Leslie Lienau has been teaching people how to see for 20 years. She founded the Conservatory for Classic Art in Edmond, where she teaches the fundamentals of drawing and painting.
“It’s a visual language, and translating it into words is very difficult.” she told The Oklahoman. “Perspective and proportion are especially hard to teach, how to translate the 3-D world to a 2-D surface.”
Several years ago, she began searching for tools to help her teach this way of seeing.
“There’s got to be something on the market, I thought.” But she couldn’t find anything.
Then one morning, in early 2012, she woke up with an idea. She went to her local hobby store and with some matte board, velum, a couple of rulers and a brad-pin, she assembled a sort of window through which she could plot the angles of three-dimensional shapes.
She brought the device to her first students of the day, 8-year-old identical twins. Using the new tool, both drew perfect 3-D boxes for the first time.
She was glad to see that her creation worked and thought she would make a few more for her other students. Then the twins spoke up.
“Does this make you an inventor?” one asked. “I guess this means you’re gonna be a millionaire,” said the other.
With those words, Lienau started thinking bigger. If she, as an artist and art instructor, wanted such a tool, certainly many other artists would benefit from it. She called her father, an inventor who holds 29 patents.
Soon she had a provisional patent on what she called the View Frame and started working on new prototypes. She made dozens. She called her son Seth, a design major at the University of Oklahoma, who has since graduated, and enlisted his help. “He took some convincing,” Lienau said.
Together, they nailed down a design, a hand-held paneless window over which thin metal dowels can be positioned to represent the angles and proportions of a subject. They took the design to a 3-D printing facility, but after an expensive failure, they bought their own 3-D printer, which sits next to Lienau’s desk.
Finally they had a working prototype. They took it to the International Arts Materials trade show and got great feedback from artists and retailers.