Cole Sayer

Written By Maria Vogel

Cole Sayer has not made art for a year. In that time, Sayer decided to temporarily step away from his artistic practice to pursue other interests. He went back to school for coding and became a developer. Fresh from signing a lease on a new studio, we caught up with Sayer to discuss some of his “pre-hiatus” works and how they came to be, what he’s been up to, and how his newfound interest in coding might intersect with his art.

Cole Sayer Art

On stepping away from art…

I think you get to a point when you are so into it, you start overly romanticizing everything. Making this stuff became very painful. So, I stepped away. Refusal is a great tool for artists, one that should probably be employed more often. It’s interesting to see what’s held up after a year – the important stuff or the trivial stuff.

Cole Sayer Art

On his process and sources of inspiration…

I was in grad school when this work started to come together for me. It took years of experimenting with how to use 3D software and painting together. I got into a software called Blender, an open source 3D suite. I started setting up scenes in the 3D software, taking drawings I had made, and mapping them over the scene. There’s a moment when you are designing these things and you take a drawing you’ve made and all of a sudden you take it into this virtual world and let the computer do something with it. You see it fresh again and it becomes this other thing. I was interested in that flip, of being creator and viewer at the same time. All of my paintings somehow involve that process of building a scene in 3D software and mapping an image onto it.

Cole Sayer Art

Painting has always in some way been connected with technology, from the camera obscura to photoshop. Now with 3D software, I have a crude optimism that the technology has the potential to push the medium forward. Besides that, I’m just interested in the history of computer graphics itself, and the motivations behind it, which I think goes far beyond making cool car crashes for film. I think it’s one-part continuation of the Surrealist project and one part subversion of power, amongst other parts.

Cole Sayer Art

On choosing a color palette…

Because each of these paintings begin as a drawing, there are some that need to exist more as a drawing and those tend to stay black and white. Some need to be more painterly. I am really badly colorblind. I have a really hard time distinguishing red from green, blue from purple, brown from gray. I like knowing that my work looks completely different to me than it does to the normal trichromatic eye. I can throw caution to the wind using colors because I don’t really have control over it anyway.

Cole Sayer Art

On painting vs. sculpture in his work…

I always thought my paintings were very sculptural and my sculptures were more painterly. I think I’m naturally inclined to developing processes which is why I had a fairly easy transition to coding. I think it generally lends itself more toward sculpture, but I like painting more. In the Wicked show I was trying to make a sculptural equivalent of my paintings.

Cole Sayer Art
Cole Sayer Art

On coding’s crossover into his art practice…

The coding world is extremely fascinating. I developed a few games over the last year and maybe that’s where it’s all going. They have this potential to be really incredible art forms. I place video games above all else in terms of medium.

Other than that, there’s some interesting ideas in the coding world that could come into the way I talk about this work or organize a body of work. It’s interesting, you really have to start looking at the way logic functions and when you start to do that, there starts to be some interesting correlations with art and where you really see the edges of both.

Cole Sayer Art

On his future as an artist…

I’ll always paint, I just wanted to learn something else. I’m going to be coding as a day job, and I’m excited to see what happens with my paintings in this new space. I have some good and weird ideas for places to take the work.

Cole Sayer Art