Episode 7: The Art of Science: The Big in the Small


affinity - a liking or sympathy for someone or something, especially because of shared characteristics.

art movements - style of art

captivating- to hold the attention of someone by being extremely interesting.

demeanour - a way of looking and behaving.

parallel - something very similar to something else, or similarity between two things

process: a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result.

market something - to sell something 'marketing' 

media - in this context media relates . to different materials used to make art, for example, different liquids. 

novel - in this context, something novel is anything new and original, not like anything seen before.

privy - to be told or shown something that is not told or shown to many people. relates - to find or show the connection between two or more things.

rig - (camera rig) a structure used to support equipment

shooting - in this context shooting means to take photos

realm an area of interest or activity. sucks - a slang term for expressing disappointment.

variations - A variation also is a difference or a thing that differs slightly from another of its type.

venture - a new activity, usually in business, that involves risk or uncertainty:

ultimately - used to emphasize the most important fact in a situation. 


Hit you up for that - to ask someone for a favour or some help with something 

How on earth - is used for emphasis in questions that begin with words such as 'how', 'why', 'what', or 'where'.

e.g How on earth did that happen

Food for thought  - something worth thinking seriously about:


(00:31) Hello everyone, welcome to Episode 7of the Arty Anglais Podcast. If this is your first time listening, welcome. I'm Tara an Art and English teacher, occasionally an artist living in Montpellier in France. I use all my passions and skills and my knowledge about the world and teaching to create this podcast. This is a podcast for people who are learning English or people who may have an interest in art, artists, culture and society. On the podcast, I discuss many different things that interest me such as art, artists, art movements and how language learning through art can help both visual learners like me and anyone else who is interested in culture, society and personal development. You don't necessarily have to be learning English to enjoy the podcast. I just like to talk about lots of different topics relevant for creative people in society today.

(01:38) Today I have a special episode for you because I'm talking to my first artist and I'm talking to an artist who could be considered someone who merges (combines) science and art.

Are Art and Science the Same Thing?

A little while ago now I read an article about Art and Science. In this article I the author explains that Science and Art are often the same thing.

(02:06) Both science and art are the ways we try to understand and describe the world around us. The subjects and experimental methods between art and science have different traditions and intended audiences, but the goals are quite similar. Scientists conduct experiments to understand how something works and to invent theories based on what they find. Artists do the same, by experimenting with materials and techniques in order to create something or communicate an idea in the same way a scientist does. Art doesn't always have to be about painting particular paintings and making them look real. Sometimes it's about experimenting with different materials.

(03:02) So, Artists often start with something new or novel, then work through 'periods' in which they explore how best to get their message across. They experiment with techniques and materials. They perfect their processes. They have shows. They sell their work and they also ask for feedback to help them understand what works and what doesn't work. If artists want to sell their work, they also have to figure out how to market their idea.

(03:35) So today I wanted to talk about art and science by speaking to a Canadian Artist - Seb Duke from The Big In the Small. He lives in Toronto in Canada which is on the Eastern side of Canada, very close to the American border near New York. He has played the role of both artist and scientist in his work to invent a novel way of visually representing his experiments as high-quality art prints. I won't give away what he does as an experiment just yet - I want him to explain that to you in the interview and I'll share some of his pictures further in the transcript notes so you can get an idea of what he does.

(04:24) His artwork looks like a science experiment. At first, you might not know exactly what it is but it's really captivating all the same. When I first saw his work, I looked at some of his prints each for 5 minutes! I was so captivated and fascinated by the shapes and colours and it made me so curious to know 'how on earth' he did it? I wanted to know more! He was really great to chat with and he gave me some interesting 'food for thought.' I'm sure you'll find what he has to say just as interesting as I did. He was very generous to give me the time to help me out with this interview so I hope you like it and you learn a few new things. In the interview, we spoke about 4 different things. It's a little bit longer than a normal episode but Seb is just so interesting that I just didn't want to cut much out.

(05:23) Firstly we'll talk about:

1. His art style, what he does and a little about his process

2. We'll also talk about social media such as Instagram and his advice about Instagram

3. We'll talk about how his artwork impacts on people

4. Finally, in the end, we'll talk a little about language learning and the differences between accents, in particular, American, Canadian and Australian. So before I speak any more, let's get started with the interview.

Interview - Who is Seb Duke? What does he do?

(06:03) Tara: So, Seb, thank you for joining me today. I'm really appreciative of you getting up so early and being on the other side of the world and being able to talk to me.

Seb: No worries, thanks for having me.

Tara: It's pretty amazing that we can have the technology to do this I think.

Seb: Oh, I wholeheartedly agree.

Tara: Yes, it's really good. So I think before I explain what you do I think it would be better if you explained. So can you give me and the listeners just a short summary about who you are, where you come from, and what you do as an artist?

Seb: Oh for sure. So my name is Sub Duke I'm from Canada. I currently live in Toronto but originally I'm from Quebec. My mother tongue is French.

Tara: Really?

Seb: Yes, it is.

Tara: Well we can have a French conversation if you like. It won't be very good.

Seb: But yeah yeah, like I've been living here in Toronto for seven years now. What I do is I'm a fine arts photographer. In the realm of the abstract world. I mix liquids together and then I photograph the end result. I mix the liquids in order to produce some colourful bubbles and then I photograph those and turn those into art prints.

Tara: It sounds like a really fun and fascinating type of art to be part of. So Seb’s name is called The big in the small and you can find his artwork on Instagram and on the internet. So I'll put a link to his Instagram on the transcript notes. But what I'm really interested in knowing Seb, his name is quite fascinating, The Big in the Small as I think it can mean so many different things. Can you explain to the listeners a little bit about where this name comes from and what it means to you and your artwork?

Seb: Yeah, for sure. Well, the thing is, so I chose that name just because what I do is macro photography. So it's all about finding the big details in the very small you're taking something that's you know like at the macro level and blowing it up to something very big. (making the small bubbles (micro) look big (macro). So it's just trying to find the beauty in something that is so small that you might not even have known it was there.

Tara: I really love how the name, The Big in the Small, can really help us remember that sometimes the small things in life are the most important and the biggest things in our life.

Seb: Thank you very much. It's like I guess when he started I still had that music band mentality and I was like yeah I'll give this project a band name. But like over the years I've really grown to appreciate that name because it offers a lot of opportunities. I think it's a very evocative name especially when you get to explain the true meaning behind it. Yeah, it's about finding the beauty in something that might be so minor that you might overlook it like in your daily life.

Tara: Yeah, and it's definitely convinced me too because it's something that I would like to focus on (just looking at the small parts of your life and be appreciative). I think it's a good reminder, so thank you.

Seb: You're welcome.

Tara: Now would be a really good time to go and have a look at Seb’s website or his Instagram page. So I'll put links in the transcript for today's episode. And go and have a look at some of the prints that he makes with the bubbles. So on his website, one of my favourite prints is one called In My Solar System. I really like this print for two reasons; and the first reason is it really does look like the planets of the solar system and I really like the blue and the red and the yellow, the primary colours and how they work really well together. The second reason I like this piece is it reminds me a lot of the work of one of my favourite artists Vincent Van Gogh. So you can see the white swirls coming through the print which is made with the bubbles. So have a look at his website, have a look at his Instagram and pick one print that is your favourite and have a think about why it's your favourite.

In My Solar System Seb Duke

A little about how Seb started

(11:03) Tara So is taking photos of bubbles and the mixing of the liquid is something that you've been doing for a long time or something that you've only recently just started doing?

Seb: No, it's actually fairly new in my life. Like, I'm an accidental photographer, I did not study photography, I studied literature, it's extremely different. That being said I've always been interested in the arts. The reason ... like the path on how I became a photographer, which is fairly recent, is I was a musician before. I ran music labels, I had a bunch of bands, released many albums, and a few years ago I bought a camera in order to record music videos. Because I figured if I owned my cameras like all my camera rig then I can shoot music videos for free after I've purchased the rig. I was shooting music videos for YouTube in order to get the bands noticed and actually I noticed I'm enjoying this camera more than I'm enjoying the music itself.

Tara: Oh wow, so you've always been creative but maybe in a different realm.

Seb: Yeah, I've always been extremely highly creative. You know when I was in high school and when I was in elementary school like my strongest subject was always French and English because I always got crazy grades when we had to write creative stories.

Tara: Crazy good?

Seb: Yeah, crazy good. Well, they were crazy too but yeah. I remember I always got in trouble in school because I wasn't listening, I was drawing. I think it's a temperament of creative people, you just need to create. For me personally, that's always been the thing, I don't really care what I create as long as I can create. If I'm not creating, I'm miserable.

Tara: Yes, I can resonate with that feeling quite a lot.

Seb: But yeah it's a typical of highly creative people.

Tara: So as a kid growing up, did you do any form of art or just you started off by doing music?

Seb: So I started studying the violin when I was three years old and I played the violin until very recently, played in orchestras. But you know what I didn't like playing the violin when I was young, I actually hated it. But I realised with the years that I didn't hate the instrument per se, I just hated playing music that was written by other people. Because you know when you're studying the violin, you're you know you have to learn a specific set of like music, pieces that were written by masters but that's not something that I am interested in. I have no interest whatsoever in what other people have done.

Tara: So it's more you don't particularly like maybe the recipe based and a bit more experimental.

Seb: Exactly, I started having fun with my violin when I started writing my own music.

Tara: So in terms of like being creative, I guess that sort of that helps me to see why you really like the type of art that you do. Can you talk a little bit about how you came across what you do having come from a background where you weren't necessarily always doing it?

Seb: Yeah, absolutely. It was really an accident. I think back in 2016 I was geared up to record like an album. I took a week off from work in order to record an album, and on the first day that I was supposed to record that album my computer died.

Tara: So it was a bit a happy accident I guess?

Seb: Very happy, very very very happy accident. So since the computer died I was like, okay that's it. I have to find something else because I view vacation time as equity in order to do further creative projects. And I was like oh no I'm going to waste a week here, I can't record the album because it was going to take a week for the computer to get fixed. So I decided to start recording music videos for those songs that would be recorded later on. I didn't have any budget for props actors or like any locations, so what I did is I went in my kitchen and I started playing with liquids because I had a macro lens that allows me to shoot from really close. And I started mixing liquids together, became fascinated with the process of mixing liquids together and pretty fast I fell down that rabbit hole and eventually I figured out how to create those colourful bubbles.

Tara: So before you started, you didn't really know, did you have an idea of what you were doing or you just started?

Seb: No, I had no idea whatsoever what I was doing. I just thought that mixing liquids together might create interesting interactions that would look cool on camera, yeah that was just it.

Tara: The pictures are so fascinating. I remember when I first saw your pictures when we were first talking. It was really hard to know what it actually was, it was really fascinating. So it really made me interested to know what they were.

Seb: Well, thank you, and like in a sense this is what I try to do, right. Because I remember that feeling I experienced the first time I saw it I was like whoa what's this right. Still to this day, even though I've been doing this for a few years now, like I still have that feeling of like awe and wonder and amazement every day when I'm in the studio when I look at it, right. So it's what I try to translate to people through the art like that sense that I feel every day. When people see my art whether maybe on social or in real life, like when they see it and they don't know what they're looking at, usually their reaction is gonna be one of awe, wonder and amazement.

Tara: Do you have people contacting you asking what is this, what do you do, how do you do this?

Seb: Oh, all of the time. I'd say probably 50 times a day. Yeah, it's a lot it's an editorial choice. I choose not to share the process. And the reason is, I don't know, maybe it's a little pompous. I find it there’s so… Like there's a tutorial for almost everything in life nowadays. You can figure out how to do absolutely anything, it's nice to have a few secrets. Like to not know and ponder, people don't ponder anymore. You can go on Google and find the answer right away, any question you might have. You know what no, you look at this and you ponder.

Zoologist Chameleon "Madagascar" Art Print by Seb Duke

The process

(19:06) Tara: I think that's really interesting that you're talking about that because I think that's the sort of process of being a scientist where you play with different materials and you see yourself what the process is. I think it's really obvious that with your work, science is a big part of the success because you're the person that sees it and you see the reactions and things like that and it's also a big part of the beauty of what you do. So can you talk a little bit about that link between art and science in your work? I'm sure you've talked about it a lot and it's something you're passionate about.

Seb: For sure, look like I'm not a scientist per se but the method is very scientific itself. I spend every Sunday testing new interactions.

Tara: So is that your experimental day?

Seb: Yeah, that's the experimental day. So like typically what I'll do is during the week, I'll research new products or like I'll be on Reddit looking at chemical reactions just to see if there's anything that exists anywhere that might be useful to what I do. I frequently visit the pharmacist in order to see if there's you know like liquid drugs that can be used, like say Pepto-Bismol I've experimented with but I'll also go to the home hardware, home renovation store. Like there are many different types of stores that I'll visit in order to see like whatever types of liquids that exist that I haven't experimented with but like sometimes it's just a matter of brands.

Tara: So there can be a big difference between how something will react?

Seb: Yeah, like say if I use turpentine, well the brand might have an incidence on the reaction but also like there are so many different things that can have an impact; the temperature of the like the liquid if it's at you know like if it was in the fridge before I use it or if it was at room temperature, it might react differently. So I have to isolate all of those variables in order to really know how to enhance the plumpness of my bubbles or create X colour you know.

Tara: Wow, so it sounds so scientific, I love the vocabulary that you use to explain the bubbles. How long does it take to go from the experimentation process and then to creating a piece, like how many weeks or days does that usually take?

Seb: So I'm in the studio every day creating new pieces, and the process itself of creating a piece, it varies, it can be two minutes, it can be a few hours, it just depends on a few factors as you blend the liquids together then you're going to create bubbles. And then with decay over time, like when the bubbles are going to burst and what you're looking at is going to change. So you have to be extremely patient and stay by the bowl and look at how it's happening in order to find that perfect shot you know.

Tara: So how many times, how many photos would you take or how often do you take a photo?

Seb: It really depends, like sometimes like I'll pour liquids together and be like sorry like this is not it and dump it and start all over again. But sometimes I can actually get three pieces out of a pour. So it really, it really really, really depends but I'd say when I was just starting out I was way less discriminating. Now, there's sort of a learning curve. Right, as I get better and control the elements, my eye becomes way more discriminating and I become a little harder to impress. So I'm like I become so much more difficult with what I consider to be a finished piece than would have two years ago.

Tara: So would you... I guess before you start something, do you have an idea of how it's going to turn out?

Seb: Absolutely, like initially I did not but after a few years of doing this, yes I'd say now it's like 80% control, 20% randomness which I really enjoy.

Tara: Yeah, I guess it's that talking about things that you don't always know what you're going to expect.

Seb: Exactly.

Tara: You get these random things happening. And I think this leads me into a question that I’d been wanting to ask you because I think it relates to life a little bit. I read an article recently about where you talk about how what you do is you're capturing something temporary and how that reflects your life. And you as the artist are sort of privy just to that moment and I really like that story and that analogy. So what I want to know is do you ever keep things just for yourself or do you always share the best things on social media and that sort of thing?

Seb: I do have some pieces that I keep personal just because and as you said and like this is something that I firmly believe what I do is I create a moment and then I capture that moment and it's a metaphor for life, absolutely, and some of those moments belong to me. There are some pieces, they might not even be the best that I've ever done but I'll keep them for myself, I'll get them printed and I have them at home just because it's mine and it's personal and it was created in a specific state of mind you know or in order to illustrate something that's very personal, well those belong to me.

Tara: Yeah, and I just really love that idea about you having a moment with the art. For me, if I can draw a parallel to me working with kids and teaching them art is my most favourite moments are when they're producing something where they're experimenting. So just to give you an example, I have one girl which I was teaching yesterday and we were experimenting with watercolour and the most fascinating thing to her was putting water on the paper and then dropping the watercolour into the water, and then just seeing how that reacted. And to me, I guess that's just an example of someone enjoying the process rather than always looking at the final piece.

Instagram, marketing and how Seb's Artwork has an impact on people

(26:14) Tara: So while we're talking about social media and living in the moment, I wanted to know a little bit about Instagram and how you use it. Because I think that social media is really interesting environment at the moment. I think it can influence artists today and I sometimes feel that there's so much artwork out there that it must be hard for even really talented artists to compete. Do you find this, and can you discuss this a little and how you sort of overcome that?

Seb: For sure, yeah, this is something that I can talk about forever. I'd say, right now, there are two classes of artists. There are artists who are good at social media and there are artists who aren't. But here's a thing, right, if you're a creative person usually you're like your affinity is to create art. To have an affinity for creating content for social media, that's a very different skill set. So people who, A, are good at creating art and, B, are good at getting their art noticed on social media will have a natural advantage in today's world. Yeah, like you really have to work hard to understand how to create a good Instagram post because like currently the best social media platform to share art is Instagram. There's just such a good natural fit for artists, just on Instagram you can't create a post if you don't have a picture. It starts with a picture, it's a visual medium, can't do a text post. So yeah like you have to, you can't put up subpar photography of your art, you cannot put a picture where your art is misaligned in the frame. It has to be perfectly aligned, the colours have to look good, the composition of your picture of art has to look good.

Tara: Because you've only got one chance to sort of catch someone's eye I guess.

Seb: Exactly, exactly, and the thing is artists on social media they have a natural advantage. You're producing something that's highly visual so why not to take the better like put all of the chance is on your side and present it in the best possible way. Because you're competing against people who don't know how to, you're competing against gym selfies, you're competing against someone's dog, you're competing against subpar photography and subjects that are frankly a little uninspiring. Like your opportunity as an artist is to embellish other people's feeds. So it all starts with great photography.

Tara: I really like on your Instagram actually, and it's one thing that I noticed first is that, well firstly, the images of your art are just so captivating and I'm so curious to know what they are. But then I also like that the artist, which is you, is in the images in some of them as well.

Seb: See that's something that's really important. Because when people purchase art, they're not just purchasing art per se, they're purchasing a piece of the artist. You know because a piece that an artist created is sort of a little bit of them in a sense, right. It's the sum of your learning, of your experiences, of your struggles, and that's what people are purchasing. Like especially in today's world, you have to put yourself forward because people like… First, you have to make people care, you have to make people care for what you do and it's so much easier for people to care for an individual. Think about it, Vincent Van Gogh, if I say that word, do you see his artwork or do you think of his story you know with the ear and everything? It's a little bit of both, right?

Tara: Yeah, I see both.

Seb: So you can't dissociate the art from the artist. It's the same if I say Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, you know you'll see the art in your mind but you'll also see you'll think of their story.

Tara: I've never thought of that. I actually every time I think of an artist, I do think of their face.

Seb: Exactly.

Tara: Certainly when I think of Vincent Van Gogh, the first thing that comes into mind is his portrait and then his more famous paintings like the sunflowers or starry night.

Seb: Exactly. So that's why in today's world is like social if you're just like publishing close-up pictures of your art, you're definitely missing out on a wonderful opportunity.

Tara: Yes, you’re sort of missing that personal connection.

Seb: Exactly.

Tara: That was definitely one of the first things I noticed and I thought this is great because I can see your personality coming through and I can really see your art style and it just really made me feel like I wanted to keep getting to know you. It's really interesting.

Seb: But like at the same time you know what, I mean like I don't think I've ever said this, it's a lot of work. If you see a picture of me holding my art, usually on average, there's 20 hours of work and research behind this.

Tara: Behind the artwork and the picture or?

Seb: No, like behind the picture that goes up on Instagram because like what I do is I take pictures outside and that probably comes from my background in recording music videos. I know how to spot good locations where you can shoot for free so I'll go to those locations. But I have to study a lot beforehand; okay, what's going to be the best angle when we get there because I can't take pictures of myself holding my art, I have to pay a photographer to do it. But since I'm a photographer, I don't want to go there and on my dime have him figure it out. I'll go beforehand, study the best angles of like okay how is this going to look optimal here. And then create a circuit where we're going to go to location A. But then on location A, I'll have to wear the proper outfit that's going to fit both the location and the piece that I'm holding in my hands, it really takes a long time. But the thing is ultimately, on social, you're competing for attention. That attention is a fraction of a second. You have a fraction of a second when you see a picture to decide whether or not you're going to hit like or not. So you have to make sure don't leave anything up to chance. I make sure that everything is absolutely pristine and yeah on average 18 hours per picture but like that's also factoring in you know like the research for hashtags and writing the caption, everything that goes along with it, it’s average of 18 hours for one picture.

Tara: Wow, that is such a long time. I never really thought about how long it would take to