Creative Commons License
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Amazing portraits of Elvis and Madonna made entirely from bar codes
by Gavin Bernard

Firstly, can we have your full name, age and location?
My name is Scott Blake, I am 31 years old, and currently living in Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Are you a full time artist?
I have been making Barcode Art for 10 years. I dedicate most of my time working on art projects, but I do not sell enough to pay all of my bills.

If not, what else do you do?
I work part time at t-shirt printing company as a shipping clerk. I create export documents for international shipments, and help maintain their website.

Other than using barcodes, what mediums have you used in the past?
I've made digital mosaics using images of ecstasy pills, CD covers, and dissected Chuck Close paintings. I also have experimented with other things like fire, US dollar bills, and flags from around the world. I like using loaded imagery to create a collision of symbols and ideas. I am interested in remixing archetypes to connect traditional points of view with new paradigms.

When did you first have the idea of creating images from barcodes?
I started making art with barcodes right before Y2K, inspired by the year 2000 computer bug, and threatening digital apocalypse. I stumbled upon barcode imagery while experimenting with halftone dot patterns. I was inspired by Roy Liechtenstein large comic book style paintings with the over sized benday dots. I was looking for a black and white shape that could be repeated and modified to create gray tones in a digital mosaic. I first tried circles and squares, then rectangles. The tile patterns morphed into a cluster of lines, and before I knew it, I was staring at a bunch of bar codes. I put some numbers at the bottom to describe each pixel's grayscale value and grid coordinate.

Can you explain how you create the pieces?
I start by collecting UPC or ISBN numbers that correspond to the person. I search online databases for DVDs, CDs, or books, whatever products I can find that relate to the celebrity. Next, instead of arranging the barcodes straight up and down, I like to create unique tile patterns to add extra dimension to each portrait. For instance, Ozzy's barcodes are being shouted out of his mouth, Marilyn's barcodes wave like curly hair, and Mao radiates like a sun burst (his nickname is "The Red Sun"). Eventually all the barcodes end up in Photoshop, where I record Action scripts to automatically place each mosaic tile. The whole process is far from perfected. I change my approach each time, try to find some new way to do it all over again. Finally, I got my barcodes to scan! I have been working on a video interface that reacts to each barcode that is scanned. Each Bruce Lee barcode plays a kung-fu fight scene or scan Arnold Schwarzenegger barcodes to play corresponding movie trailers. It takes me anywhere from 2 - 6 months to complete a portrait out of barcodes.

What was your first piece?
The first face I barcoded was Jesus. I wanted to comment on how religion is evolving with digital technology. in 1998 the Internet was becoming a reality. I had just gotten my first email account. Google's initial public offering happened the same year.

How happy with it were you?
I was pretty excited to make an entire face out of barcodes. It took my computer 4 days to render the face in Photoshop. I could watch the Action script slowly piece together the image, one layer of barcodes at a time. I actually printed it out on 48 sheets of letter size paper and taped them all together to create a full size 5 foot poster.

What size was it (dimensions and number of barcodes used)?
Bar Code Jesus measures 54 x 54 inches (138 x 138 cm) and used 940 barcodes.

How many have you created since?
I have created 30 portrait from barcodes.

What was your biggest?
My biggest portrait is of Bruce Lee, it is 8 feet square (244 cm) and uses 2,560 barcodes. I actually went beyond maximum canvas size allowed in Photoshop (100 inches @ 300 dpi = 30,000 pixels).

What is your favourite?
UPC A/Elvis/Music CDs is one my favorite portraits. It was my first mosaic with an angled tile pattern. Inspired by Chuck Close's pixelated paintings, the 45 degree twist could even be connected to the old school 45 RPM records Elvis's music used to be published on.

Are all of the images that you have created portraits?
I prefer to depict faces with mosaics, but I have done some animals, a hand, and a fingerprint. Faces are the most recognizable part of a person.

Who have you created pictures of?
Jesus, Oprah, Andy Warhol, Ronald Reagan, Bill Gates, Marilyn Manson, Bill Gates, Bernard Solco, Jane Fonda, Madonna, Paula Wallace, Paul Newman, Mick Jagger, Elvis, Mumia Abu-Jamal, OJ Simpson, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Manson, Schwarzenegger, Ozzy, Mao Tse-Tung, Martha Stewart, Bruce Lee and a self portrait.

What do you do with the images you create?
After I complete a portrait, I post the image on my website along with full resolution download free for anyone to take. I also make prints, postcards, and some flipbooks available for sale on my website.

If you sell them, how much for?
Prices range from $1 to $100.

What do your friends / family think of your art?
My family and friends support what I do. My mom got me my first computer when I was 12, back in 1988, and my dad got me my first skateboard when I was 9. Both of my parents encouraged me to study art in school

What other comments have you had?
One of the most interesting comments I got was from a Jehovah's Witness; they saw Barcode Jesus as representing "The price He paid for our sins."

Posted on Daily Mail Website, May 26, 2008
Brandon Native Turns Barcodes into Works of Art
on TBO News website
by Rod Carter
Tampa, Florida
June 2010
Omahan Creates Bar Code Art
on WOWT News website
by Brian Mastre
Omaha, Nebraska
September 2009
Scott Blake Interview
on Dixonfoma Website
by Dixon Cordell
April 2009
Amazing portraits of Elvis and Madonna made entirely from bar codes
in Daily Mail Newspaper
by Gavin Bernard
United Kingdom
May 2008
Scott Blake: Behind Bars
in Swindle Magazine
by Jason Filipow & Anne Keehan
Los Angeles, California
March 2007
Interview with Scott Blake
on Soul Coffee Website
by Geoff Pitchford
August 2005
Interview with Scott Blake
on FryCookOnVenus website
by FryCookOnVenus
September 2004
The Fine Art of Bar Codes
in The Reader Newspaper
by Jeremy Schnitker
Omaha, Nebraska
February 2004
Creating art one pixel at a time
in The District Newspaper
by Craig Oelrich
Savannah, Georgia
March 2003
Macro/micro, subversion, and celebration
by Alessandro Imperato
Savannah, Georgia
October 2002
Ecstasy Self Portrait Q & A
by Bonnie Molins
August 2002
Original Artist Statement and FAQ
May 2001
Barcode artist Scott Blake digitizes human expressions
on Silicon Prairie News website
by Andrea Ciurej
Omaha, Nebraska
May 2010
Omaha Barcode Artist Scans Famous, Infamous Faces
on KETV News website
by John Oakey
Omaha, Nebraska
October 2009
Black is Beautiful
in Lowdown Magazine
by Sven Fortmann
August 2008
You're not special
on DocHoloday website
by DocHoloday
August 2007
Get acquainted, Scott Blake
in Inbox Magazine
by Andrey Oaheeb
February 2006
Madonna Portraits Q & A
August 2005
Bring Your Bar Codes
in Art Papers Magazine
by Kent Wolgamott
May 2005
Email from "Jesus"
September 2004
Finding Form in Bar-Code Function
on TechTV Live
by Andy Jordan
San Francisco, California
October 2003
The Body-Mined Show Catalog
by Glenn Zucman
Long Beach, California
January 2003
Abrstraction, "Capitalist Realist",
and the system

by Alessandro Imperato
Savannah, Georgia
November 2002
Enrayer le code
in Etapes Graphiques Magazine
by Vanina Pinter
July 2002
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