theme she mentioned many times was ‘slowing down’. “I choose harmoniousness and slowness strategically because a projection show will be in cities where people are always in a hurry. I want to use the projection to change the pace, to help calm people.”
First projection mapping project
Cindy’s introduction to projection mapping came unexpectedly. She was working in the Middle East and was invited to produce a projection mapping piece for the Sharjah Festival of Light. It was a huge and exciting challenge, and she threw herself into learning about the medium while on the project.
“Nomada Arts gave me a big mosque to project on. It had fantastic architectural details and was close to the sea, which was very special.” It was a big break and one that gave Cindy an opportunity to showcase her naturally slower style. “I don’t feel that the general style in Europe at the time was the same [as it was in the UAE] and wonder if I would have been commissioned if I had simply approached someone directly, and not had the opportunity in the Middle East that allowed me to try my ideas. I built my own techniques; I tried all facets of making a projection mapping show. Slowness, no music, abstraction.”
At the festival, Antoine Manier, director of Rencontres Audiovisuelles, a leading figure in the global projection mapping market, noticed Cindy’s work. “Antoine contacted me when he saw my projections on the mosque, and I ended up working with his team at Lille and Lyon.”
What I love about projection mapping is the experience I can give people. Because you see the work at nighttime, it changes your city environment. It’s an experience you had not predicted, and often one you bump into, and it takes you out of your daily life.
Initially, Antoine invited Cindy to present her work at the Video Mapping Festival in Lille, France. “I won the competition at Lille and went on to the Festival of Lights in Lyon,” she explains. Through these, Cindy met the team at Sahara Benelux, a leading AV distributor and Christie partner, who in turn introduced her to the GLOW Festival Eindhoven light art festival held in the Netherlands.
Drawing inspiration from nature and history
Cindy draws inspiration from nature, botany, and flowers. “I want to make art that makes people feel like it’s possible to create and live in a peaceful, harmonious world.”
“Although projection mapping is about 30 years old, around 10 years ago people were more interested in the technical aspects and 3D. Since I come from an animation background, I wanted to talk about the symbols you can find in the place where you live.”
Cindy explains how she starts this aspect of her creative process with the building she’s working with: “I search for information on the monument and its history. For the 2018 Festival of Lights in Lyon, I read there was a golden calf’s head under the building – so I worked to bring it above ground.”
Cindy’s projection last year at GLOW Festival Eindhoven is a perfect example. She was to map the Villa Dommelhoef and found that the building had an art nouveau style and had once become an emergency hospital after WW1.
“I found a poem by the Dutch poet Jan Hanlo that I thought was really beautiful and describes so sensitively — and so softly — the traditional landscapes in the Netherlands.” The poem is called “The Reed” and the name is given in turn for her art piece.
Cindy used Hanlo’s vivid descriptions of artichokes, man-sized ferns, and seagulls sitting on their nest in the reeds to inspire her projections. “The poem mentions a boat full of butterflies, so I drew a boat where the sails turn into butterflies’ wings,” she shares. In between the landscapes, seascapes, and flowers you also see hints of the building’s varied past as a hospital and center for many other social activities.
Watch “The Reed” here:
Challenges of projecting onto large surfaces
There are, of course, challenges in creating mapping on such large surfaces. Cindy says, “You come across aspects of the building such as the roundness of pillars. You see unexpected things, such as shadows of trees – different shapes, and ranges in brightness and shades and colors.”
While she masters many technical issues, Cindy is an illustrator at heart, so relies on, and praises, the technical teams she works with at two of Christie’s European partners, Rencontres Audiovisuelles, which provides backup at Lille and Lyon, and Sahara Benelux, which is behind GLOW Festival Eindhoven.
“When I am creating a project, I am in contact with the technical team of the festival. They send me a photo – like a drawing, a map of the building with different aspects. I do my drawings and compositing on animation software. I give the finished animation to the technical team, go onsite, and verify my work with the technicians for a few days. Nowadays, I find I know what will or won’t work.”
“From a projector, I need brightness, sharpness, clear colors, and also the correct formation and light on the building,” she says.
“All of my images have a lot of texture that can create different forms with the contact of the light from the projection. There is the interaction of colors with the building and the projected light is never fully black, so these are things to consider.”
For Cindy, emotional connection is key.
“What I love about projection mapping is the experience I can give people. Because you see the work at nighttime, it changes your city environment. It’s an experience you had not predicted, and often one you bump into, and it takes you out of your daily life.”
Cindy has been commissioned to create another projection mapping show for the 2024 GLOW Festival Eindhoven with the technical team from Sahara Benelux, and we can’t wait to see the results.