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Engineers Find Stressful Way To Produce Artwork

Dr Wanda Lewis with the artwork printed by LazerLizard
Dr Wanda Lewis
Originally published 21 July 2004


Civil Engineers Dr Wanda Lewis and John Brew have found a stressful way of producing original artwork. The images are known as the ‘Stress at Work’ range due to the way they are produced. They are derived from engineering calculations and are colour-coded plots of stresses and strains. The coloured images show the behaviour of a sample of material, placed under stress (material forced flat on a flat plane by a load), which is further subjected to being pulled, pushed or sheared. The images therefore illustrate the natural patterns of the stress and deformation of the material when subjected to various load conditions.

Visual Basic (VB), a programming language, is used as the colouring programme because it has the facility for associating colour with a number. The image called Ghosts was created as a by-product of a two-way stretch where a unit square plate was subjected to point loads applied normally at the centre of each edge and a slight shear force applied to the whole square. The image represents the shear stresses induced in the material.

The images are the work of John Brew, Research Fellow, and Wanda Lewis, Reader, from the School of Engineering. John has been working with Wanda since 1999. As of October of this year Wanda will be a Reader in the School of Engineering (the first female Reader in engineering in the history of the University). She is also a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers. Wanda’s research expertise lies in modelling of the behaviour of tension structures.


John first created the ‘Stress at Work’ images during the summer vacation of 2000 and during her spare time Wanda has helped develop them into technical art. This technical art initiative was warmly welcomed by Professor Julian Gardner (the Dean of the School of Engineering) and the School’s senior administration. There are even examples of the ‘Stress at Work’ images hung on the walls of the School of Engineering.

Seeing the commercial potential of the ‘Stress at Work’ images Wanda approached Julie Hanson, Manager of LazerLizard, with a view to marketing the range. After seeing the images, Julie agreed that they had potential as a marketable product and in 2002 the images went on sale as bookmarks. This year, the images are available as part of LazerLizard’s summer wear clothing range, and proving to be very popular as prints on t-shirts. Wanda and Julie are also discussing ways of marketing the images in different formats.

In the meantime why not pop along to LazerLizard and grab yourself a piece of original artwork (remember, no one else can create this work) which not only highlights the work of the School of Engineering, but also illustrates innovative ideas at work, at Warwick.