Beata Science Art
Art Meets Science
Scientific artists or artistic scientists?
By: Beata Instagram: @BeataScienceArt
1) Beata, would you say you are an artist first and a scientist 2nd or a scientist 1st and an artist second?
Although professionally I am a scientist first, I have been making art since long before studying molecular biology at the University of Vienna and the ETH Zürich. My mother is a painter, and I was raised with art being a large part of my life. I painted, drew, and sewed a lot when I was young.
My first science artwork depicted the theme of my PhD research, and I realized that showing the drawing as part of my scientific presentations sparked interest and tended to stay in people’s memories. This is one of the initial reasons that I began making science-themed art, and I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback I received from the scientific community. These incredibly rewarding experiences encouraged me to start creating illustrations for other people’s research as well as my own, and I started spending countless nights drawing in addition to my daily experiments in the lab.
2) What led you to pick science as your theme?
My curiosity about the wonders of life and what we are made of inspired me pursue a career in science. Only later, as I started doing a lot of microscopy, I learned that biology is not only fascinating and exciting, but also simply beautiful. I realized that science and art have a great deal in common and that combining these passions creates a unique way to communicate science.
3) Do you have goals with what you do like educate, inspire, stimulate curiosity, or do you do it for yourself?
I want to add some creativity to the conventional forms of scientific communication, with the aim to spark interest inside and outside the scientific community. My drawings illustrate scientific themes in an unconventional way, and are meant for everyone to enjoy – for scientists to appreciate biological findings in a refreshing way, and for non-scientists to discover the beauty in fundamental biological principles. I also print my artworks on clothing, and I love how this makes people curious and sparks conversations about science.
4) There are many aspects of science what do you focus on?
My drawings focus on the molecular level within cells. I love showing processes that make life possible, but with an unconventional twist – mixed with analogies to mundane things, like a pair of hands pulling apart the DNA for mitosis or cells using scissors to cut their connection in the last step of cell division. Sometimes I combine real microscopy images with my drawings to bridge the gap between the structures we can see with light and what lies beneath them.
I have drawn many aspects of cell division, mitochondria, DNA structure and gene regulation, and the molecular organization of cells, as well as also portraits of scientists. For me, every drawing is an experiment!
5) What kind of media do you prefer?
I create my artworks by first making a detailed pencil drawing on paper and then adding colors digitally once I’m satisfied with the hand drawing. Drawing by hand allows me the greatest level of detail, and for me, nothing can replicate the texture and feel of a real pencil on paper. When the black and white drawing is finished, I make a high-resolution scan and add the colors using a tablet, allowing me to experiment with different styles and color schemes.
My second passion is science fashion – I use microscopy images as well as my drawings to create science-inspired clothing, like scarves, ties, shirts, dresses, hats, and leggings.
6) What is your favorite piece? Tell me about it.
One of my favorite pieces is 'Cytokinetic Abscission'. In the final step of cell division, the bridge connecting the cells is cut to give rise to two separate daughter cells, a fascinating process I worked on during my PhD. This artwork is a variation of my very first science-themed pencil drawing, which I overlaid with an immunofluorescence staining labeling microtubules and DNA – a combination of a hand-drawn illustration with real microscopy images that quite literally fuses science and art.
The drawing 'ESCRT Lego' is also among my favorites, and it shows another aspect of the final step of cell division. To split the connection between the cells, the easiest way would be to use scissors – but cells don’t have hands that can cut the bridge. Instead, they use a machinery called ESCRT-III that assembles into spirals inside the connecting bridge. These spirals are composed of small subunits - like Lego pieces - and they constrict the bridge until the connection splits, separating the emerging daughter cells.
7) Do you sale your art? Do you take commissions? Do you have etsy store, or other social media accounts you show art on? If so how would people contact you to talk about these things?
I run an Etsy store with my art prints and science-inspired fashion, and I also take commissions. I have made artwork for conferences, journal covers, and research groups. I love learning about other people’s research and the challenge of translating their exciting scientific findings into visuals, breaking down the essence of their findings. It is a very individual process and every commission is special and unique.
You can contact me on Facebook (facebook.com/beatascienceart), Twitter or Instagram (@beatascienceart), or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
8) Where are you from?
I am born in Poland, but grew up in Austria and have lived in many places throughout my scientific adventures.