#SciArt Project for May: The Flame Test

My SciArt Patreon supported project for the month of May is complete!

This month’s science inspired project is a series of paintings that represent the process in chemistry known as the Flame Test where one can determine what element is present based on the color of the flame.

This process is great for teaching about energy and the elements and has lead to great advancements in science and is actually something that we see very often and will likely see in just a few weeks because of pyrotechnics. That’s right, the flame test is the science behind the beautiful colors you see in fireworks.

flame test longsmaller

Special thanks to chemist, Dr Ray Burks for being my science advisor and helping me to explain the science behind this project. I am painting an extra rubidium painting for her as a thank you.

Each painting is 11″x17″ and acrylic on canvas. Each painting represents a different element, that when lit on fire in a flame test displays a unique color. Dr Burks assisted me in picking the elements. They are arranged in order of their numbers on the periodic table and each painting has some interesting facts about each element in it’s various forms written around each flame.

Below are the paintings from the series.

First off is the lightest with lithium.
I am most familiar with Lithium as the title of a pretty great Nirvana song.


I am pretty fond of sodium.


Calcium is found in our bones.


But do not mess with arsenic unless you are a prawn.


Rubidium is pyrophoric- meaning it can spontaneously burst into flames. It also makes the beautiful purple color in fireworks, but it’s name comes for the latin word for deepest red.

rubidium sm

Indium is a beautiful indigo blue.


Barium is used in glass art and in pigments of paint but it is very toxic so don’t eat it!


One of my stretch goals for my Patreon project is to make videos with scientists explaining the science behind each piece that can be shared to help educate the public.

This is a practice run for that goal. Here is Dr Ray Burks in a short video explaining the science behind this particular art project:

That video was fun! Hopefully there will be more, higher quality videos in the future!

Along with the paintings and the video with the my science advisor, I also created a fun gif that scrolls through all of the paintings!


Flames Tests are a great way to learn about chemistry and are the science behind fireworks and other pyrotechnics. This fourth of July look up at the bright colors in the sky and then look at this series of paintings to see if you can identify the elements being used.

The elements I painted in order are: Lithium, Sodium, Calcium, Arsenic, Rubidium, Indium and Barium.

I may make prints of all of the elements together on one poster if there is any interest in that.


Thanks so much your support of my art and I hope you learn something new about the elements I used to represent the flame test or at least that you have fun sharing this project with your friends and family!

flame test all smaller

My next painting project will likely have something to do with neuroscience so stay tuned!

If you like what I am doing and want to see more please consider pledging a few bucks on my Patreon page where you get behind the scenes looks at my works in progress and are the first to receive updates from my scientists. You can also go there to see the projects I have completed so far.


Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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