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Painting a Fond Farewell

Tucked behind the Caltech Theatre House and past the Alumni House is a unassuming, two-story stark white garage. But inside this barren building is an explosion of color, stencils, silk, and paint. The first floor of this garage houses Caltech’s silk screening and shirt decorating room, while the second floor is home to our aclyric paint and charcoal collection.

Every Tuesday, from 7-10 pm, our art instructor teaches an art class in this gem of a garage. Students are free to come and go, though most people choose to stay for the 1.5 hours of painting and 1.5 hours of live model sketching. While I attended class often freshman year (painting is an incredible stress-reliever), the Caltech workload caught up with me during my sophomore and junior years. Now, as a senior, I have ample free time and a desire to occupy my time with productive hobbies.

While I was brainstorming ways to satisfy my art bug, my graduate student mentor Hidehiko (who I’ve worked with for 3+ years and am quite close to) was busy packing up his life in California to move to Janelia Farm in D.C. for a post doc position. A nice tie or a bottle of wine seemed too impersonal a gift for his good-bye present, and so I decided to .. paint him something!

Hidehiko and I work on neural pathways regulating hunger in Drosophila (fruit flies), so I knew I wanted to paint something related to our research. Eventually, I settled on a somewhat odd design: a luminescent fruit fly with neural designs on both its wings and in the background.

I spent three weeks to draft the design, choose the paint colors, and draw & paint the gift. Below’s the finished product!

Here’s what the neurons on the wings looked like:

Hidehiko left for Washington D.C. last week, so lab is a bit more empty and less enjoyable now. But now that I’ve finished his painting, I’m searching for a new project for Tuesday night.



Ketaki Panse