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Meet: Vaidehi Bhargava

Vaidehi Bhargava
Written by
Eleanor Harvey
Published date
17 February 2022

Central Saint Martins (CSM) graduate Vaidehi’s work covers all mediums, from charcoal and paint into the digital and virtual world.

Vaidehi completed her MA in Applied Imagination in the Creative Industries in 2017, where she focused on Law, performance art, global cultures and creative ‘resistance’.

But it was during lockdown when she took a few UAL short courses in creative coding and digital illustration that she discovered the world of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR). She says, “the artistic process is what got me through the psychologically harrowing experience of losing so many figments of my cultural reality - daily life ceased to exist”.

We spoke to Vaidehi all about her work. And at the bottom of the profile, you can read in more detail about her first long-form XR experience, ‘The Creative Unicorn’s Manifesto’.

Vaidehi standing against an exposed brick wall. She has long dark hair, and she's looking off to the left
Vaidehi Bhargava

Before you did your MA at CSM, what was your creative background?

I’ve always loved drawing ever since I can remember; as a 1-year-old with a bright pink crayon scribbling in some flowers. Art was always bursting out of me although I was often in situations which did not have an obvious ‘space’ for it. Right before my MA, I was studying the Graduate Diploma in Law! But somehow creating illustrated worlds as revision notes! I filled sketchbooks with illustrated fantasy worlds depicting the ins and outs of property and family law.

Prior to my Graduate Diploma, during my BA in Global Literature and Mandarin at Warwick, I became passionate about the power of theatre and acting during a European Theatre module and had tried my best to get into a couple of top acting schools and then had done a summer school at Guildhall.

I didn’t receive notification of my CSM interview on time and therefore studied Law instead, so my attendance at CSM was delayed by a year!

But then I should add that at CSM itself, I leaned on Law heavily for my final project!

Why did you choose to study at UAL?

I’d actually come here to audition for the acting MA, and it was beautiful! Just architecturally magnificent! A real palace! In a classic fairytale protagonist manner, I thought to myself I’ll be the happiest creature alive should I get to study here, to be a part of all this. So, I guess I can answer, idealising the creative industry structures, such as CSM was what drew me in!

The degrees all looked so rich and appealing, everything was so well presented, so glamorous. I just wanted to be a part of it all, to be an artist, so my life would have ‘creative meaning’ because that just felt so transcendent of all the other structures around. So what if it doesn’t pass the exams, or make the big bucks, it’s art! It’s priceless - that was my logic (I think).

Colourful illustration of a flower with a sad face. There's lots of textures and bright colours
Painting by Vaidehi Bhargava

You’re a multifaceted creative, being both painter and drawer, as well as a digital artist. Can you tell us a bit about your work? Are there any similarities between your digital work and your paintings?

Definitely, when I get into the flow it really does not matter what the medium is, all that matters is that I’m striving to express myself and that whatever I hold in my hands (or maybe one day, after I start using computer brain interface - my brain!) is allowing me to manifest and externalise that which is within me - then I feel as if I am making something- and I feel creative and I sort of fall in love with my medium, whether that’s a piece of charcoal or soft pastel, or a virtual reality brush/sculpting tool, or even a line of code or a visual scripting ‘form’.

A still from 'The Creative Unicorn's Manifesto'
A still from 'The Creative Unicorn's Manifesto'

How did you discover XR design?

During the pandemic, I started off with creative coding and digital illustration (both excellent short courses at UAL) but then decided to continue with Adobe digital illustration projects ‘first’. After gaining confidence in photoshop and illustrator (with extensive mentorship and encouragement from fairy godmother-esque creative buddies), I watched the Adobe Max conferences (at the behest of a creative buddy) and ended up encountering the AR tool, Adobe Aero. Immediately I was able to take my Adobe illustrator work and put it into AR.

A few days later I was attending an online XR meetup in New York with a soon-to-be XR mentor who encouraged me and pushed me to the next level, making me think how I could improve my XR skills. But what really catalysed my deep dive into VR, buying a headset etc. was my failure to learn Blender!

Blender is a free, inordinately versatile 3D software that I found so hard to use. I just knew if I could use my hands, I could make the most amazing 3D models (to my own eyes at-least) and so I took the risk of buying a VR headset to get access to VR modelling tools.

A still from 'The Creative Unicorn's Manifesto'
A still from 'The Creative Unicorn's Manifesto', Vaidehi Bhargava

Can you tell us about a digital project you’re proud of?

Flying around on a pink unicorn in VR! It’s quite an experimental, jittery work but it marked a huge leap forward in my confidence with visual scripting.

I was using a software called Styly and there was very little information on how to fly, and I just so desperately wanted to fly- so ultimately I combined a YouTube tutorial on flying with a Styly tutorial on camera movement and somehow worked out how to fly. I also attended an ecstatic dance event during this whole process - it was very much a moment of creative flow, going to the maximum extent of my skill and knowledge- working out how to do things without truly being aware of the process.

I’m proud of my determination in working out how to fly in VR, it was something I’d already failed at and the fact I tried again with such an unblighted effort is a ‘vibe’ I’d like to take forward!

Flying on a unicorn

By Vaidehi Bhargava

What do you have planned for 2022?

I think the transformation from organic artist to extended reality artist meant a deeper connection to the real world- I’m no longer depicting something visually, but also conveying its experience, whether that’s hiking up a mountainous Christmas tree, flying unicorns or strolling through supernovas. I want to ‘seize life’ and have the sort of experiences that will creatively fuel me as an XR artist and that will make me existentially want to share them.

I’m also currently working on 3D animation and modelling. After that it will be creative coding!

Read more about Vaidehi's journey with VR below.

Still from VR work showing 2 pink tigers against a multicoloured background
'Humpty liar tigerz' by Vaidehi Bhargava

The Creative Unicorn's Manifesto

by Vaidehi Bhargava

I’m delighted to introduce my first ‘long-form’ XR experience - ‘The Creative Unicorn’s Manifesto

This is a surreal journey into your own mind to meet various metaphors for your own creative ideas, to nurture them and watch them thrive and reward you by getting stronger, more powerful and providing you the resilience and evolution to return to reality and thrive as an artist.

You transcend daily mundanity into a world of utter fantasy with hyperactive unicorns, demonic roses, and dancing giants, not to mention dragons with hongbaos (red envelopes) who offer you creative wealth. You discover that deviations are simply pathways to further creative growth.

The artistic process is what got me through the psychologically harrowing experience of losing so many figments of my cultural reality- daily ‘life’ ceased to exist, and this work creates a vortex of access to the world within you, contributing to a sense of creative self-sufficiency, exhilaration, and encounter with your own muse.

My XR Creative Journey:

The software I used for this was Open Brush, Unity, Playmaker and Styly. The equipment was my Oculus Quest 2 and PC.

Open Brush is an intuitive 3D modelling software and made it very easy to take my fine art drawing skills into a VR space.

Unity is a game engine where I animated my models and created the interactions using visual scripting (playmaker).

Styly is an ‘XR YouTube’ where I uploaded my work to be viewable in virtual reality.

I also received infinite amounts of help, mentorship and encouragement from discord, LinkedIn and Instagram contacts, simply because XR has a vibe of inclusivity- ultimately everyone is very curious about ‘what’ (whoever you are) are going to make so there is a thriving variety of resources such as tutorials or people wanting to share mentorship and knowledge. The same goes for playmaker although that is not focused on XR specifically- but still, an amazing community spirit!

I found that despite the glamour and ‘alien’ quality of a lot of information, the actual software is accessible, the methods are simply a series of buttons I push in a row. As long as I had a commitment to my creative vision, I could find flow states and my intuition could guide me to discover the processes and combinations I needed for my creative ends.

This all being said, you will often find yourself encountering a faulty process (bugs) and you may have to reinstall your software, or retry your steps etc., restart your computer. The challenge is making sure you push yourself to look deeper into the issue. Sure, the software is not working, but why not? There is a reason, and you have the right to know- never accept ‘it’s too hard for you’ for an answer!

Connect with Vaidehi

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