The Chemistry of Spray Paint Art

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Spray paint is a medium that I was introduced to by another artist and let me tell you, this is a really fun way to paint. The way that the image is formed is much different than other types of paint. You can use a clear coat to moisten your work while you are painting. Understanding negative space, lines, and shapes will help your technique. It dries very quickly, so you need to work fast. If you don’t like the way something turns out it is easy to paint over or scrape off while it is still wet. The paint will come out similar to an airbrush which makes this media perfect for stencil work. If you are just starting out don’t get frustrated. The more you work with this media, the better you will get with controlling the spray and knowing what result will come from various techniques. Experimenting with different tools and types of spray paint will add to your creation.

Spray paint is an aerosol which means you will breathe it in if you do not protect yourself. Always wear a face mask and gloves because it will get messy. Besides, the mask makes you look like a rock star and you will want gloves on to flick paint splatter on your painting. This media is best used outside not just for ventilation, but also because it will get everywhere. Keep in mind that the paint will dry faster if it is hot out. It is easy to make a lot of paintings very quickly which makes spray paint art really fun. Depending on the surface you are painting, you may need to start with primer. I like to use glossy poster board because it is inexpensive and ready to use. Understanding your tools is the key to creating the images that you want. In addition to stencils you can use cans, magazine pages, plates, putty knives, and even brushes depending on what you are trying to do.

The spray paint contains a propellant in addition to the paint. The propellant is a gas that is under so much pressure that it becomes a liquid through a process called condensation. That liquid mixes with the paint and when you press the nozzle the pressure is releases through the nozzle creating the paint mist that comes out of the can. The liquid propellant wants to be a gas at normal atmospheric pressure, so be careful because the contents are under high amounts of pressure to liquify the propellant. The ball bearing inside the can mixes the paint with the liquid propellant which is what you want. Shake well while you are working with the spray paint to get the best proportions of paint to propellant. 013

There are different types of spray paint available depending on the type of surface you are painting. General purpose and craft paint can be purchased at any hardware store. You will want to pay attention to the type of spray paint that you can get. Acrylic, latex, tempera, enamel, and oil will act very differently. Oil and water do not mix so if you decide to use paints with differing oil contents you will want to layer the higher oil content on top of paints with a lower oil content. The gloss makes a huge difference as well. If you are going to layer gloss paints start with the lowest gloss (matte) under higher gloss layers. Happy painting.

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The Art of Immunohistochemistry

Immunohistochemistry is a method that is used to detect antigens in tissue sections and cells using antibodies. It is a reaction that is based on antigens and antibodies of a tissue. There are two ways that I use IHC for drug development. The first is IHC detection of a common CD marker to identify a particular cell type in a tissue. The second use of IHC is for what is referred to as tissue cross reactivity. In tissue cross reactivity, the antibody (i.e. drug) is put on naive tissue and then detected so that we can see where the antibody is binding under a microscope. We want the antibody to bind to its target without binding to anything else. By identifying the target and engineering the antibody to target it, we are able to develop medications that will serve a specific purpose based on the epitope of the protein that it is meant to bind to.

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The tissue is sectioned on a cryostat or microtome and can be fresh frozen or paraffin embedded. There are different methods  that are needed for paraffin tissues compared to fresh frozen tissues. For successful IHC staining of paraffin embedded tissues, an antigen retrieval step is needed in the assay. Some common ways we perform antigen retrieval include heat induced retrieval, and the application of proteolytic enzyme solutions such as Trypsin or Proteinase K. Fixation is important to preserve the morphology and target proteins in the tissue. Paraformaldehyde is a common fixative, however, acetone, methanol, and a combination of acetone and paraforamlehyde are also used. It is crucial to test multiple fixations to select the most appropriate condition for the tissue and the target proteins.

We need to quench endogenous peroxidase activity because the enzymes peroxidase and alkaline phosphatase are often used in IHC to convert the colorless chromagens into colored end products for detection of antibody binding. The idea is to detect the antibody binding with minimal background staining. Common causes of increased background could indicate that the concentration of the antibody is too high so it is important to test multiple concentrations to select the optimal concentration to use for the assay. Endogenous avidin binding activity can also lead to increased background staining which can be blocked by treating the tissue with biotin. Sometimes polymer-based detection methods can also cause background staining which can be decreased by increasing the quantity and time period for wash steps between reagent treatments.

Depending on the primary antibody (i.e. the drug or CD marker), a secondary and possibly a tertiary antibody is needed. Think of it as building a ladder to amplify the signal of where the antibody is binding while blocking all of the background noise so that we can see what is happening. There are many reagents available to develop the method for an IHC assay, so there are multiple methods, reagents, concentrations, and incubation times that can render the same result. We find the best method for detection of the antibody within the assay and then identify target and non-target binding of the antibody to determine the safety and effectiveness of the drug.iPhone June2015 195

A pathologist is able to analyze the slides to identify any binding of the antibody to the tissues. The staining on the tissues can be quite remarkable. Seeing the results of an IHC stain is like looking at a painting once it is complete. Instead of brushes and paint we are using reagents and antibodies. The tools we use in the laboratory work together to create a window into what is happening inside of our bodies. As simple as it sounds to cure disease or make medicine, it is much more complex just as our bodies are indefinitely complex. By building on the knowledge of those before us and continuing research we will advance medical technology and have the capability to save more lives than we ever thought possible.

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The Art of Pyrotechnics

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I have always been fascinated with fire, but fireworks take the cake. If you are close enough you can hear the sound of it whistling through the air before the big BOOM that fills the sky with radiant colors. That boom is what really gets my heart pumping. The colorful, sparkling display of light is not only awe inspiring, but represents a feeling of celebration and wonderland. I can’t help but to think about how exciting it must be to design a fireworks show. The timing, the colors, the shapes we can make are all part of the art that is…blowing stuff up.

There are many different types of fireworks including sparklers, skyrockets, and flying spinners. The color is created by heating the metal salts. Red is caused by strontium and lithium salts, orange by calcium salts, yellow by sodium salts, green by barium and chlorine, blue by copper and chlorine, purple by mixing the red and blue strontium and copper compounds, and silver by aluminum, titanium, or magnesium. The reaction can be explained by the basic chemistry of oxidation and reduction reactions. The appearance is determined by how the components are arranged in the shell. Timing the ignition is done with different types of fuses or with a control panel designed to ignite them from a distance.

Fireworks are not the only pyrotechnics that we get to enjoy. They are also special effects that are used in film to simulate explosions, smoke, and flames. Flames can also be used for a dramatic effect on stage during a concert. Performance can be illuminated for fire dancers with choreographed routines to music. Fire eating or fire breathing is not just for the circus, but also used in flair bar tending. Just as the color of fireworks is determined by the metal salts that are heated, the color and amount of heat produced by fire is determined by what chemical is ignited.

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Before you decide to start lighting things on fire, remember that you are setting off dangerous chemical reactions as beautiful as they can be. Fire needs three things to survive: oxygen, fuel, and heat. All of the ingredients are present and available to cause a potential for disaster. Pyrotechnicians are responsible for the safe storage, handling, and functioning of their devices just as you should be with home fireworks. That being said, try not to burn the neighborhood down or blow yourself up. The ability to control the chemical reactions is what makes pyrotechnics both an art and a science.

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The Chemistry of Oil Painting

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I will admit that oil paints are not my primary go-to medium, but for many artists it is preferred. I like to work with acrylic paint because it is water soluble and generally don’t need to worry about paint fumes. There are many reasons, however, to choose oil paint as a media. Oil paints dry very slowly which allows the artist to manipulate the paint longer and remove areas of paint that they do not like. My interest is particularly peaked because of the ability to work on reflective images without snagging your brush in partially dried paint. I prefer to paint using layers which is why I have gravitated toward the faster drying time of acrylic, but oil paints can be layered as well. This method of layering is called indirect painting whereas direct painting is used to create images in a single application.

The chemicals used in oil paints and with the paint can be toxic, so it is important to understand what you are working with. Certain pigments and metals in the paint are more dangerous than others such as cadmium, lead, copper, and cobalt. There are many other toxic pigments that can be found in paint, but when used properly and safely there is nothing to worry about. Just like we would in a laboratory, it is important to use the appropriate protective gear for the chemicals we are using. Anyone that has had experience with painting knows that it takes a lot of time sitting in front of your piece before it is complete, so ventilation is a must. Wash your hands and don’t eat or drink when you are painting to avoid ingestion. If you plan to use powdered pigments, wear a face mask to avoid inhalation.

Other chemicals to be aware of are of the diluent and solvent arena. Turpentine is used as a paint thinner and also in the production of varnishes. In addition to the flammable and corrosive traits of turpentine, it is a carcinogen. Lucky for us, there are alternatives to using turpentine that I would highly recommend. Citrus thinner is made from citrus oil. It smells better and is not harmful like turpentine. Still, it is important to use it in a ventilated area. In addition, linseed oil and walnut oil can be used to thin oil paints. Now we get to my main concern with oil paints: drying time. Alkyd mediums such as Liquin by Winsor & Newton or Gamsol by Gamblin will speed up the time it takes for the oil paint to dry. Gamblin also makes alkyd oil paint that dries faster than traditional oil paints without the extra step.

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When used properly there is nothing to fear about using oil paints. Mixing the wrong things can lead to health issues, so understanding the chemicals you are working with is very important. There are plenty of mediums to use with oil paint just as there are with acrylic paint to get the texture, transparency, and definition that you are trying to achieve. Linseed oil and walnut oil will increase the flow of the paint and soften edges. Citrus thinner will result in a sharper edge, but can dry more chalky. Using equal parts of oil and citrus thinner will result in sharper edges without the chalky appearance. Now it is time to get painting.

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Dance and Kinesiology

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The most fascinating thing to me about dancers is more than their coordination, grace, and balance, but their flexibility. It is a physical attribute that dancers have to work on in addition to physical exercise. Flexibility is about more than just the muscle, but also joints, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue. Babies are extremely flexible because they have more cartilage where adults have calcified bone. Some factors will limit flexibility such as age, bone structure, fatty tissue, and injury. Ligaments and tendons do not stretch, they tear and cause injury which leads to a shorter range of motion. Avoiding injury is very important to a dancer because it will set back their training while their body heals. As with any physical training, if flexibility is not maintained it will be lost.

Kinesiology is the the scientific study of human movement. This is an important topic for scientific fields including healthcare and biomedical research and development. Kinesiology incorporates the physiological, mechanical, and psychological mechanisms of movement. Understanding how it all works not only helps us to develop within sports and exercise, but for rehabilitation as well. Adaptive plasticity is a principle in kinesiology that describes how practice will improve performance. Physical activity effects the brain and damage to the brain, such as following a stroke, can have a negative effect. Flexibility and strength are more complex than just muscle, the brain and nerves are key contributors.

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Regardless of the tools an artist uses, the most important factor to being successful is to practice. Dancers need to be flexible, but they also need balance, timing, coordination, and strength.  The choreography is just as important as the dancer’s skill. Just as a music piece must be composed, dance also needs to be written to arrange the movement, steps, and patterns of the dancers. Dance and competition have been emphasized by television networks with shows such as Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and Breaking Pointe to name a few. I prefer to watch performance arts live in theater because that is the most impressive place to witness this beautiful art form.

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The Art and Science of Filmmaking

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There is  a reason why movies have been called motion pictures; It is because they were pictures. Images were consecutively placed next to each other and shown at 16-24 frames per second to create the illusion of continuous movement. We can mimic this by drawing consecutive pictures on the pages of a pad of paper and then flipping the pages. The faster we flip, the faster the images move. Cartoons were made the same way. Etienne-Jules Marey invented the chronophotographic gun which was a camera shaped like a gun that could take 12 pictures per second. The term “shooting” a film seems like a relevant term. Marey’s interest in film was brought on by scientific curiosity about bird flight and resulted in the first series of images taken with the same instrument as opposed to multiple cameras.

We have come a long way since the rolls of film stock were used for making movies. Now everyone with a smartphone also has a video camera. Cinematography is the art of making films and there are a lot more aspects to the craft than pushing the record button. The aspect ratio is the proportion of width and height of an image. With an inappropriate ratio, images can look squished or stretched. Lighting is extremely important to visual story telling as it can determine the mood. Movement of not only the subject matter, but the camera itself will have an affect on the feel and fluidity of the movie. Slow motion scenes or a freeze frame can have a dramatic effect. Deciding how to use all of these tools to make a film is truly an art.

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Special effects are my favorite part of film. I like the older movies where I can tell the special effects are fake. That makes the movie feel more like a play to me. There are two categories of special effects, optical and mechanical. Mechanical effects are usually part of the live action shooting of the scene. That includes makeup, weather, set, and explosions. Optical effects are how they can place actors against a different background from where the film was shot. Computer generated imagery (CGI) uses computer graphics to create the special effects of a film. That is how they created the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and the planet from Avatar. There is no limit to what we can do with film now. The ideas that arise from the creative power that film has given us could have practical application in the science world and not just the science fiction world.

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Perspective and Perception

Perspective is what makes a picture look real. It is how we are able to take a flat piece of paper and make the image look like it is three dimensional. Understanding how to use size, shadow, and angles in a piece is the key to making the subject matter stand out. There are many different types of perspective in artwork such as one-point, two-point, and aerial. those are just a few examples. Perspective can get much more complex if we add more points of perspective. It is much simpler to explain how to create perspective by looking at a photograph. Objects that are farther away are smaller than objects closest to the viewer. With practice, perspective will come naturally without as much thought. Using a picture of what we are trying to draw or paint will help as a reference guide for how to place objects, shading, and highlights to get the result we are looking for.

Perspective
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I have heard the terms perspective and perception used interchangeably. For example, altering your perception means to look at an issue from a different perspective. The same perspective can look different if your perception changes. Looking at an object from a different angle will change both the perspective and perception of the subject matter. The same is true for things that are not tangible such as approaching a problem, for example. Many factors can affect our perception such as mood and alternate stimuli. Smell and sound can have a strong influence on how we perceive something in addition to the visual aspect of the subject. Various color schemes will change the mood of a piece which will have an affect on the viewer.010

Perception is not just physical in terms of senses, it is also the way it is interpreted which will vary for each individual. Places we have been, experiences we have had, and expectations will all alter perception. The way it all works is not so simple. Psychological and brain sciences are subjects of interest that have been pursued by researchers, philosophers, and universities for quite some time. Knowing how a piece of artwork will be perceived by a particular person is seemingly impossible. It is best to be concerned with accurate perspective in a piece rather than to try and force a perception out of a piece. As an artist I know what my perception of my work is and I do not expect others to “see” what I do in it. In fact, I am more interested in what others perceive.

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Science and The Art of Glass Blowing

I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to see real live glass blowing. Until I got a chance to see the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA, glass blowing was something I had only seen on the Discovery channel. The possibilities for what can be made from glass are endless.

Museum of Glass
Museum of Glass

The Museum of Glass features artists in addition to their permanent and outdoor collections. The artist designs the piece, and then it is forged in the hot shop which is open to the public for viewing. The hot shop is a unique feature that I have not seen at other museums. While the team works, the audience can learn about the process and ask questions. The shop is kid friendly and provides opportunities for children to submit design entries for a chance to have their design made.

Silica is the main ingredient in glass which they refer to as sand. Soda ash is added to the Silica to lower the melting temperature and increase fluidity. Calcium oxide increases the chemical stability and strength of the glass. Additional ingredients are added to soften the glass, prevent the formation of crystals, increase the durability, and increase the brilliance. The Museum of Glass compares the glass recipe to that of chocolate chip cookies, however glass is not edible no matter how delicious it looks. The glass is heated to over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit when it is ready to blow. If you really want to see real life magic The Rupert’s Drop is a must watch. Hitting the drop with a hammer will not break it, but breaking the tail causes the drop to explode.

Chihuly Garden and Glass
Chihuly Garden and Glass

The Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, WA is another breathtaking glass museum featuring indoor and outdoor glass artwork. If you have a chance to see it in the evening, I strongly suggest it because that is when the garden really comes to life. It is a long-term exhibition near the famous Space Needle in Seattle Center. The displays are enormous and the most extravagant and appealing that I have ever seen. Dale Chihuly has an exhibition of his drawings on view at The Museum of Glass for a short time. Mediums for these drawings include graphite, charcoal, and acrylic. Any design that can be drawn on paper can be transformed into glass which is truly amazing. This is an opportunity to see the science of glass blowing and art come together.

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The Chemistry of Acrylics

Acrylic paint is my favorite media to work with. It dries quickly which makes it easy to layer and cleans up effortlessly with soap and water. The paint is not as diluted as watercolor, but can be manipulated to produce a sheer look. The colors available are unlimited and can be mixed to create unique hues. My favorite acrylic paints are Liquitex professional acrylics. I also use Liquitex Basics which are still great paints at a reasonable price. The nice part about their paints is that they are formulated to be inter-mixable which removes any worry about compatibility. There are also many types of mediums available to change the texture and transparency of the acrylic paint.

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Understanding how the type of media we are using works allows us to manipulate what products we are using to achieve a desired result. Acrylic paint is water soluble which means that it can be diluted easily with water or used with other water soluble mediums. Since oil and water don’t mix, it is important to use media that is compatible. Mixing chemicals can not only be dangerous, but also affect the way the paint behaves when it is used. Only hydrophilic materials will dissolve in water. Water is a polar molecule with the Hydrogen ends slightly positive and the negative ends slightly negative. Non-polar molecules have a neutral charge and have neither a positive or a negative end. These non-polar molecules are hydrophobic and get repelled by water.

Knowing how to use mediums will produce more flexibility in how the paint can be used. Since acrylic paint dries so quickly, it can become frustrating to work with if you need it to dry more slowly. The amount of time the paint stays wet and workable is referred to as open time. Gel mediums will increase the open time, add body, and extend the volume of the paint.

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Fluid mediums reduce the viscosity of the paint making it thinner and increases the flow of the paint. They can be used to dilute the paint instead of using water and will ensure the paint does not crack when it dries. Over diluting with water could break down the viscosity of the paint too much for the desired result.

The surface you choose to paint is just as important as the paints you choose to work with. I prefer to work on stretched canvas that has been coated with a layer of Gesso. This is a very inexpensive surface primer that works best on porous surfaces such as canvas, wood, and paper. The stretched canvas available in common craft stores are ready to use and already have a coating of Gesso on them. If you plan to make your own canvas, I would suggest at least two coats of Gesso to prepare it. Once the painting is complete I suggest using a water based polymer protective finish such as Minwax Polycrylic which can be purchased at a local hardware store. Given this basic understanding of acrylic paints, it is now time to create; Happy painting!

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Music and The Human Body

The affect that music has on us is a media that film makers are very familiar with. An exciting action packed scene could have a quicker beat such as techno while a sad scene will have a slower rhythm. The power that music has to make us feel is obvious, but it leave the question of why it has an affect. We perceive images differently based on the music that is playing in the background. Emotions are often tied to memories or personal experiences that had an intense resonance on our lives. Certain songs or musical artists that we listened to dominantly for a certain period of our lives can bring back emotions and memories tied to that time period that had been forgotten for so long. That cannot be the only reason that music makes us feel a certain way. We feel emotion through music even when we have never heard that particular song or genre before.

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Before a person has had experiences or even experienced the world outside of the womb, music has an affect. An unborn fetus responds to different types of music. Their preference is for rhythms and tempos that are the same as their own heart rate or their mother’s. A rhythm similar to their mother’s heart rate or voice has a calming effect. Many researchers believe that the earlier we are exposed to music the better because it helps us to develop memory, language, rhythm, and coordination. Music arguably has an extraordinary positive affect on learning, self-expression, and self-esteem. Unfortunately, when budget cuts come into play, music is one of the first subjects cut from school curriculum.

Dr. Alfred Tomatis used music and sound to assist patients with learning disabilities, depression, attention deficit disorder, and autism to name a few. There is a real and scientific reason why children learn better through song. Anyone that has had children or remembers school as a child knows that children remember songs; that is how we learn our A-B-C’s. Popular children’s shows, such as Dora The Explorer and Sesame Street, use song to teach children. Music is fun and children often don’t realize they are learning while they are singing. Children are not the only ones that benefit from the power of music. We use music to market products, give us the motivation to power through exercise, and create an emotionally triggering piece of film among many other things.

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How it all works is remarkable. The sound waves vibrate the ear drum, are amplified, and sent to the cochlea which causes the fluid inside to ripple. Hair cells create electrical signals from the ripple that travel to the brain, and that amazing brain of ours translates that signal into the sound we recognize. From there we are affected based on both individual and social psychology, tempo, pitch, and much more. Explaining why it affects us is more difficult than explaining how we physically hear. It would be beneficial to use this powerful tool to develop our society, our children, and our quality of life.

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