Visit with Jim – Bending Light

My artwork is a fusion of science and creativity, where I manipulate light to create captivating images. The key scientific principles behind my art are refraction and reflection. These involve the bending of light as it passes through different materials and/or how light bounces off of different surfaces.  In my specific art, I only use four elements Oil, Inks, Glass, and Air.

The speed at which light travels varies between different materials, and this speed change results in refraction. This phenomenon is described by Snell’s Law, a mathematical principle connecting the angle and speed of incoming and outgoing light with the properties of the materials it’s passing through. 

For the mathematically minded: n1 * sinθ1 = n2 * sinθ2, where n1 and n2 are the refractive indices of the first and second media, respectively, and θ1 and θ2 are the angles of incidence and refraction, respectively, measured from the normal (a perpendicular line to the surface at the point of incidence). I will freely admit that the math makes sense to me, but the pragmatist in me just keep placing pieces of my elements together until I find a pleasing color, pattern and potential photograph.

“Everything you can imagine is real.” Pablo Picasso

I harness this principle in my work, using it to bend and manipulate light in different ways. This process isn’t always guided by mathematical precision; it’s often driven by experimentation and asking “what would happen if?”.  My studio is filled with shelves and shelves of shattered glass, old vases, various objet d’art and a generous pile of glass from the Murano foundries.  I will simply look at the surface, fracture lines, colors, trapped air and ripples from the glass blowers technique as a place where light will dance.  The photograph below is a dimpled amber glass vase with light bouncing off backgrounds of color.

This manipulation of light is the basis of numerous technologies and phenomena. Lenses, for example, bend light to create focused images. They’re used in eyeglasses, cameras, and telescopes, helping us to see clearly and capture the world around us and beyond. Fiber optic cables also bend light, allowing for high-speed data transmission which, in part, is how I stay in touch with you, my community.  Nature manipulated light when we see rainbows and mirages.

A rainbow is a natural phenomenon resulting from the refraction, dispersion, and reflection of sunlight in raindrops. When sunlight enters a raindrop, it is refracted and dispersed into its constituent colors due to the varying refractive indices for different wavelengths of light. The light then reflects off the inner surface of the raindrop and exits, refracting once again. The combination of refraction, dispersion, and reflection within the raindrop separates the colors and causes them to spread out, forming a circular arc of colors that we perceive as a rainbow. 

A mirage is an optical illusion caused by the refraction of light in the atmosphere. In a desert or hot road, layers of air with different temperatures and refractive indices are formed close to the surface. Light rays from distant objects, such as a car or a pool of water, undergo refraction through these layers, creating the illusion of the object being closer or appearing as a reflection on the ground. This reminds me of a phase where I was fascinated with Joshua Tree, the Mojave desert, Saguaro cacti and Death Valley.

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”  George Bernard Shaw

Chromatic aberration is a blurring effect caused by the different refractive properties of various colors.  As light passes through a lens, different wavelengths (colors) are refracted by different amounts due to their varying refractive indices. This causes the colors to focus at slightly different points, resulting 


“Science and art belong to the whole world, and the barriers of nationality vanish before them.  ” – J.W. von Goethe

in a blurred or fringed image. is another phenomenon related to light refraction. To counter this, lens designers use a range of materials and shapes to bring all colors into focus.

Color mixing, dispersion, and interference are other important concepts in my work. Light comprises a spectrum of colors that can be combined in various ways to create new colors. Dispersion is the separation of light into its constituent colors, like in a rainbow. Interference is the interaction of light waves with each other, resulting in color patterns.

In my artwork, I use these principles to refract, reflect, disperse, and cause interference within the colors of light. The results are the unique images available in my Limited Edition Series at Agora Galleries and on my website,

“Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art.” Will Durant

For me there is never ending happiness in discovering these images and sharing them with the public.  My goal is to enhance and brighten your day.  When we get to live shows and people see the printed result, they understand the transformation from science theory -> photography discipline -> artistic process -> fine art production.  Thank you for taking the ride along with me. 

The scientific principles I’ve described only cover the light’s journey to our eyes. In my next post, I’ll discuss how our eyes and brain receive and perceive this light. In the meantime, I invite you to explore my artwork and see the science in action.

Join me in a fireside chat via Zoom in the evening to discuss any aspect of my artwork.  To qualify, and join a video conversation send your contact information and let me know what you would want to talk about. The selected participants will receive a 25% discount on any of my unlimited edition pieces of art.  I will personally sign the piece at printing.  Even more, the gallery is offering this purchase risk free for you. Free shipping, Free return, and no questions asked if you are unhappy with the art work.  You can keep the print for 30 days to enjoy the selection in your home or office. This risk free offer does not apply to metal, acrylic and other specialized media prints. Cheers, Jim

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