Artist makes butterflies ‘fly off the canvas’ using augmented reality

At first look, Tim Yanke’s butterfly painting feels as if the insects are coming to life. But being an innovator, he wanted to take things a step further.

His painting “Peta louthias,” Greek for butterfly, was inspired by a pair of women’s cowboy boots with butterflies on them that he’d seen when traveling out west.

He’d done a similar series in the past, featuring dragonflies, which he dedicated to his late mother. His new butterflies series was dedicated to his Greek wife, Nikki.

Using multiple colors and brushstrokes to achieve the illusion of movement, he employed augmented reality technology to bring the painted butterflies off the canvas — literally.

“I did not paint the painting with this in mind,” says Yanke, of Huntington Woods. “I started this whole series of a cluster of butterflies like walking into the Mackinac Butterfly House. I went back and looked in, found a series that I thought would really lend its way to the end result of what we want with the AR. I did the painting before I knew what AR was. But I found a good image I could utilize with it.”

Yanke works exclusively with Park West Gallery, based in Southfield. His pieces are in their galleries and he sells them on cruise ships, as well.

Those who have seen his 3D butterfly painting have all been excited and amazed by it.

“A great position to be in as an artist to bring this into Park West and for the collectors,” Yanke says. “It’s cutting edge. Here you have a gallery that has Picassos and woodcut prints that are 800 years old. and they’re also promoting augmented reality — a strange juxtaposition. When you’re the largest art gallery in the world you surround yourself with innovation and tech.”

He uses an augmented-reality app called Moving Canvas to bring the painting to life. It is free for download on iOS and Android platforms.

“Every painting will use the same app, which will create the fingerprint for a painting,” Yanke says. “We can also modify the app — could add a video of me painting the painting, or background on it. You are limited only by your creativity.”

It’s still in its early stages, and Yanke is the only artist using it at the moment. He says he has more paintings planned for it, that he will reveal in future cruise ship presentations.

“This is the alpha image,” Yanke says. “There’s plenty more to come — hang onto your hat.”

Yanke, who says he’s “all about giving back,” is open to donating paintings to fundraisers. He can be reached at

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