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Archive for July, 2009

A Space Art Gallery for NSS

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Liftoff Digital Painting
Liftoff a digital painting by Jim Plaxco

Some time ago I had proposed to the National Space Society that a space art gallery be created on its web site. I proposed this idea following the success of the NSS Space Settlement Art Contest.

Many of you are probably aware of the Space Settlement Art Contest that I organized and ran for the National Space Society (NSS – a few years ago. The winning art from that contest was used to illustrate the NSS Space Settlement Calendar. As a follow up to that I proposed that NSS create a space art gallery to highlight the work of emerging space artists everywhere. The primary restriction is that all art must depict representations of either historical human space exploration or future human settlement of the solar system. That means no aliens, no monsters, no flying saucers, no bug-eyed monsters, and no planetary settings outside our solar system.

As the NSS Space Art Gallery curator it will be my job to review all submitted art to make sure it meets our guidelines for content and quality.

Why Should An Artist Participate?

There are several reasons why a space artist would want to participate in the National Space Society Space Art Gallery program.

  1. Visibility. The National Space Society is in my opinion the best source of information about the human settlement of space on the Internet. People visit the NSS site to learn more about the human adventure in space. Joining the NSS Space Art Gallery can make the artist and their art a part of that adventure.
  2. Search Engine Rank. NSS enjoys a rather high traffic rank so a link from the NSS site to the artist’s personal site will improve the artist’s standing in the Google rankings.
  3. It’s Free. There is no cost to the artist for joining and the artist maintains all rights to their art. Each participating artist will have a main gallery index page and a page for each of their artworks. Artist are free to provide wallpaper sized versions of their art if they want to make a larger version of their art available. The main page will include a brief bio of the artist, a link to the artist’s web site, and a brief description of each work of art on exhibit.
  4. Restricted Participation. Space in the art gallery will only be provided to those artists whose work is judged to be suitable based on quality and theme.

In summary I hope that both NSS and the participating artists will benefit from the Space Art Gallery concept. I also hope that the gallery will inspire other artists to venture into the space art arena.Two artists who have already been accepted into the program are Thomas Peters and David Robinson. Following are examples of their space art.

This New Ocean by Thomas Peters
This New Ocean by Thomas Peters –

Falcon over Europa by David Robinson
Falcon over Europa by David Robinson –

My goal is to have the NSS Space Art Gallery live by the end of July. If you are interested in participating in the NSS Space Art Gallery, please contact me. The easiest way to do that would be to leave a comment here that includes your name, email address, and web site url. Please note that I won’t be publishing those comments that are requests for participation. However, comments that are feedback or questions regarding the program will be published.

The Illustration: Liftoff

Liftoff is a digital painting I recently completed. This particular painting is the result of an experiment in painting using a paint program I wrote. I have not yet added this painting to my Space Art Gallery but expect to do so in the near future.

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Space Artist Alan Bean Radio Interview

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Astronaut Glory II digital painting
Cropped version of Astronaut Glory II digital painting

Last night an interview with space artist and Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean aired on WBEZ here in Chicago. The interview, conducted on the PRI program The World opened with Alan Bean discussing one of his favorite paintings – a self portrait titled That’s How It Felt To Walk On The Moon and the emotions he felt walking on the Moon: "It’s an incredible moment. It’s a moment where you feel like you’re the luckiest guy on Earth. It’s a moment where your life is at stake and the people that got you there had better have built that suit right…"

Bean went on to discuss how he went about incorporating moon dust into each of his paintings. The key is a realization that Bean had regarding emblems that had been cut from his Apollo and Skylab spacesuits and presented to him by NASA upon his retirement from NASA.

"One day I was sitting down … and looking up at these emblems from Apollo 12… You know those things are dirty with moon dust. I had wanted moon dust to put in my paintings but didn’t have them and never thought of it being in those patches… If I would be willing to cut them up I could put them in the paintings. And then I would have pieces of my spacesuit in there and dirt from the Ocean of Storms… I hated to cut them up… but I’m using the rest of my life to make these paintings. I think it would be appropriate to cut them up and include them in the paintings."

Responding to a question about moon dust and posterity: "I believe in doing what you can because I’ll be gone in 10 or 15 years but your listeners need to think about this: they’re only going to be here once. Sometimes we think there’s other people around that will make up for what we don’t do. Sure they can, they can mow a lawn, they can drive a car, they can take a job and write an article or something but they can not do what’s in the heart of each of your listeners. And if they don’t do it, it will never be done again until time ends."

The radio interview lasted 8 minutes and audio of the interview is available at Moon Artist – PRI’s The World.

The interview was apparently timed to coincide with the July 16 2009 opening of an Alan Bean art exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum titled Alan Bean: Painting Apollo, First Artist on Another World.

To learn more about Alan Bean and his brand of space art, you can read an interview I had with Alan Bean many years ago and visit Alan Bean’s web site. There is also a brand new book of Alan’s space art: Alan Bean: Painting Apollo by Alan Bean I have not yet seen the book but am looking forward to getting a copy.

Check out this new youtube video of Alan Bean talking about his space art.

The Illustration: Astronaut Glory II

The picture used to illustrate this post is a cropped version of a digital painting I created a few months ago as my way of commemorating the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon. A small quantity of signed limited edition versions are available on my web site at Astronaut Glory II Space Art Print.

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A Vacation Car Rental Adventure

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Phoenix from the airplane window
South Phoenix from the airplane window

As you know from my last post, the family and I took a two week vacation in June. One of the things we had to do was rent a car. We planned to pick up our car at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport and return it there. At Sky Harbor all the car rental businesses are colocated in an off site facility that is open 24×7 with free airport shuttle bus service. There wasn’t much price difference between the several agencies I checked but fortunately for us one of them, Avis, provided a map showing the location of all their other car rental locations in that section of Phoenix.

That map played a critical role in our car rental decision. You see it was a bit of a shock to learn that even with our discount, to rent a full size car for two weeks from Avis was going to cost us $995.00 (in line with the other car rental companies I checked). That was far more than I had expected to spend. One thing I noticed in the itemized costs were a number of surcharges and taxes associated with using the airport car rental facility.

This is where that Avis location map came in handy. I had noticed that Avis had its own car rental location in a Sears Auto Center about 5 miles from the airport. On a lark I decided to see what it would cost to rent the same car for the same time only picking it up and returning it to that Sears location. Picking myself up off the floor I confirmed that the same car rental would cost me only $430.00! That is $565.00 cheaper than renting the car at the airport – an astounding price difference.

Two downsides to not using the airport car rental facility. First: the Sears Avis location was only open during normal business hours and not 24×7 like the airport location. No problem for us since our arrival and departure were during normal business hours. Second: we had to get back and forth between the airport and the Sears location. I called the Sears Avis office and found out that it was a $16 cab ride between the airport and there. The decision was made. We would take a cab from the airport to the Avis office at the Sears location and rent our car from there – saving us 60 percent off the airport car rental price.

The day we arrived in Phoenix we grabbed our bags and a cab and set off to pick up our rental car. At the Avis office we were waited on by David who was very helpful. The best bit of advice that he gave us was to point out that the terms of our car rental agreement allowed us to return our car to the airport rental facility. That way we could take the free shuttle bus to the airport – freeing us of the need to arrange and pay for a taxi ride from Sears to the airport on our return. Fantastic.

That $565.00 we saved by not using the airport’s car rental facility was a huge offset to the hotel costs that we would incur while visiting the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park.

The moral of the story is that it always pays to shop around because you never know what kind of deal you may stumble upon.

The Illustration

I never did take a picture of our rented car – a red Chevy Impala. I did take a number of photographs out the airplane window though. I make it a point when I fly to always get a window seat because you never know when you will see something interesting. The photograph shown above was taken out the airplane window looking south – after the airplane had performed a u-turn and began its final approach. The camera raw file was processed using Adobe Photoshop with subsequent steps to enrich the colors and to deepen the blue of the sky.

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June in Review: New Art and a Vacation

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Self Portrait at Bryce Canyon National Park
Self Portrait at Bryce Canyon National Park

I can’t believe the month of June went by without a single post to my blog but it was a very busy month. Following is a review of my activities for the month. I’ll write later about the drive crash that delayed this update.

It began with my return from the International Space Development Conference in Orlando FL. I arrived at the conference hotel on Wednesday and departed on Sunday with my only excursions out of the hotel being to grab some fast food as a low cost alternative to the hotel restaurants. At the conference I gave a formal presentation on space solar power and an informal presentation about the National Space Society to a group of students from India. I also was a participant in the conference’s space art show. That show was a terrible disappointment to me. There were only a few artists participating and we were hidden in a back corner of the exhibit room with no signage indicating that there even was an art show or that space art was on display. There were also other problems which I won’t go into detail on here. I did take a number of photographs and submitted a selection of them to Ad Astra magazine for possible publication – several of which will appear in the magazine’s next issue.

The next week was spent playing catch-up and preparing for a two week trip to Arizona and Utah. While in Arizona we visited my Mother and did a number of jobs for her around the house. We then took off for a quick tour of three national parks. Our first stop was the Grand Canyon. From their we proceeded to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah and after a couple days there headed south to Zion National Park. So which was our favorite national park? A poll of the family afterwards gave the award to Zion National Park with Bryce coming in second and the Grand Canyon bringing up the rear. I will write in more detail about my experiences at each of these parks at a later time.

Upon returning home, it took me some time to catch up with email. I also went back to work on my web site. In addition to making a number of minor cosmetic changes to the site and correcting some previously undiscovered errors, I spent some time doing SEO (search engine optimization) work. Earlier in the month I had purchased the book The Truth About Search Engine Optimization by Rebecca Lieb. I’m only half way through the book but am quite impressed with what I’ve seen so far and am using its advice to improve my own site’s standing in the search engines.

In addition to the aforementioned site maintenance, I’ve also added two new art galleries. The first is a Computer Art Gallery featuring art that combines elements of algorithmic art with freehand digital painting. All the art in this gallery will have been created using interactive algorithmic software of my own design.

The second gallery is a Space Art Gallery featuring art that commemorates human space exploration. I previously had a Space Art Gallery that contained astronomical art. All of that art, depicting astronomical scenes including planets, moons, nebula, and stars, has been migrated to a new Astronomical Art Gallery.

I also prepared an application and submission package for participation in a corporate art gallery program. My inclusion in that program is a long shot as none of the artists in that program are digital artists nor does my artistic style match that of the other artists. However, nothing ventured nothing gained.

The Illustration

The picture I used to illustrate this post is a self portrait taken at Bryce Canyon National Park. This photograph was taken about an hour after sunset. With my camera on a tripod, I set my camera to its slowest ISO speed and the lens aperture to its widest opening. Opening the shutter for a 13 second exposure, I had ample time to amble around to a position in front of the camera after several seconds of exposure had already elapsed. I remained in the field of view for several seconds before exiting the scene. The result was the ghostly effect seen in the photograph.

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