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Big Omaha: Barcode artist Scott Blake digitizes human expressions

The work of barcode artist Scott Blake was featured as one of three Big Omaha art installations. Above, he poses in front of his barcode Warren Buffett piece created using barcodes from various products of Berkshire Hathaway companies. Photo by Andrea Ciurej.

The mission of KANEKO, the venue of the annual Big Omaha event, is to support and promote freedom in creativity, which begins with an idea and a vision to see things differently. Scott Blake, a 32-year-old Florida native, couldn’t be promoting this mission any clearer with his 21st century barcode art resembling the most notable faces in modern culture. 

Blake, a classically trained artist, studied figure drawing for three years and painted bowls of still-life fruit. 

Now, instead of using a paintbrush with the flick of his wrist, Blake has converted to “painting” code using his fingers tips and a Mac computer.

Blake’s first masterpiece was a barcode portrait sketch of Jesus (left) that he created in November 1998. The piece was inspired by an image scanned from a Shroud of Turin hologram card. The 50” x 50” image consists of 10,000 barcodes. Blake refined the piece in April 1999, which consists of 7,776 barcodes. 

Since then, he has created more than 30 portraits using real Universal Product Codes (UPC) from items related to each individual he portrays. For example, he created a barcode portrait of Arnold Schwartzenegger using UPC numbers from 86 of the actor’s films, such as Terminator and Predator. He has also created portraits of Madonna, Ozzy Osbourne and Oprah – to name a few. 

Blake was present on Friday, May 14, and Saturday, May 15, at Big Omaha. There, he shared barcode portraits of Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, Wine Library TV‘s Gary Vaynerchuk and the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself, Elvis Presley.

Blake, holding the barcode scanner, presents his barcode Gary Vaynerchuk piece to the man himself, Gary Vaynerchuk, who is standing by the computer monitor. Photo by Malone & Company Photography.

In between speaker presentations at Big Omaha, I sat down with Blake to learn about his endeavors as a barcode artist, his mission as an entrepreneur at Big Omaha and why he prefers to stay away from the art galleries with his 21st century masterpieces. 

Note: The work behind Blake is by Jun Kaneko: Untitled, Painting, acrylic on canvas, 1998. It’s located in the small gallery at KANEKO.*

Below, Blake is giving a demonstration of how his barcode masterpieces actually work. 

View more photos of Scott’s work at barcodeart.com.

*Updated at 4:55 p.m. with name of artwork. It was previously described as a drawing.