So excited to feature our very first artist, Adam Sater, for our Comp Co Creation Project.
I stumbled upon Adam on Instagram and fell in love with his clean, bold graphic tiling. I used one of his posts on the Comp Co instagram (see below), he replied and we struck up our partnership from there!
It was so much fun to see how Adam took our Comp Package and manipulated the materials to create a piece that spoke to his artistic style of the moment.
I asked Adam to share a bit about himself, his craft and the evolution of this project...
CC: WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
ADAM: I live in the Southeast corner of Wisconsin, almost directly between Milwaukee and Chicago, in the little town of Kenosha. I love being able to live outside the big cities while remaining close enough to visit, work, see a show, or do whatever inspires me. As a bit of an introvert, big-city life never appealed to me, and now that I have kids and a dog, it’s nice having a fenced-in yard for them to play together.
CC: WHAT IS YOUR MEDIUM?
ADAM: I work almost exclusively digitally. My ideas all start in a little notebook that I carry with me everywhere. For those sketches, I use a fine-point mechanical pencil which lets me pack detail into my tiny thumbnails. From there, my processes diverge a bit, but it all ends up in the computer.
For my generative art, I’ve written software that takes SVGs (scaled vector graphics) and transforms them so that I can edit the end results in Illustrator while having perfect lines. To me, it’s the control that digital affords that really draws me. You don’t end up with many happy accidents from such a controlled environment, but the results have unmatched precision.
When using physical materials like I did with this project, I digitize them for manipulation within the computer. In this particular case, I used digital photography to capture the colors, textures, and luminance of the cloth.
CC:WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?/WHAT LED YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE?
ADAM: From an early age I was a serious academic. In fact, you’d see me roaming the school halls with my nose in a book (think Belle in Beauty and the Beast). I’m not coordinated enough for sports, but I was a reasonably capable artist and musician. I was always doodling on something (usually my homework), and that really hasn’t stopped even in the work world. I think it makes me think better, even if it’s just retracing letters. There is something about the physical act of writing that you cannot replicate when typing.
I knew I wanted to be a programmer since about middle school; programming is really a creative, problem-solving activity, so it scratched the artistic itch for a while, in a very nerdy sort of way. When my career diverged from programming, I had to find a new creative outlet, so I turned to generative art.
For me, the appeal to generative art was two-fold: I got to stretch my programming skills a bit at a time when that was no longer part of my life, and I was now able to push my art in a more abstract direction than it had ever been. The tedium of perfectly rendering an eye or a hand was replaced by the freedom of building complex forms from simple rules and structures. In the process, modern art stole my heart, and I haven’t looked back since.
CC: WHAT IS THIS PROJECT ABOUT FOR YOU? HOW WERE YOU INSPIRED?
ADAM: I’ve been experimenting with encoding information in artwork for a while. Looking at some art, the emotion and drama just moves you, but I find most modern art less moving – especially when you get into genres like color field painting. Some of it is intentionally stripped or devoid of meaning, and I wanted to correct that, even if on the surface my art did not appear all that different.
In my most recent series of work, I decided to encode text (names, poems, sayings, etc.) into Morse code that is mapped to tiles representing each kind/length of signal and space used by Morse code to form letters, words, sentences, etc. For this project in particular, the choice was obvious: Comp Co.
From there, the inspiration was fairly clear. With all of the bright colors of nylon, I wanted to transform my digital artwork using physical media. This was my first major opportunity to translate my work to fabric and to push myself beyond the comfort of my computer.
CC: TALK A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR CREATION PROCESS?
ADAM: My general creation process always starts with a sketch. For my Morse code pieces, like this one, I’ll draw a square divided in four, into which I draw a quilt-block style swatch for each of the signals and spaces used to encode text (Long Signal, Short Signal, Long Space, and Short Space).
From there, I move to the computer; I use Adobe Illustrator to build out SVG representations of each of my sketches, and save them out to individual files that can be copied and stitched together using some custom software that I wrote.
My software is fairly simple – I input a text that I would like to encode, and the software first changes the text to a series of dots, dashes, and spaces representing the text like a Morse code operator would use. The software then tells me how many blocks that text generated, and I determine the number of columns I want based on that count. The software then places the appropriate SVGs in sequence to form the artwork, which is output as a new SVG that can be processed to add color, or in this case color and texture from the nylon fabrics.
CC: ANY ROADBLOCKS? IF SO, HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
ADAM: For a digital artist, and also someone who is more than a little bit obsessive about pixel-perfect precision, the unpredictability of physical media, especially fabric, presented an immediate challenge.
My initial thought was to fully abandon my digital roots in favor of a fully physical project. What a disaster.
My first roadblock was my own abilities. The precision I’m accustomed to achieving using vector illustration went right out the window with fabric and a rotary cutter. The limitations of my own physical capability give me a new-found respect for my mom who is an excellent seamstress, and my wife who makes similar works with paper.
My second roadblock was the material itself. The nylon that you use on your bags is incredibly durable stuff, resistant to just about everything but some accidental melting…Don’t ask. I tried die-cutting the fabric to get perfect circles, but even with sharp dies and plenty of pressure, the material held up. My experiments with a hand-held razor turned out jagged and imprecise.
Those two roadblocks made me completely rethink my initial design. Too many curves and complex shapes resulted in a pared-down design with clean lines (at last, something I could cut with a straight-edge). From there, I intended to layer the fabrics, glued together with spray adhesive, and mount them to acetate, which could be back-lit and photographed.
This led to my third roadblock: photographic exposure. You can get some really interesting colors by layering backlit fabrics, but each layer lets a little less light through. As a result, photographs with those colors were underexposed while other colors right next to them were blown out. Controlling the exposure from color to color became a real challenge.
This led to an epiphany – All of my problems resulted from trying to avoid digital as much as possible. Aside from the layout, everything was physical. A hybrid approach would give me the best of both worlds. I ended up photographing the fabrics draped over a light with a parabolic soft box. The light gave the fabrics luminance, and the fabrics gave the colors texture.
I then took the photographic swatches, layered them, and mapped them to the shapes I built out in the computer. Even the black used layered fabrics. The end result was a kaleidoscope of colors and a myriad of interference patterns that exceptionally mimicked the results I was getting through purely physical means.
CC: DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING NEW DURING THIS EXPLORATION?
ADAM: I learned that by working purely digitally, I really miss the happy accidents. For so long, I’ve boxed myself into the digital space that I forgot how even a touch of the physical lends a richness of texture, dimension, and unpredictability that can really bring a piece to life.
My experiments still a work in progress for sure, but after starting this project all I wanted to do was play with light and fabric. In fact, this whole process has inspired a forthcoming series of works. The glow, interplay of materials, and subtle imperfections of the physical process just can’t be matched by my digital workflow.
CC: WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS THIS SUMMER?
ADAM: I have a daughter coming this August, so my summer will be consumed largely with prepping for her arrival. I’m building out an exciting new office/studio space, since we are converting my current office back into a bedroom.
CC: WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THIS TIME NEXT YEAR?
ADAM: By this time next year, my goal is to really push the envelope of my art. This project really inspired me to challenge my thoughts on art, how it moves you, and what you can say with it. I’d like to reinvent my artistic expressions to play more with light, color, and the unpredictable nature of the physical, inspired by some of my process shots. Ultimately, I’d love to do a show and turn some of the pieces into art installations. There is a luminance and vibrancy that can only be experienced, which I would like to one day share with the world.
CC: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COMP COMBO?
ADAM: My favorite by far is the Bright Royal Blue cover with the Vibrant Pink straps. There’s nothing subtle about it. That blue is incredibly bold, and the pink is electric, especially when set off by the blue.
CC: HOW CAN WE FIND YOU?
ADAM: My work is primarily a passion project. Creating something every day gives me a necessary creative outlet, and I can’t think of anything better than to share it with the world.
All of my current work is on Instagram - @sateradam. I’m always open to commissions, collaborations, and unique opportunities. I love hearing from fans, clients, collectors, and prospective collaborators, so feel free to direct-message me over Instagram, or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE FINAL PIECE: