Protein Portraits

         The aesthetic alchemy of life

Archive for 2016 posts

June 22, 2016

Play this game to help researchers!

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 4:58 pm

Hi all,

I wanted to say thanks for a great semester, and wanted to share this cool game I found! Foldit is a protein folding game was developed by the University of Washington. As more people play the game, researchers at UW can see more unique approaches to protein folding and gain a better understanding of it. (In case the link above doesn’t work, here it is again:

Have a great summer!


May 25, 2016

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 11:50 am

Protein Portraits 2016

May 23, 2016

Google Doc Caption

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 11:51 am

Below is the link for art captions. Please ensure your caption and PDB picture stay on one page. Once you are done, remember to put your project and name in the ballot on the last page.

May 17, 2016

Ideas for Keratin potrayal

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 1:00 pm

52d36ac9503c0ca563a86fedd1b50874 2014-01-30 08.40.48 Curling-Ribbon IMG_3986_small2 nsmb.2330-F1 spiral_scarf_v1

Here are some interesting possibilities for my protein (keratin) portrait. I’m thinking about using wool as a medium, since wool is a type of keratin. Tomorrow in class I’d love to share my goals for the project and brainstorm with you all!

May 15, 2016

Comic Book Panels

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 5:09 pm


So, if you guys were to read a comic at a presentation, how much context/background story would you feel comfortable with before getting bored? I presently have about 10 panels.

May 13, 2016

3D painting!

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 5:26 pm

I just found out that Google has made 3D painting a reality. I think this would make the art of making a protein portrait easier. As their website states: “Your room is your canvas. Your palette is your imagination. The possibilities are endless.” I also really like the fact that this product is sustainable; you can create so many things using very few material products. I guess my only concern with this is how you would be able to present your art work.
Check it out! (Don’t forget to press play):

May 9, 2016

Medium for my project

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 3:33 pm


This is my paining/art piece from years ago.  For my project, I will be using this method: I will be using acrylics to paint the molecule and then after putting several layers of it, I will then pour blank paint/ink all over the paper.  After a couple of minutes, I will then use a sponge to rinse off the ink.

Microbial Cross-stitching

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 9:59 am
May 7, 2016


Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 12:34 pm

Articles About the Structure of Gluten

The structure and properties of gluten: an elastic protein from wheat grain

Structure and Function of Gluten Proteins

Circular Dichroism and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopic Analysis of Immunogenic Gluten Peptides and Their Analogs

Optical Rotatory Dispersion, Circular Dichroism, and Infrared Studies of Wheat Gluten Proteins in Various Solvents

My biggest hangup right now is interpreting what the data in these papers means and how I’d put it in a visual form. I realize it’s open for some interpretation, but I want to strive for SOME accuracy. I’m definitely going to use gluten as the medium because it has some interesting properties that make it worth utilizing to depict its structure.

Experimenting with My Medium

Gluten Project Experiment

What I’ve found by playing around with gluten is that it’s stickiest and most elastic when mixed with tap water. However, if too much water is added, the elasticity is lost and the mixture segments into smaller bits. Here it is mixed with excess water:


Solutions, Baking vs Air-Drying

One of the first things I tried was mixing it with oil (left), vinegar (second from left), some water (second form right), more water (right). Then I baked it to see what would happen (bottom). After baking, the sample with oil got really crumbly, but the others stuck to the board without issue. The variations in water quantity were the most beneficial to play around with. I’ve decided a against baking because it sort of smooths out the surface, causes some bubbling, and I don’t really like that – I’d rather have the rough texture minus the bubbles.

before_baking_IMG_0053-001 after_baking_IMG_0058-001
This picture shows the gluten with different quantities of water after they have air dried, rather than baking.


After reading this article about bread chemistry, I decided to experiment with salt water. I started out making a super concentrated salt water and mixed it with the gluten and the consistency is more granular – it’s not elastic at all. Even by diluting the salt water, the mixture just lacks elasticity when salt is involved.

Planning the Piece

I’m also trying to think of contexts, and I’m stuck in a more artistic mindset so I’m envisioning a wheat field, or the inside of a person’s intestinal tract, but I could also do something more abstract looking. Without knowing much about the structure of gluten, I’m leaning more toward the abstract layout. I want to use the stretchiness and natural shapes that emerge from pulling the gluten over the board. Maybe utilize the different textures of the gluten when mixed with excess water, little water, and/or salt water. Here’s a sketch of what I’m thinking:


I have an 8″ x 10″ cradled wood panel because the gluten adheres really well to wood and I think it’s going to be a nice surface to work on. I have tubes of watercolor paint that can be easily mixed with the water I add to the gluten, so I should have lots of flexibility with colors.


Since the gluten I’ll be working with will be hydrated, I think using blues for the “holes” and a warm color, such as orange or sienna, for the web-like part will provide some context to the piece. Below is just a sample I did to see how well the paint mixes with the gluten.


Once I get the gluten layered on the board I can come back in with paints and add in details to explain the amino acid sequences of some of it or mark out hydrogen bonds, etc.


Feedback, suggestions, whatever! Let me know what you think.

***Update 5/10****

First layer done; wet, then after drying:






image image

Update 5/23/16

May 4, 2016

Book Sculpture

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 12:27 am

My current idea is to turn a book (The Linus Pauling Catalogue, which I got at OSUsed!) into my art piece. Specifically, I intend to cut the pages in layers (like so:

and the 8th one on to show normal and sickle cell hemoglobin, since they were the subject of some of Pauling’s research.

I may also include a collage aspect, interspersing pictures in the layers of hemoglobin. Here is an example of the collage style I want to achieve:

May 2, 2016

Another cool post (I think! ;)

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 11:22 pm

An amazing glowing gown worn by Claire Daines (have to scroll down a bit to see the gown glowing)–maybe an inspiration for anybody who wants to delve into their protein portraits from either fluorescence or fashion side, or both!

Inspiration for fluorescent protein enthusiasts: New Jellyfish Discovered!

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 10:57 pm

Here is a link to an article that talks about the recently found species of jellyfish in the Mariana Trench:

Here is a live-stream of the expedition that led to the discovery of this jellyfish (off topic, but live streams are pretty cool! :D):

Found my medium: InstaMorph

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 11:17 am

Clear Worbla Rose

InstaMorph Groot Sculpture

Over the weekend, while watching youtube videos, I discovered the world of thermal plastic art! Worbla is sheet thermal plastic while InstaMorph (there are many other names for this) is pellet thermal plastic you heat in water and then mold. I started searching different applications of InstaMorph. It is used in a lot of Cosplay, but also for basic utilities for fixing mechanical devices that are broken.

InstaMorph Cosplay Mask

I wasn’t sure how feasible it would be to use it as a medium at first, but then I saw a finger splint that looks like an alpha helix! The different components, when shaped, can be reformed if more hot water is added. For my project, I will make the different secondary structure components separately, then I will reheat then to create the tertiary structure.

The medium has also made me reconsider my protein choice. Doing a transmembrane protein that is very complex will be very hard to scale correctly.

McGill and Johnson interviewed by David Goodsell

Filed under: 2016 posts @ 9:26 am

“Images of molecules are becoming more and more common in educational and entertainment media. These pictures are often created by computer graphics artists using state-of-the-art programs such as Maya and Cinema4D. However, the methods used to import PDB structures into these advanced programs can be challenging. David Goodsell recently spoke with two molecular graphics professionals to see what is available and what still needs to be done.”

Very cool.  Three protein artists discussing their artistic techniques as well as the creative motivations and economic opportunities that have brought them to their current and growing mastery of the artform.  To read the full interview click Interview at PDB 101!

April 27, 2016

The waltz

Filed under: 2016 posts @ 10:52 am

Let’s look some more at the art and science of protein translation:



















The waltz of polypeptides







MoM ribosomeMy Description

rRNA sketch






April 21, 2016

Insulin depiction by Dorothy Hodgkin

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 7:36 pm


This is a color diagram showing the crystal structure of insulin as depicted by Dorothy Hodgkin, the woman we talked about in class Wednesday. I love how much it looks like a true artwork.

Click to go to Margaret Almon's mosaic blog. Beautiful!

Click to go to Margaret Almon’s glass mosaic web blog where she comments on “Art in the Atoms”. Beautiful!

April 20, 2016

Agar Art

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 8:07 pm

Agar ArtAgarArt_ThankYou1

I have attached a few pictures from Agar Art events I helped organize this year through the Department of Microbiology (inspired by the ASM Agar Art Contest). I wanted to share them because I think it’s a really cool and unique way to combine art and science to create something amazing. The images were used to create greeting cards and the Microbiology Student Association might use them to make coasters.


Polymer Clay

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 1:07 pm

I thought this technique might be something some of you may like to try. Could be turned into something wearable such as earrings 😉

Using Protein Shapes as Outlines

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 12:44 pm

Here’s an interesting idea that people may want to consider. Rather than focus specifically on the protein and its function, we could instead find shapes in the protein structure  and use them to create drawings of things important in our lives, such as family or hobbies. Here is a blog showcasing what I mean.

Beauty of Microscopy Blog

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 11:11 am

From ZEISS Microscopy, “Confocal microscopy of mouse brain, detail” “Depth coded projection (colour) image of mouse hippocampus sections of thy1-GFP line. Stained with GFP and imaged with ZEISS ELYRA PS.1 with LSM 780 confocal option. Tiling & stitching with ZEN software generates hi-res confocal maps, make sure to download in full resolution and zoom in. Sample courtesy of Yi Zuo, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology (MCDB) Department, University of California Santa Cruz.”

Mouse Hippocampus sections of thy1-GFP line

I discovered a blog called the Beauty of Microscopy a while back when I wanted to find a cool science wallpaper for my computer. There are some really great images of microscopic perspectives.


Confocal microscopy of plant tissues

Confocal microscopy of plant tissue


Have A Very Micro Christmas!
A growing snowflake by Kenneth Libbrecht

Growing Snowflake

April 19, 2016

Can the class see this post?

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 11:34 pm

I believe tomorrow is 4/20/2016

Inspiration: art that depict symmetric/circular structures

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 9:12 pm

Since there are so many people who like circular protein structures in this class, I thought I would share this link with y’all! Check out some mesmerizing kinetic sculptures designed and made by Anthony Howe. Although his work is not inspired by protein structures, I feel like he is inspired by objects that are symmetric and intricate, like some of the proteins we have seen. Also, going along with the idea of art that portrays the function of a protein, I think that if he were to create kinetic sculptures based off of protein structures, he could use his art to theorize the movements/change in configurations that enable proteins to function!

April 17, 2016

For the Crocheters and Knitters

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 10:06 pm

Check out these crocheted structures:

March 30, 2016

The Best Scientific Image Of The Year Was A Hand-Painted Watercolor of Ebola Virus by David Goodsell

Filed under: 2016 posts,Student posts @ 12:12 pm

Check it out!

Boyer’s early portrait (model) of ATPsynthase

Filed under: 2016 posts @ 10:29 am


This is a portrait of ATP synthase, circa 1979.  Circular motion was not an intrinsic requirement for this model, but the picture compels us to imagine a pinwheel-like motion relative to the central axis, does it not?

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