Optics for Artists was an NSF-sponsored project at San Jose State to develop curriculum material for teaching optics to art students, in particular those majoring in animation, illustration, and related fields such as architecture, industrial design, graphic design, new media, and fine arts. The project produced visual assets (illustrations, videos, etc.), annotated slides, classroom demonstrations, studio activities, lighting projects, etc., and combined all these elements into lecture packets, tutorials, and a handbook. These curriculum materials are being used at San Jose State in three settings: as embedded lectures within existing art classes, as special Master Class workshops, and in Physics of Animation (Art / Physics 123), a newly developed general education physics course designed specifically for animators and illustrators.

A website and handbook were created for the dissemination of materials to other colleges and to high schools. Links to the Optics Handbook and the official Optics for Artists website are below.

The project’s principle investigators and research assistant were:

Peter Beyersdorf (Physics and Astronomy)

John Clapp (Animation / Illustration)

Raquel Coelho (Animation / Illustration)

Alej Garcia (Physics and Astronomy)

Angela Wu (Animation / Illustration)

Optics for Artists Website

The Optics for Artists website has the slides of the master workshops given in the original lecture series, as well as other educational resources.

Optics for Artists Handbook

This handbook for artists contains short chapters highlighting essential principles of optics to help artists understand how light works and achieve more realistic illusions in their work.