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Creating art one pixel at a time
by Craig Oelrich

One SCAD student has embraced the phenomenology of the bar code, and its many intricacies, and has devised his own system to manipulate these graphic artifacts into works of art. Scott Blake has had a fascination with bar codes since he was a kid and is "continually contemplating the barcoding of the world." Drawn to their complex mappings of lines and numbers, he learned how to decipher their contents with ease. He has developed an affinity for these icons, which he now incorporates into his artwork as an aesthetic to make statements about his subjects. His artwork relies heavily on computers, which translate individual pixel properties into mosaic bar code mappings, a similar process used by photomosaic artist, Rob Silver. Scott’s most recognized work includes gigantic barcode portraits of hall of fame movers and shakers like Bill Gates, Andy Warhol and Jesus (not to mention SCAD’s own Paula Wallace).

District recently sat down with Scott to ask him a few questions about his unique style of creating art.

D: When you transferred to SCAD from the Academy of Art in San Francisco, you were seeking a balance between fine art and technology in your work.

Scott Blake: I like the fine art – it’s definitely my focus, I think it is so easy to get wrapped up in technology just for technology’s sake. I focus now more on what can I do with the technology instead of being awed by it.

D: You have said that one of your biggest influences is mosaic painter Chuck Close who is opposed to the idea of creating art with computers and yet your work is so reliant upon them. Can you explain the connection with Close in relation to your technique?

SB: I find other tile and mosaic artists as influential as Close, but I think the fact that he is contemporary artist and that he creates his art one unit at a time, much like a computer screen where the art is created one pixel at a time. Close’s work is also very large. His paintings are 10 feet tall, much like the first bar code portraits I created which are ten by ten feet, so there is definitely this common macro/micro element that engages the viewer in a sort of dance with the work. This is also a relationship that I have tried to develop on my website.

D: Recently, you’ve created some of these computer-generated elements by hand. Do you find that you approach the work the same way? Do you have the same connection with the completed image?

SB: I like the idea of doing something that I go through all the trouble to get so accurate. We trust computers to make these accurate lines and numbers… when we see bar code we don’t even think that it would be possible for a human to understand it. With a calculator, a T-square, and my hands, I can sort of prove all that wrong, and remind people that man made computer.

Scott Blake is an Interactive Design major at SCAD and has frequent shows at his own "Ghetto Gallery." His website is

Printed in District Newspaper, March 2003
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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