The Particle Accelerator Series: When atom smashers were first invented, particle arrays were actually photographed in a machine called a bubble chamber. About the size of a school bus, it was first situated along the circumference of a particle accelerator (a miles-long, circular underground tunnel). The bubble chamber was filled with liquid hydrogen, which was then superheated and pressurized. When a liquid is superheated (brought to beyond its boiling point without actually boiling), the slightest disturbance will instantly start the liquid boiling. That’s why it’s dangerous to overheat water in a microwave. Looks innocent enough, but it explodes when you touch it. A single atom of hydrogen is sent flying around the accelerator, faster and faster until it’s traveling just under the speed of light. Then it’s directed into the prepared bubble chamber. The atom explodes into subatomic particles, which leave trails of tiny bubbles in the liquid hydrogen as they pass through. In that instant, a photograph is taken. Here‘s an example of one (it was the model for the first painting below). The higher-energy particles appear almost as straight lines; the lower-energy ones curl into tight loops and spirals. Negatively-charged particles curve to the left; positively-charged particles curve to the right. You can find these images on the net, with some work. I found them fascinating, and wanted to bring color and life to these enigmatic scenes. After waiting for the background color to dry, I traced the particle tracks with pastel pencil, and sprayed on a workable fixative. The bubbles are thousands of tiny individual beads of paint, applied with a no. 0 brush. After the beads dry (several weeks) I apply a clear gloss varnish. These paintings feel like Braille.

Particle Accelerator 1

Particle Accelerator 2

Particle Accelerator 3

Particle Accelerator 4

This is based on a micro-photograph of a moth’s wing.

Moth Wing

A compilation of several different images of the sun.

Faerie Sun

My very first oil painting.

Clouded Leopard

This is based on a micro-photograph of a butterfly’s wing.

Butterfly Wing