Posted in aerospace, astronomy, education

Art without gravity

This story recently came out about three British artists who were able to fly in a Russian Cosmonaut-training airplane and got to experience weightlessness while at the same time attempting different art projects during the flight. While the article focuses on how almost everyone on the flight (including some of the art) got sick, the artist Nasser Azam who didn’t get sick said something that really struck me as interesting.

Azam’s project was to paint while weightless. He said he began his paintings before the flight and used regular paint, and then finished the paintings in flight using oil pastels because the “paint would have floated in zero-gravity conditions.” My question, then, is how much gravity does paint need to stick to a surface? Would there be enough friction or surface tension to actually make wet paint stick? It’s naturally sticky anyway, so how would that be effected by zero-gravity? How big a blob of paint could an artist use before it separates and turns into a tiny planet of pigment? I also assume there would be a difference between oil- and water-based paint, right? Would water colors work better in space, or would they just bead up and sit on the piece of paper? Would more absorbent paper rather than a canvas make it easier? I am sure that precision would be out of the question, but this could be the dawning of a new art form: space-born art. Just let the paint fly, literally!

If anyone knows the answers to these questions I’d love to hear it.



Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.