Science and Art

I recently stumbled upon an interesting art-related article that I want to share it with you. There are climate change scientists out there searching old paintings for sunsets with vivid colors. They’re trying to pinpoint climate-changing events, like volcanic eruptions, through the painters’ depiction of sunsets (which become much more vivid after large eruptions due to the particles in the air).

It’s a fascinating project, but it’s also very much like scientists to try to objectify something like art. How do they determine whether the artist’s depiction is accurate? I am working on a sunset painting right now, and completely invented the colors and clouds. I hope nobody tries to decipher anything scientific from it. We’re artists, dagnabit… we paint things we see in our heads!


This article interests me for several reasons. First, I’m a nerdy engineer by trade, and science fascinates me. Second, I love nature – both being in it and painting it. An article that discusses both makes me happy. Third, I’m not sure if most artists have a “grand vision,” but I do, and it involves painting nature and technology together. I have many ideas planned out, and I hate to admit it, but the paintings I do now feel like practice for that big, important vision.

Let me know what you think of the article. Also, tell me if you artists have a “grand vision,” and what it’s all about! What motivates you?

8 thoughts on “Science and Art”

  1. Laughing hard at this one. Climate changes based on artist’s skies. Help me up off the floor.

    This is a great post, Meg. I love your focus, and it helps me understand your art better, too.

    I think my grand vision is to grow as an artist. Be evocative. Hmmnn. Need to write all this down.

  2. Well I don’t know abotu climate change but I know that some Famous Vincent Van Gogh painting was dated according to the configuration of stars displayed in its sky…

  3. Interesting there’s no mention of pigments, their properties, or popular contemporary colors, like vermilion, in the late 19th century.

    My current artistic goal is to improve my draftsmanship. Pretty colors can’t disguise a poorly drawn image.

  4. Thanks for the disclaimer on your picture Meg. Now you can rest assured that it won’t be used for climate change reference in the future and the universe will unfold as it should.

    Artistic vision, eh? I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few months and was going to do a post on my own blog closer to the impending New Year, you know, so I have more time to ‘revise my vision’. :D

    Silly scientists…

  5. Thanks, Casey. You should write all that down. Make sure to include a statement about color accuracy, lest some future scientist think tree trunks were yellow and skies bright pink in the 21st century.

    Ced, that’s cool about the star dating! I have no doubt some painters were very accurate in painting what they saw. I was wondering how the scientists told the accurate ones from the more “artistic” ones…

    Lisa, I’d forgotten about that. How accurate can you be with a limited palette? And amen about the draftsmanship – color is just like icing on the cupcake.

    Rita, I’m still a bit worried, since the actual painting isn’t going to have the fine print on it. ;) And I can’t wait to hear your vision – New Year’s would be the perfect time to post it.

  6. Of course, most places with any type of artificial light have little or no good stargazing. Light pollution is a shame.

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