Artist’s Notebook: Katie Torn

12.02.13 Marina Galperina

ANIMAL’s feature Artist’s Notebook asks artists to show us their original “idea sketch” next to a finished piece. This week, New York-based artist Katie Torn talks about “The Calm Before the Storm,” a digital animation piece sourced “junk scavenged from both the physical world and the Internet.”

My process usually begins with an image that I can’t get out of my head. I do a lot of sketches, working out different realizations of the image.

I start collecting reference images of things that can help me to conceptualize what I want the piece to be, and make rough collages, sort of like mood boards to help me see it.

For the piece The Calm Before the Storm, I was looking a lot at the French surrealist painter Yves Tanguy. I was drawn to the organic-synthetic quality of the structures in his landscapes. I find his work very contemporary.

The image that I needed to make tangible was an assemblage of the virtual and the physical.

I started by building a real sculpture in my studio, a mix of found objects and painted surfaces.

I captured the structure on video and brought it into the virtual space of Maya so I could continue building up the structure with virtual 3d forms, many of which I found on Google 3D warehouse.

The piece became a monument to capitalist-made debris, comprised of junk scavenged from both the physical world and the Internet.


Katie Torn is a fellow at Eyebeam Art+Technology Center. You can see her work at “Casting a Wide Net,” a group show now on at the Postmasters Gallery.

Previous Artist’s Notebook selects:

Artist’s Notebook: Andrea Crespo
Artist’s Notebook: Genevieve Belleveau
Artist’s Notebook: Saoirse Wall
Artist’s Notebook: Emilie Gervais
Artist’s Notebook: Carla Ganis
Artist’s Notebook: Yoshi Sodeoka
Artist’s Notebook: Alexandra Gorczynski