At 1665, Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer finished his masterwork “Girl With a Pearl Earring” by dabbing the last drop of paint onto a canvas in his workshop and finishing the work.
On a day in April 357 years later, Janine Strong slowed her bike to a halt, stopped her fitness app, and watched as the outline of Vermeer’s masterpiece was drawn over the streets of Brooklyn by the winding line of her riding path.
Ms. Strong is the creator of what has become known as “GPS art.” This is a practise that makes use of the Global Positioning System mapping capabilities of modern phone apps such as Strava to create digital drawings using an athlete’s route across the landscape. Ms. Strong’s work has become popular in recent years.
Ms. Strong designs her bike rides such that they take the form of birthday cakes, stars, birds, lions, and even the odd Vermeer. She does this rather than following a route that is straight or going in loops around a park.
The broad availability of satellite tracking for usage by regular people, such as via fitness applications like Nike Run Club or MapMyRide, has contributed to the expansion of the pastime. It has gained a lot of traction on Strava, where it is sometimes referred to as “Strava art.”
Even though Strava art has been there since the app’s debut in 2009, use of the feature showed a significant uptick during the epidemic. Since the year 2020 kicked out, Michael Joseph, a senior communications manager at the firm, claims that more than three billion actions have been submitted to Strava.
Ms. Strong biked almost 50 miles around southern Brooklyn to complete her digital vision of “Girl With a Pearl Earring.” While she was riding, she checked Strava frequently to ensure that each turn, circle, and straightaway was successfully achieving the iconic earring and head covering of Vermeer’s original painting.
The concept dates back to far before the mainstream use of smartphones as fitness tracking devices. Jeremy Wood and Hugh Pryor used Garmin GPS devices that looked like walkie-talkies to trace routes through the English countryside that resembled butterflies and fish in the 2003 issue of The New York Times Magazine titled “Year in Ideas.” This article was published in the magazine’s “Year in Ideas” issue.
The concept for GPS art, according to Mr. Wood, came to him when he was using a GPS tracker on a trip while the aircraft was flying in a holding pattern over Heathrow Airport. He couldn’t take his eyes off the pattern that kept popping up on his Garmin.
Mr. Pryor, a fellow student of Mr. Wood’s, was tasked with the responsibility of developing software in order to transfer the GPS coordinates from the Garmin onto a computer and then transform the data into drawings. Since then, technological advancements have allowed for the creation of visual maps that can be seen in real time on a smartphone or smart watch.
The growing use of GPS devices has led to the creation of more comprehensive maps, which has contributed to an increase in both the quality and complexity of the art. This was stated in an email by Steve Lloyd, who is the chief product and technology officer at Strava.
The technique may now be found in the sand dunes of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil as well as in the fields of Oxfordshire, which are located in England. Gustavo Lyra has completed a run around Rio Grande in the shape of John Lennon’s face, and he has also done a route for his daughter’s fifth birthday that took over nine hours to complete. It was a picture of Elsa, who appeared in the Disney film “Frozen.”
Gene Lu, who resides in New Jersey, began making GPS art in 2013 when he became a fan of the television series “Game of Thrones.” Gene Lu is known for his intricate designs. He used the computer to generate the “sigils” of the family crests, which are also known as coats of arms. Mr. Lu said that he found greater motivation to go for a run by associating it with a programme that he enjoyed watching on television.
Lenny Maughan, who calls himself a “human Etch A Sketch,” got his start as an artist by creating map art that was inspired by popular culture. Since Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock in the original “Star Trek,” had just passed away in 2015, Mr. Maughan made the decision to pay honour to him.
The artistic practise even has its own categories inside the Guinness World Records book. A couple who just finished a 4,500-mile bike trip across Europe and used GPS to create a 600-mile-wide picture of a bicycle was the subject of an article in The Guardian. According to The Guardian, this drawing is the biggest one of its kind on record.
Every artist follows a method that is somewhat unique to them. Mr. Lu draws his intended path on printed versions of actual maps that he has previously created. Mr. Maughan puts his into a map using Photoshop, and then uploads the file to his Kindle, where he consults it while he is jogging.