For this month’s challenge, create a stylistic and intriguing artwork that uses something that others commonly think of as yucky!

If we look at the world of modern art (1860s to 1970s), we see a prolific period that produced an abundance of art styles and philosophies. Throughout history, artists have changed their approach and subject matter to evolve their style.

When thinking of evolving style, one name comes to mind: Pablo Picasso. His name is linked with significant art movements—Cubism, Symbolism and Surrealism, and he also invented collage. Picasso created work in many disciplines, including painting, sculpting, ceramics, poetry, stage design and writing. His painting traces his stylistic shift from his early works to the Blue Period to Analytical and Synthetic Cubism and so on. Each of these periods showed an evolution in his style and is easily recognized.

La Vie is a painting by Pablo Picasso. The painting has three central figures; a woman holding a child on the right, and a women leaning on a man on the left. In the middleground appears an outline of a sitting figure, and in the background is a couple sitting on the ground sheltering and embracing each other. The painting is created using shades of blue and blue-green, this gives it a somewhat sombre mood.
La Vie – 1903. Pablo Picasso

Picasso’s Blue Period artworks use essentially monochromatic shades of blue-green and blue. His subject matter is representational and easy to recognize. His analytical cubist artworks also used a limited, almost monochromatic color palette. However, his subject matter appears almost abstract due to the stylization of form. The still lifes and people in his cubist works are fractured into rudimentary shapes and overlapping planes.

Still Life with a Bottle of Rum is an oil painting by Pablo Picasso. It appears abstract as the subject matter is split into shapes showing the objects from a variety of viewpoint (plain). This makes the painting appear chaotic, but it has a rhythm due to the use of lines and arcs.
Still Life with a Bottle of Rum – 1911. Pablo Picasso

Picasso is an excellent example of how artists can use stylistic choice to create intentional work in various ways; color palette and representation and abstraction are one way.

This month’s SciComm challenge has an emphasis on style and appearance! We are challenging you to take something that others commonly think of as yucky and create a visually appealing or intriguing artwork. 

As science communicators and artists, we have the power to transform scary, complex, yucky, hidden, unseen or underappreciated things into intriguing or beautiful learning experiences. Parasites, viruses, mold, decay… all of these things might have hidden aspects of beauty or broader meaning. The power of visual science communication is to reveal these hidden aspects.

We are taking inspiration from the Lifeology University SciComm Program course on Style in Science Communication.

View the course

In this course, professor Massimiano Bucchi and illustrator Jordan Collver show why and how style can be a signal of quality in science communication. Learn more from Massi and Jordan about the rationale and process for creating this course here!

A vinyl record, an artwork and a book with the text: Remember (Tip 1) Science communication is not just about providing accurate information. It is part of culture. When it's good, it can be enjoyed similarly to art literature and music.
A DNA Paint by Numbers with the text Tip 2 - Good quality science communication has several dimesnions. There is no universal golden standard nor straightforward, prescriptive recipe. (Collaboration is a good ingredient, though!)
DNA in the style of Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Vincent Van Gogh and Juan Miro with the text. Tip #3 learning to recognize style - and different types of styles - helps us recognise multiple dimensions of qualith in science communication.

The Challenge

Create a stylistic and intriguing artwork that uses something that others commonly think of as yucky – microorganisms (bacteria, archaea, fungi, algae, protozoa and viruses). Consider how you can present your work to create a visually exciting and thoughtful science communication piece.

Format: Create an artwork (.png format) for your submission. You can create your work in any medium-digital art, traditional media, including photography. 

Submit your artwork by sharing it on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #LifeologyStyle2021

Beauty in Bacteria

Lifeology community member and scientific illustrator Eliza Wolfson has more than a casual interest in microbiology. Her post-doctoral work includes how E. coli and Salmonella manipulate our cells to live on or in them. As she worked in this area, it filled her head with pretty pictures of molecular details of life and the universe. See an example of her art below:

A watercolor illustration of a prophage symbiosis.
Prophage Symbiosis by Eliza Wolfson