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Mixing blue, aqua, white, and black paint hues.
Learn how egg yolks turn into paint you can use, from an artist and an engineer together.

An Exploration of Art Materials: The Intersection of Art and Science

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APPLY for Second-Round--Review is Rolling


There is growing interest in the intersection of art and science, whether from artists adapting technology to suit their visions or from scientists and engineers seeking to explain various visual effects. To take advantage of possible creative sparks at the art/science interface, it is necessary for fuzzies and techies to have some knowledge of the language used by the other side. This interface will be explored through examining approaches used by an artist and an engineer in the context of the materials science of cultural objects.  In-class lectures, hands-on studio practice, and field trips will be used to illustrate these different perspectives.

Students gathered around professor teaching canvas stretching.

At the heart of the scientific approach is the notion that a cultural object, e.g., a painting, is a physical entity comprising materials with different physical properties and different responses to environmental stresses presented by light, heat, and water. In support of this outlook, in-class lectures and discussions will focus on the basic concepts of color, optics, mechanics, composite structures, and response of the object to environmental stress, and we will visit Bay Area museums to see how artists employ their techniques. The hands-on studio experience is designed to increase students’ confidence and develop their appreciation of differences in materials.  It is not necessary to have any artistic training, only a willingness to experiment. The in-class studio projects will include working with line and shadow; pigments and binders; substrates and writing and hand-made paper.  Students will prepare one essay on a student-selected topic involving the intersection of art and science. Finally, they will complete a project related to one of the thematic areas covered in the hands-on studio sessions and make a final oral presentation describing their project.

Way-CE certification--this course will fulfill the Creative Expression Way (as of SoCo 2018).

Meet the Instructor(s)

Curtis Frank

W. M. Keck, Sr. Professor in Engineering and Professor, by court, of Materials Science and Engineering

Curtis Frank

Curtis Frank has been a faculty member in Chemical Engineering since 1976.  He is the co-founder of the Stanford Center on Polymer Interfaces and Macromolecular Assemblies. His research interests focus on the chemistry and physics of soft materials, including polymers, hydrogels, nanocomposities, phospholipids, and proteins. Recent applications include the development of an artificial cornea, bioanalytical devices for liver tissue engineering, proton exchange membranes for fuel cells, and the green chemistry of biodegradable plastics. Frank is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Sara Loesch-Frank


Sara Loesch-Frank

Sara Loesch-Frank has an M.A. in Art Education from the University of New Mexico and has taught calligraphy and related art forms privately as well as in public schools and California community colleges. Her work has been exhibited locally and nationally. She has won first-place awards at the San Mateo and Santa Clara County fairs and was chosen as the Cupertino Artist of the Year in 1997.