Fred Herscovitch: Writings - Atomic Flower

For many years I kept a highly magnified black and white photomicrograph of an atomic structure in my file folder that really intrigued me. I would take it out now and then, attempting to frame a composition within a square format, but nothing I tried seemed to work. I found this quite frustrating because I felt that it had the potential to make a dramatic painting. I fiddled with this design unsuccessfully for over 15 years, and was ready to give up and throw the photograph away, but I hung onto it anyway.

During these years I painted a number of circular paintings on some beautiful bevelled canvases that were made in Mexico. Finally, in July of 2004, I thought of placing the atomic structure within a circular format, and this immediately began to look more promising. However, the circular format didn't quite work, and I still wasn't completely happy with the composition. But then I remembered a curve I had formulated in 1973 — the Golden Power Ellipse. If I could make the atomic structure relate to this curve, then the problem would be solved. Eventually I was able to crop the composition until it fitted the format perfectly. I named the resulting design Atomic Flower. Here is the equation I developed:

xφ +yφ = aφ where φ is the Golden Ratio. φ = (1+√5) / 2 = 1.618

setting a = 1, the equation reduces to: x 1.618 + y 1.618 = 1 1.618


or x 1.618 + y 1.618 = 1

Step 1: I plotted this equation in the first quadrant.



f(x) = 1- x 1.618 0 ≤ x ≤ 1

Step 2: Mirroring this curve about the X and Y axes produced the curve I named the Golden Power Ellipse.

atomic flower diagram 2 diagram

Step 3: I drew this curve on a 24" diameter circular canvas that is bevelled at the perimeter.

atomic flower diagram 3

Step 4: I prepared a dark ground in acrylics and then transferred the enlarged photomicrograph to the ground using white transfer paper. This took about one month to accomplish. Then I painted the structure in values of grey, and finally, I over-glazed with colour.

Atomic Flower

Atomic Flower - 2004
24" diameter

Nov 2, 2004
Fred Herscovitch

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