In an earlier post I’d shown some of the first stages of two new paintings. One was on tropocollagen, the other on the quantum mechanics of hydrogen. I have some more progress on the “hydrogen” painting and a new start on one tentatively based on string theory. So for the sake of having working titles, let’s call them “Hydrogen”, “String”, and “Collagen”.
“Hydrogen” has begun to present a bit of a challenge. There is a prior image of a bare bones blue background. I added the equations – derivation for the hydrogen single electron problem. I have not yet added the solutions corresponding to s- p- d- and f- orbital shapes. Having taught at the college level for a number of years, I’m a bit wary of painting a cheat sheet. Perhaps chugging through the final bit of mathematics should be left as an exercise for the devoted art collector?
Math isn’t the major challenge with this painting. When I started adding the 2-D typical textbook style shapes of the orbitals I began to realize that I really wanted them to be 3-D. So how does one incorporate orbitals into a painting (or the half that sticks out from the plane)? Ideally they should be translucent, shell-like, with enough crinkle and crunch to ensure that we don’t forget uncertainty and tunneling. Even when scale and form are a but wild compared to a technical figure, I do like to attempt to be true to the concepts.
I first tried to build a transparent hemisphere by weaving strips of cellophane, using a balloon as a template. The result was poor (and now there are strips of cellophane glued to random surfaces in my workspace). What is translucent, malleable yet stiff enough to hold a form, and able to absorb acrylic media? Fabric? So, I purchased some sheer lining fabric and some tulle netting, and began to build a hemisphere.
So far there is just one layer – the base of the hemisphere. The acrylic media I’ve been using are too flexible for the effect I want. There is another medium, one of Golden’s GAC’s that can be used to sculpt and stiffen fabrics. The next steps for “hydrogen” now involve getting the GAC and building up the s-orbital. Once the s is complete, I’ll be able to make some decisions about p and d (Leave f for the inorganic chemists).
The last of this grouping is again a a bare bones background. I like the way the swirled shapes remind me of particle tracks and cloud chamber patterns. So why strings? Aside from the pun on threads of media that look like Silly String ? Well, I’ve found a purpose for all that cellophane that is no good for orbitals. It can be added to the surface of the painting in fairly complex folds. An extra tightly folded dimension that we can’t really see, added to the surface of an acrylic painting. What else could it be about? And I’m sure someone will complain about the dimensional limits of cellophane, but I don’t make the universe, I just try to work in it.