Whimsical, melancholic, and aesthetically innovative.
NYC-based graphic designer and illustrator Patrick Sluiter’s contemplative and implicitly eerie renderings of rounded, solitary figures in space have warranted the artist a specifically emotive stylistic niche.
Admittedly "Z-space obsessed", Patrick’s astute capacity for eliciting empathy in 3D is the culmination of studied conceptual, figurative, and technical capacities across a number of creative mediums.
With recent exhibitions and collaborations at Time Frame (GIPHY, New York) and Virtual Firecracker (Brooklyn), Patrick’s ability to converge his nuanced perspective on the human condition within public spaces is ever more prescient.
Tell me about yourself! How did you get into design? You just recently finished school, right?
Yeah, so I originally went to a community college, Westchester Community College, and it wasn't until I was there that I decided to major in graphic design. I then transferred to SUNY Purchase (New York) and was able to really delve into design and expose myself to those elements.
For one of our assignments one of my classmates did something in Cinema 4D and I was like, This is so much better than everyone else's. Like, why am I not on this train? So that's when I got bit by the 3D bug, my junior year of college.
Wow. So you’ve only been working in 3D for a few years?
Let's see... I think I'm going on close to two and a half years now. And I was only really dipping in and out of it because of my school schedule—SUNY Purchase is a huge print school so there isn’t much breathing room to start dabbling in 3D. Even then, it’s primarily digital work.
So I took Motion Graphics and there was no Motion Graphics II. Then I was a teacher’s assistant for motion graphics and I did an independent study to focus on motion graphics.
I basically took the dry towel that was SUNY Purchase and just, like, continued to wring it.
That's awesome. I love that, self-guided learning.
Yeah. You know, I'm glad it happened that way because it kind of forced me into this work ethic of just like, "You want to learn something? Alright, the internet can teach you anything!"
I was able to delve into the pool of technical and conceptual skills that SUNY Purchase gave me as a designer, and used the internet, Greyscalegorilla, to provide me with the technical skills necessary for Cinema 4D—so I was able to make that type of sandwich.
"As an artist you invest your identity in your work and you want to build a unique voice—with 3D you have all these tools in front of you to really get that tune just right."
Totally. You're not entirely self-taught, but I do think that you are working within a very specific stylistic arena. Do you find that your 3D work manifests from your graphic design background?
What originally attracted me to design was the complex simplicity of a design perspective, and once I started to become more savvy with that type of outlook it kind of started to mold itself into 3D design.
I think that's where someone's voice starts to develop. You know, you can teach someone technically how to use a program but if they don't know exactly why they're doing it, and what they're trying to produce, it kind of starts to blend in with something that isn't their voice.
Right. Especially when you’re learning online, working with tutorials or something like that, you can somewhat unintentionally end up taking on that aesthetic voice.
Absolutely! Yeah, that is for sure.
So you do have some particular influences—Thomas Hedger and Ty Dale being some of them. Do these artists inform your practice? Or how you approach 3D?
Well a lot of my pieces are honestly just like passing thoughts. Since I commute to the city I'm going on a nearly two hour commute—each way—so that's when I bring my laptop and I'm able do a lot of work.
I really enjoy being able to isolate these passing thoughts that I get. I think, What if I were to bring this into an animation that a larger audience would be able to empathize with? That's the root of the idea. I'll sit on the idea a little bit or maybe do some basic sketching and then animate on my train ride back home.
Yeah. But as far as using those artists as influence… they aren’t a part of my process. Like, I don't find a Thomas Hedger piece and think, This is it! I’m going to make this. But I love the intellect of an artist and the type of compositions that those artists work with. So, you know, I always have a reference point for my pieces to get those juices flowing.
But any type of medium that is not mine, I tend to gravitate towards because I always want to expand. I just want to continue to expand. Right now I love Cinema 4D and I love 3D and when I see another medium I'm like, man, I love that too!
Right! And then, how do you converge a new medium, or stylistic influence? That’s great. Your tendency for these pared down, minimal, compositions on gray backgrounds—does that draw from anything in particular?
Does it represent something like, how they're in this purgatory?
Sure! Is there conceptual rigor there?
No, when it comes down to it, that is a stylistic choice because a lot of my figures do exist on a gray background. I love that gray. I feel like it's definitely a neutral base that visually works really well with the pastel colors that I tend to use.
But at the same time—if we're getting into this conceptual zone—these figures that I've been developing over time have been treated as a canvas for experimentation. If I wanted to learn a new technique or try something out, it's nice to have this blank slate with this figure on a gray background to finagle with.
It helps when building a family. I mean, it's nice when people say I have a “style” because I feel like decisions like that—a unifying color palette—is just a testament to what your style is starting to become.
What are your aspirations for moving forward in 3D? Do you have any immediate projects or goals in mind?
I'm working on a new series. GIPHY recently commissioned me to make some animations for this VR exhibition celebrating 30 years of gifs. So I'm working on curating that group of animations and putting it on my website. But currently, I want to get more involved with musicians and sound designers.
I'm starting a new series called Tuesday Tuneage where every Tuesday I'm going to find an artist, probably someone on SoundCloud, and do an animation along with their music. I'm hoping to establish friendships with a lot of these artists because that’s nice.
I don't have a crazy amount of followers on Instagram but I’ve noticed that people are looking at it a little bit more, so I'm hoping to do these fun animations for these songs in simple little loops. Give a shout out. And you know, see where it goes.
Do you have any advice for people aspiring to get into 3D?
Yeah! So if you're starting to dabble in a 3D program that’s great, and Cinema 4D… it is intimidating as hell! But when it comes down to it, it's just another platform for you to learn. Especially if you have a design focus there needs to be this established work ethic that, without hesitation, you're willing to dive headfirst into whatever the industry is shifting towards. 3D programs like Cinema 4D are blowing up right now.
And right now—especially if you're a young aspiring artist—you have this amazing palette of different mediums to work with. You can you take a little dab of that, and then you can mix it with another color, and you eventually start to develop a unique voice while at the same time becoming more savvy with these different programs.
There's this hesitation people have like, There's so many talented voices out there, what right do I have to be able to dive into it? Get all that 💩 out of your head. You're an artist and you have so many opportunities in front of you to get a hold of, and with all these different software you get to develop your own voice.
For me, that’s what pushes me to continue working. As an artist you invest your identity in your work and you want to build a unique voice—and you have all these tools in front of you to really get that tune just right.