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Archive for December, 2006

I Never Knew I Had A Style

Friday, December 15th, 2006

Rorschach Moon Picture

Rorschach Moon By Jim Plaxco, 18″ x 27″

Rorschach Moon is a picture that I recently submitted to the IAAA (International Association of Astronomical Artists) Critiques Page under the title Discordant Moon. The purpose of the Critiques Page is to make it possible for an artist to get feedback from fellow artists about a particular piece of art.

I typically submit pictures that I have completed but which leave me wondering if I’ve got it right. This is both the blessing and the curse of working in the digital medium. Because it is so easy to go back and make changes, you get in the habit of going back and making changes in what could become a never ending cycle of “tweaking” your picture.

The idea for the title Rorschach Moon came to me as a result of a comment made by Walter Myers about the Moon reminding him of a rorschach inkblot. This is sort of the effect I was going for and immediately felt that a name change was in order. The idea for doing a mirrored moon came to me as a consequence of having read the book “Adobe Photoshop Master Class” by John Paul Caponigro. One of the techniques that he likes to employee with his photography is to produce mirrored images or objects. For my moon, while I did want it mirrored, I did not want to have it perfectly mirrored about a central vertical axis. Such an effect would be too obvious. Instead I created an unbalanced axis lacking perfect symmetry thus making the effect slightly more subtle.

Having said all that, the real purpose behind my writing about this picture is because of one of the comments that I received about the picture. Fellow artist Garry Harwood felt that this picture was a “stylistic departure” for me. This left me scratching my head. What did he mean? In response to my question, Garry pointed out how this piece differed from my previous submissions, primarily with respect to contrast (narrow vs wide dynamic range) and colors (pastels vs strong primaries). Reflecting on this I realized that he was absolutely right – I had just never been conscious of it. In fact before submitting this image, I had considered going back and pumping up the colors and dynamic range.

Bottom Line: Sometimes the best way to learn about your art is to listen to what others have to say about it.

Ad Astra, Jim

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The Simple 30 Second Guide to Distinguishing Astronomical, Space, and Science Fiction Art

Monday, December 11th, 2006

Okay, here it is, simple, sweet, and requires no Freudian analysis. My guide to distinguishing between astronomical art, space art, and science fiction art.

Astronomical Art
If the picture looks like it could be in an astronomy textbook or could have been taken by a robotic mission to a planet or looks like something you would see through a telescope and the picture contains only natural forms, then it’s astronomical art. If it doesn’t then it ain’t.

Space Art
If it qualifies as astronomical art and has humans in space suits or man-made rocket ships or man-made structures and nothing more, then it’s space art. This is the type of art used to illustrate non-fiction books about the future of human space exploration.

Science Fiction Art
If it contains BEMs (bug-eyed monsters), battles, bimbos, or battlin ‘Bots, then it’s definitely SF art. Note that space art can be used to illustrate the cover of a science fiction novel but you will not see a picture of a lecherous robot blasting through space in hot pursuit of a scantily suited astronautess being used to illustrate the cover of NASA’s latest report to Congress.

How’s that for simplicity – and clarity. That concludes this lesson

Ad Astra, Jim

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Space Artist Michael Carroll wins 2006 Lucien Rudaux Memorial Award

Monday, December 11th, 2006

The International Association of Astronomical Artists has awarded space Artist Michael Carroll with its 2006 Lucien Rudaux Memorial Award. I have only met Michael one time and that was at the International Space Development Conference in Denver CO several years ago. It was in a discussion of space art with Michael that he suggested I investigate joining the International Association of Astronomical Artists. I did join the IAAA shortly thereafter and have consistently renewed my membership every year since.

I believe that my first exposure to Mike’s work was through his paintings of the exploration of Mars, a subject that I have lectured on for over 15 years. You can check out Michael’s web site is In addition to a small gallery of his artwork, there is a very interesting article titled The Meeting of Science and Faith.

You can learn more about the Lucien Rudaux Memorial Award and pick up some background information on Michael, as well as past winners, at the IAAA Lucien Rudaux Memorial Gallery.

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