Interviewer Alexi Ueltzen (@alexi) is Ello’s Community Evangelist. If she’s not at the office, she’s probably swimming, getting muddy with her dogs or baking cookies. Seriously. The best cookies.
Alexi: Tell us a little about your background. How did you get interested in digital art?
Carson: I started making art with computers in middle school, where I took a class about the basics of art. Even though I was only allowed to utilize brushes in Photoshop to paint houses and design holiday cards, I still found time to figure out what every tool was capable of. When I got to high school, I continued making digital art, but I started to find images online and manipulate them to make new artwork. This led to an interest in photography, since it seemed more beneficial to manipulate my own imagery than always having to search for the perfect source material.
I became obsessed with photography, trying to learn as much as I physically could. However, I forgot how much I loved digital manipulation. I got into my dream school, ArtCenter College of Design, and it wasn’t until halfway through my curriculum that I rediscovered my passion for digital art and created my unique visual identity.
Currently, a lot of my artwork is very influenced by video games. I used to keep these two hobbies separate, but now my experience with virtual worlds is an integral component of my creative process.
Alexi: What are you trying to convey with your pieces?
Carson: My work is in opposition of the concept of photorealism. Many individuals utilize photographs as indisputable proof, but the photograph is a representation of what a photographer sees and not an objective portrayal of reality. Artists, especially game designers, are obsessed with photorealism and claim that it will make their art more genuine, but this usually leads to work that starts to become uncanny.
I utilize photography of both actual and virtual worlds in order to mock photorealism. I don’t place reality in higher regard than virtual reality, and I never try to hide the signs of digital materiality from my work, but it always has a basis in light and photography.
Alexi: We’re seeing more and more glitch art online and on Ello - you make some really gorgeous stuff. Can you tell us why glitch art appeals to you?
Carson: I love the concept of the glitch much more so than I like the aesthetics of glitch artwork. I remember playing Halo 2 when I was younger and spending hours looking for and exploiting glitches. It wasn’t the actual glitch that was appealing, but the feeling of breaking a system to create something new and unintended was extremely rewarding.
I approach my artwork in the same way. Right after I learn how to use a new tool, I learn how to break it.
Alexi: Can you give us an idea of what “light-based artworks” are?
Carson: I’ve heard photography described as a “lens-based” art form, but I’ve encountered many individuals who have an even more rigid definition of what photography “should” be. In response, a lot of my work is based around the idea of abstracting the concept of photography. I want more freedom to explore alternative methods of recording and manipulating physical and virtual light.
Alexi: Tell us a little bit about why you started Extramissive Eyes.
Carson: I’m a big proponent of people branching out into unfamiliar territories in their art, and Extramissive Eyes was born out of my need to try my hand at website creation, graphic design, and curation.
The title comes from extramission theory. Some Greek philosophers thought of the eye as a lantern: that the eyes shot out rays of light, and that is how we are able to see. I saw this as a perfect representation of the relationship between photographer and their audience. The photographer controls what the viewer sees: anything not illuminated by the photograph is invisible.
The project was originally intended to be a virtual gallery created in the Unity game engine, but I realized this would limit how many people would be able to view the work, so I opted for a simpler and more user-friendly approach. Right now Extramissive Eyes is a project I’m looking to have fun with and not to take too seriously. Though, once I’m able to get more artists to show their work, I might consider a publication or zine of some sorts.
Alexi: What are your thoughts on social media, and how it helps or hurts artists today? Specifically, can you share some thoughts on Ello?
Carson: Social media is an amazing tool for discovery and great for connecting artists who live far away from each other. Trying to find artists like myself in my local town has been very difficult, but expanding my search to the Internet has allowed me to start a dialogue with many amazing creative individuals.
I often try to find what a social media site does the best, and then I use it accordingly. From its user-friendly interface to its ability to host high-quality images, Ello is perfect for sharing my artwork in its intended form. I’m so glad to be a part of Ello and its amazing community!
Alexi: What technology/software do you use, if you don’t mind us asking?
Carson: The tools at my disposal often drive the concepts for my projects, so each project I create utilizes vastly different tools and techniques. My latest series of images, Ghost Scans, is one of the more complicated projects I’ve created.
I started by taking multiple images of landscapes inside of video games, including Skyrim, Destiny, Dear Esther, and Eidolon. I then created three-dimensional models from these virtual photographs using photogrammetry software and then imported the models into Blender. The models were rendered with vibrant color textures then printed on paper, and those prints were scanned to add extra texture to the images.
Finally, I used Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom to selectively invert the images and to clean up any unsightly dust.
Alexi: What’s something about you that would surprise our readers?
Carson: Despite being so digitally oriented with my artwork, I love shooting with film, especially large format. My favorite camera to use is the Sinar 4x5 View Camera. Hiking with 40 pounds of equipment can be difficult, but very rewarding.