Images such as these, produced by high-powered microscopes, often seem to have a figurative dimension. They could be ice crystals or brightly coloured foliage. Ask pupils to make similar connections. Then develop the imagery in the source materials as abstract patterns, combining sections and changing colours with a computer. Point out that the two images here also resemble stained-glass windows. Though many early examples in churches were figurative, contemporary artists have also produced abstract works in this medium. Those commissioned for Coventry cathedral and designed by John Piper are abstract, concentrating on pattern and colour and thus have similarities to the images shown here. The massive window at Salt Lake Airport designed by Jenkyn A Powell was stimulated by a poster of the Krebs biochemical cycle; Brian Clarke sometimes uses large floating cell-like forms.
After looking at the development of stained glass and considering the way it is produced, pupils can produce their own stained-glass windows. It is possible to paint on the windows of the classroom but this is usually unconvincing. For a more effective alternative overlay layers of translucent coloured tissue, bonded together by using shiny watered down PVA, onto a stretched clingfilm base. While this dries, each pupil can make a small black card frame with clingfilm stretched across it. By cutting up the flexible translucent pieces they can produce abstract compositions based on their computer enhanced designs, joined with sticky tape. These can then be assembled as a larger unit and displayed where light will shine through, producing a glowing abstract stained-glass window. For more on stained glass, see: www.stainedglass.org