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Get acquainted, Scott Blake
by Andrey Oaheeb

You've got the art education, where did you graduated from? Is it a usual practice to draw with bar-codes in American college or university?
I graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2003. I had some classic training along with some high tech instruction. I drew nude models, painted still life bowls of fruit and then would film a short movie or program a computer animation. My undergraduate studies where pretty scattered. After all of my homework was done for school is when I would make my Bar Code Art. I rarely turned my personal work in to be critiqued and graded. I started exhibiting my Bar Code Portraits in my third year of college, outside of the university system.

A bar-code - is a very popular (the most frequently quoted) globalism image, reducing diversity of the world to combination of random bars and 13 numbers. Is it on purpose that you apply to this symbol in your art or just a chance?
It makes me happy to know people in other countries, who speak different languages, are still able to appreciate my artwork. I choose the barcode symbol because it reduces everything to white and black marks. It equalizes the world with an objective scan. Coke or Pepsi, Jesus or Buddha, American or Russian, Dead or Alive is all the same to the barcode. The system of bars appears random, but the computer easily understands this chaos. I try to look at the world from a computer's point of view.
Bar Code Jesus was my first barcode inspired artwork. I was experimenting in Photoshop, by creating mosaics with simple shapes. I first tried circles and then squares. The tile patterns morphed into a cluster of lines, and before I knew it, I was staring at a bunch of bar codes. It was the perfect combination of control and chance.

Where does this strange idea come from? Who originated this? Who was the inspirer of your such first portrait?
Before I created my first barcode artwork I was most inspired by the pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. He would paint large comic book strips with benday dot halftone patterns. I have always enjoyed optical illusions and brain puzzles. I also like Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Chuck Close to name a few others.

How do you create this? Is it a hand-made work? And how long does it take to make one portrait?
I use my hands to move the computer mouse around and also use my hands to type lines of code into the keyboard. I absolutely need a computer machine to create my Bar Code Portraits. Adobe Photoshop is also a must.
The first barcode portrait of Jesus took me six month to build the Action Script in Photoshop. Once the mini-program was complete it took my computer 86 hours to render the single portrait image. The final output resoultion is a gigantic 440 MegaPixels so that I can print 54 x 54 inches at 388 dpi.

How do you calculate the color (density) in your works?
Photoshop has a tool called the "Histogram" that shows average pixel values. Another way to cheat is by reducing and individual barcode to a single pixel in the Image Size, and then Eyedrop sample the one tiny gray value. I will sometimes construct a long strip of single pixel values and run an automatic batch across the row, selecting pixel with the magic wand tool. Only in the art new fangled art field will you find a real tool called the "Magic Wand". I love it. I sometimes feel like Harry Potter or some unknown alchemist in a dark labrobtory creating abominations to humanity.
How I calculate color density and which PC I use really bring the best out in myself.

Which PC do you use?
I use Apple computers. Right now I have a G4 laptop running Mac OS 9, Photoshop 6, and Illustrator 8. Wireless network access throughout the house so I can check my email while on the toilet. That is how take care of multi-tasking.

Why Jesus was the first face in your gallery?
Jesus is the most ultimate face in my mind. Nobody alive today has ever seen him in person, and even after being dead for 2000 years, most of us still know what he looks like. I am interested in the face of Jesus that is on every painting and illustration of him. How has Jesus gotten etched into our collective minds? Future generations will be able to download spiritual salvations.

Do you know there is a superstition that each bar-code contains the number of the beast 666? Wasn't you blamed for sacrilege when you made Jesus' portrait of apocalyptic numbers?
I knew about the 666 superstition long before I started making art with barcodes. The 666 theory was definitely one of the reasons I choose to create the portrait of Jesus with that apocalyptic symbol.
I started making art with barcodes right before Y2K, inspired by the year 2000 computer bug, and threatening digital apocalypse. I collided faith and technology to represent the changes happening in the world with religion and computers.
I recently took the sacrilege a step further and started making Bar Code Tattoos for people to place in their right hand or wear on their forehead, just like has been stated in the Christian bible. I will send anyone around the globe one of my Bar Code Tattoos absolutely for free. Just fill out the postcard request on my site.

Do bar-codes meanings relate somehow to the people featured? And on the whole - are these the real bar-codes?
At first the barcodes where not real, I just combined a bunch of lines to make them look real. Each of the fake codes still had meaning in my art. The numbers related to gray pixel values, X Y grid coordinates, and line density count. Eventually I started using real barcodes that where directly connected with the personalities own products. I made Elvis using the barcodes from his CDs, Marilyn Monroe from her movie DVD barcodes, Mao Tse-tung with his book barcodes.

How many bar-codes' meanings are required for one portrait? Where do you take bar-codes from for your art?
I have made portraits with as little as two barcodes and as many as 990. I usually average about 50 per face. The final number depends on how many CDs, movies, or books the person has authored. I like to get most of the barcode numbers from online merchants like, There are also some free resources for looking up barcodes like the and

Have you created the images of the ordinary people as well, or only celebrities are lucky ones? Where do you seek for the faces? And how one can be your model?
I am not so sure the celebrities I choose to barcode are lucky. It is hard for me to express my personal opinion about these icons without appearing to celebrate their status. I have barcoded common people before. I set up once at a Gallery Opening a did about 50 of the attendees faces. I felt like a clown face painter and not at all like an artist. I hope someday to automate my bar code mosaic system so people can upload their own face on the web for free. I just can't do everybodys face.

Don't you plan to make an image of a Russian, perhaps, of Mr. Putin? Has George Bush the Junior any chances?
Putin and Bush are definitely big figures in the mainstream today, but to me their faces are just flashes in the pan. Putin is handsome. Recently a political party in the United Kingdom emailed me to make a Bar Code portrait of Tony Blair to use in their campaign against the Prime Minister.

Your site generates bar-codes for the users and ranks their value according to sex and GNP. Many are strongly resentful to the fact that the woman's value is much less than that of a man. What would you say to this?
I think it is natural some people are offended by my Barcode Yourself project. Especially women, people in lower income countries, and also people that are over weight, too skinny, too old or young.
All of the calculations in Barcode Yourself are based on real world facts, gathered from the Internet. Data like the Gross Domestic Product of each country. The country of Lichtenstein is #1, USA #2, and Russia is #86 out of 190. From the United States Center for Disease control, I used the Body Mass Index to figure out how healthy a person is based on height and weight. And from the Institute for Women's Policy Research I discovered the "Gender Gap" which states that "Women Average 72 Cents For Each $1 Earned By A Man."
I need to work on this project some more, because I do NOT want people to be offended with my art. I have learned a lot from putting this project on the web and allowing countless people to see my works in progress. I get atleast one email a month flaming me on how sexist and rude my Barcode Yourself project is.

You've created portraits, pictures, attendance counters and many other strange things with bar-codes. What are your prospectives for the nearest future?
I am trying to establish and support myself as a full time artist. Right now I have a day job where I work 40 hours a week shipping tshirts. I am also working on new projects with flags from around the world, money, and ?

Is it really so that US corporations gather information on people (consumers), tracking their purchasing by means of bar-codes?
Wal-Mart specifically tracks women's purchase cycle and can predict when they are menstruating. They will send a coupon for tampons a week earlier. I have mixed feelings when it comes to big companies tracking barcodes. I keep track of all art sales, and I don't feel bad doing it.

What do you think of capitalism?
"Capitalism" is a big word and I spend a lot of time working on my visual art to explain my complex opinions. I cannot spell everything in clear words. It is like asking a writer to make a painting based on their novel.

You make portraits with ecstasy. Where did you get so many pills from?
I downloaded all of the ecstasy pill images from They test pills sent in by anonymous people then post the chemical results along with an photo on the web. Their database is free to search by geographic region, pill color, or logo insignia.

Name 5 characteristic words referring to your portraits. Name 5 favorite things in your life. Name 5 things you personally associate with Russia.
This is my favorite question.
5 Characteristic words referring to my portraits: Pixelated, Inter-Faces, Pop and Op, Photoshoped, Masterpieces.
5 Favorite things in my life: I enjoy skateboarding for 20 years, living with and loving my girlfriend Dana, spending time with my family and friends, a delicious meal, and a fat joint.
5 Personal associations with Russia: I have one great-grandparent that is from Russia in Kiev. The family story goes he used to design elaborate hard wood floors with different color woods, kind of like my pixels. I also studied Russian art history for one full semester in college, and wrote a term paper on Kandinsky. His book "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" is on of my favorites. I am oddly attracted to matrioshka dolls. This whole line of 5 questioning reminds me of Russia's "Five Year Plan!"

You sell your art, how can we buy it here in Russia?
My web store is new and I'm still learning how to run a world-wide business. One of these days I will figure out how sell art in Rubles. For now everyone in Russia will have to settle for free postcards and downloads.

Printed in Inbox Magazine, February 2006
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Scott Blake Interview
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Amazing portraits of Elvis and Madonna made entirely from bar codes
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Scott Blake: Behind Bars
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Interview with Scott Blake
on Soul Coffee Website
by Geoff Pitchford
August 2005
Interview with Scott Blake
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September 2004
The Fine Art of Bar Codes
in The Reader Newspaper
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Omaha, Nebraska
February 2004
Creating art one pixel at a time
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by Craig Oelrich
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March 2003
Macro/micro, subversion, and celebration
by Alessandro Imperato
Savannah, Georgia
October 2002
Ecstasy Self Portrait Q & A
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August 2002
Original Artist Statement and FAQ
May 2001
Barcode artist Scott Blake digitizes human expressions
on Silicon Prairie News website
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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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