Painting with Microbes

Grace Mikkelsen F03

My artistic intent was to create a leaf, because we are coming spring season when leaves reappear. I love creating “natural” looking art with mediums that are nature themselves.

I used Eosin methylene blue agar which is both a differential and selective media. The blue agar color appeared to have remained the same hue. A fair amount of condensation did form on the plate, making it almost look like dew drops on the leaf.

A6: Painting with Microbes

Name/ Section : MM Ragusa/F03

Color by Colony


Artistic Intent:

I surrendered the attempt to create beautiful art for the purpose of demonstrating how media can impact the feel of an image. My inspiration came from watching crows above the snow laden tree in my front yard on a cold, sunny afternoon. Contrast and complimentary colors create an open, high energy feel, as seen on the top plate pictured below, most representative of my inspiration. Using a background media which doesn’t contrast, or changing the color of shapes so they are similar shades to the background can either result in a fuzzy, unfocused feeling, or in an intense, turbulent feeling. These may be seen in the middle and bottom plates, respectively.


Each agar plate is painted with three different microbial organisms. The cloud on each is painted with Serratia marcescens, a Gram-negative non-fermenter. The birds are created with Chromobacter violaceum, another Gram-negative non-fermenter. The treetop at the bottom of each plate is made of Enterobacter aerogenes, a Gram-negative fermenter.

Role of Media in Color Spectrum

On the top plate the media is Tryptic Soy Agar (TSA), a standard complex medium. The background on this plate remains a neutral color, and microbes growing on it develop colonies which are colored by their natural pigments (pink for S. marcescens, deep violet for C. violaceum, and white for E. aerogenes). The cloud on this plate is a very light pink, typical of a young colony of S. marcescens.

The middle plate is Eosin Methylene Blue (EMB) agar, a medium which is selective for (does not inhibit the growth of) Gram negative microbes. EMB   is also differential, in that it changes in response to fermentation products. Lactose and sucrose fermentation create acidic products, which turn eosin red or black. By consuming the medium, strong fermenters turn black with a metallic green sheen. If the organisms ferment but produce less acid, they turn pink to red on EMB agar. This can be seen in the light pink hue of the tree top on the middle plate. (I had hoped for stronger fermentation effects.) Non-fermenters should retain their original colors. The microbes on this plate found something delicious, and overgrew in just 17 hours of incubation after being painted on the EMB agar. The microbes in the birds were out-competed for the limited resources on the plate.

The bottom plate is MacConkey (MAC) agar, which is also selective for Gram-negative microbes and differential in response to fermentation products. MAC agar contains peptone rather than sucrose, in addition to lactose. The pH dependent dye in MAC agar lightens to pink from the products of lactose fermentation. Again, this is seen in the pink hue of the tree top on the bottom plate. Non-lactose fermentation lightens the agar even further, and produces white or colorless colonies on light pink to translucent agar. None of the microbes used were non-lactose fermenters, so the agar has only a halo of lightening around the tree top. The pink color of the cloud on this plate is not explained by the plate’s differential nature, as non-fermenters should retain their original colors. The darker pink is more representative of mature S. marcescens colonies. The C. violaceum grew colonies only in the most densely painted parts, perhaps in response to some agar quality.


Flowers and Sunsets

Karli Fitzgerald

Lab F03 6-9

On the MacConkey agar plate, I tried to create an abstract sunset (except the sun is not setting behind anything).   I used S. marcescens  in the center of the plate because it is not a lactose fermenter.   I was hoping it would turn the center of the agar yellow by releasing ammonia and increasing the pH and leave the microbes colorless/yellowish.   Around the outside, I used E. aerogenes because it is a lactose fermenter.   I was hoping it would leave the outer portion of the agar more pink by releasing acidic lactose fermenting products and turn the colonies pink.   In between the center and the outer rim, I tried only using a few streaks from both bacteria to kind of blend them together and form a gradient of color without completely contaminating either of them.   The idea kind of worked as I had hoped because the bacteria on the outer edge turned more pink, and the bacteria in the center stayed a lighter yellowish color, but the entire agar eventually turned yellow after letting the plate sit for a few days.   This means S. marcescens probably released more ammonia product than E. aerogenes released acidic lactose fermenting products, which increased the pH of the entire agar.   The picture with my hand in it was taken after one day of incubation at 37 °C, and it has more of the coloring I was going for when I created the plate.   The other picture was taken three days after I made the plate.   The plate was incubated for one day, and then sat at room temperature for two days.

On the TSA plate, I tried to create a pretty flower with petals of two different colors, but it did not turn out exactly as I had hoped.   Since the TSA plate is not a differential plate, I did not expect the agar to change colors.   I tried to use S. marcescens  and  C. freundii to create pink and white petals.   The big petals closest to the center were made with S. marcescens, and they were supposed to be pink, but they did not turn out that way.   This could have occurred because the original plate that I streaked it from might have been contaminated with a different bacterium.   The smaller petals around the outside were made with C. freundii, and they did turn out kind of white like they were supposed to.   In the center, I used  M. luteus  because I wanted the center of the flower to be yellow, like pollen, and it actually did turn out yellow.   Even though the pink petals did not turn out how I was expecting, you can still tell it is a flower.

Painting With Microbes: Matt Andrews F03 – Exponential Sunrise

Title: Exponential Sunrise

The intention here was to portray a sunrise over water, with the backdrop of the UAF. We live in an exponential world, whether it is as everyday as the light which lets us see, the sounds we hear, the technology which surrounds us, or even the dirt under our fingernails. The world is built on exponential growth and the education we are developing here at the UAF helps us to understand some small part of it.

I had created this scene on sever plates with Micrococcus luteus (for the golden sun and reflection) and Serratia marcescens (for the red water), I was hoping for a bit more color from the Serratia  but I am still happy with the overall effect.

Painting with Microbes

Lab section: F02

I wanted to see what the difference would be using the same bacteria on all three plates.   I used Enterobactor aerogenes for the sun on each plate, Serratia marcescens was used for the birds on each plate and Chromobacterium violaceum was used for the oceans.   Both the Eosin Methylene Blue (EMB) and MacConkey plate select for Gram-negative organisms, while the Trypticase soy agar (TSA) plate is a general growth media.   EMB and MacConkey plates are both differential for lactose fermentation.

All three of the bacteria I used are Gram-negative. As seen from the McConkey plate, S. marcescens, E. aerogenes, and C. violaceum all show lactose fermentation as the entire plate is almost clear.   From the EMB plate we can see that lactose acid has been released during fermentation from the green sheen of   C. violaceum and the dark colors of the other two.

A6: Painting with Microbes

Emily Werner


Escherichia coli- I used this on the EMB agar because it ferments lactose with the specific differential media and creates a green sheen color to it. I thought this would be appropriate for the northern lights.

Enterobacter aerogenes- The color of this microbe is a yellow-white. I used it for the moon and the stars in the photo. The bacteria is anaerobic because it too turned black on the media due to fermentation. I had overlooked that when choosing the bacteria. The stars that I dabbed onto the plate didn’t show up so I’m thinking that there wasn’t enough bacteria present to start a colony or it was still undergoing the lag phase of replication.

Citrobacter freundii-   This was used for the river and the mountains. I wanted to go for a shadow style look for the mountains.


Each bacteria was gram negative so they showed up well on the plate as this agar specifically selects for only gram-negative. The agar was a dark red to begin with but lightened up over the course of 4 days.



Microbial Artistry

Joesi Lou Zastrow F01 This piece was inspired by a 70’s color theme and aimed to capture an abstract skyline… The colors are a bit less intense than those shown on the photograph. This piece was plated on EMB using Escherichia coli and Enterobacter aerogenes.   Both chosen are gram-negative bacteria in consideration that EMB …

Painting With Microbes: Michael Carpenter F02

I attempted to paint moonlight upon mountains for my art piece. Of my three plates only the TSA plate turned out. I used the Chromobacterium violaceum  for the dark color; it did not turn out as full as I had wanted. This medium is not differential and so I did not have to worry about color change or growth. Citrobacter freundii provided the lighter color which I was hoping would be closer to white.

Painting with Microbes Lukash Platil F03

Enterobacter Aerogenes and Esterichia Coli Meme Culture: A selective culture plate with a niche joke from a viral internet campaign.

The plate was smeared using a graffiti inspired font while held vertically to further the graffiti feel.

MacConkey agar is a selective and differential medium that classifies bacteria based on their ability to ferment lactose, tolerate bile salts and grow in the presence of crystal violet.

E. Aerogenes is a gram negative bacteria whose growth is not inhibited by bile salts or crystal violet. The dark pink color of E. Aerogenes growing on a MacConkey agar is a result of the bacteria’s ability to ferment lactose.

E. Coli is a gram negative, rod shaped bacterium, that is not inhibited by bile salts and is able to ferment lactose. Because of these traits it turned a light pink when in contact with crystal violet.

E. Coli grows more clear on a TSA agar plate then E. Aerogenes so I suspected there would also going to be a slight difference in colors on the Mac agar plate. It appears to be this way in this instance.

Savanna’s Flower

Savanna Ratky F03

My artistic intent for this project was to make a flower out of microbes, I put micrococcus luteus in the center with the intent that it would turn yellow (it didn’t really), I put serratia marcescens for the petals because its supposed to be red/pink (also didn’t become pink), and I put citrobacter freundii for the little swirls around the flower with the intent that they would be white. This was on a TSA plate because the list of microbes with their colors are on TSA plates, so I chose this because I thought the colors would change to the colors on the list, the color of the plate didn’t really change and I didn’t expect it to.