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Archive for December, 2013

Space Art Presentation

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Space Art Talk at Lake Barrington Shores
Arriving to give my space art talk at Lake Barrington Shores

Last Thursday I gave my Art and the Exploration of Space talk to the Lake Barrington Shores Men’s Club. Lake Barrington Shores is a gated community north of Barrington IL. I was surprised to learn that one of the ladies in the audience had been the Maid of honor at Neil Armstrong’s wedding. Fortunately I did get to speak with her briefly about some of her recollections of Neil and his days as an Apollo astronaut. I was also surprised to see several works of space art on display – provided by a friend of one of the club members. It was also a pleasure to speak with a fellow space art aficionado.

Somewhat on the impulsive side, a few days before I was slated to give this talk I decided to totally redo my presentation. I’d first given this particular space art talk in 2009 and had made no substantive changes to it during the intervening years. Turns out I was working on the new version right up until midnight the night before I was set to give it. In hindsight, I’m glad that I made that impulsive decision because the changes and additions improved the quality of the presentation.

Cosmetically I restructured all the slides so that I could enlarge the space art that appeared on each slide. More importantly I added a section on space art used specifically to illustrate future space development concepts like space solar power, asteroid mining, and space tourism. This allowed me to not only broaden the scope of the space art I discussed but also allowed me to introduce the associated concepts to my audience. I also added a section on the use of space art to illustrate newspace ventures. This allowed me to discuss the newspace paradigm of space exploration. I should point out that as President of the Chicago Society for Space Studies, my principal presentation is The NewSpace Frontier.

I also added in some of my own space art to extend on some of the topic areas I was addressing. Being able to speak on a first-hand basis about my own art strengthened the points that I was attempting to make.

During my presentation I took the opportunity to put in a plug for the National Space Society’s Roadmap to Space Settlement 2014 International Student Art Contest for which I am one of the art judges. I also brought along a stack of complimentary copies of Ad Astra – the space magazine published by National Space Society.

It was a very enjoyable experience for me – made even more enjoyable by the number of questions I got after completing my talk. For more about my art presentations, I have a PDF on my web site that contains summary information:
The Presentations, Lectures, and Classes of Jim Plaxco PDF.

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Swimming Eye Video

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Swimming Eye Video
Swimming Eye Video

I’ve just completed a video project titled Swimming Eye. This was yet another accidental project on my part as I was not planning on creating a video. Rather I was experimenting with using Processing to create an algorithmic painting program.

In experimenting with applying Perlin noise to a gridded particle field to create a large algorithmic paintbrush, I was struck my the nature of the ensuing motion. It was similar to that of a liquid surface in motion. The impression it made on me was that of a living painting: it wasn’t a static image but an image that had a life of its own.

My original idea of creating some rather unusual digital paintings using this methodology was replaced with the idea of creating a video. The image used as illustration above is representative of my original idea. It was created by stacking several individual movie frames together in Photoshop and using different layer blend modes to merge the individual images together.

Previously I wrote about using Windows Live Movie Maker to create a YouTube video (see Portrait Art Video Project). However I found that Movie Maker was not capable of turning jpeg images into a real movie. With Movie Maker, an image must remain on display for at least one second. This is fine if you want to use images to create a video slide show. However, it does not work when it comes to creating an animation. To translate my 1400 images into a movie, I wanted each image (frame) to display for 1/30th of a second (think 30 frames per second).

I tried using Avidemux but it crashed repeatedly. In searching I came across FFMPEG – a DOS command line utility. It worked. With the basic video created my next step was to come up with a soundtrack because I really didn’t want to create a silent movie.

Searching opsound.org, I located a public domain song that met my needs (thanks to Free Sound Collective for making their music available for use). I used Audacity to create a sound clip of the necessary time length. I used Movie Maker to add the mp3 to the video created by FFMPEG.

I hope you enjoy the show.

Don’t forget – art is in the eye of the beholder.

See the Swimming Eye Video on YouTube

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Roadmap to Space Settlement 2014 International Student Art Contest

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Space Colony at L5 Lagrange Point painting by Rick Guidice
Space Colony at L5 Lagrange Point painting by Rick Guidice

The National Space Society (NSS) has announced its Roadmap to Space Settlement 2014 International Student Art Contest. The objective of this art contest is to get students creating space art that can be used to illustrate Milestones to Space Settlement: An NSS Roadmap, a strategic space development planning document that was created to clearly illustrate a path forward in the quest to create a spacefaring civilization.

The artistic theme for this contest is the realistic depiction of either an asteroid settlement or a space settlement that is under construction. With respect to asteroid settlements, asteroids are potentially valuable resources due to their composition. The presence of natural resources combined with a low gravity environment makes them an ideal location for mining operations. Unfortunately there has been very little asteroid settlement art created to date.

While there is an abundance of space art depicting space settlements, there is a scarcity of art that shows these settlements in the process of being built – hence the art category for the construction of space settlements.

The requirement that the art must be a realistic depiction of either an asteroid settlement or a space settlement under construction will hopefully lead the student artists to first do some basic research on the subject.

The art contest is open to full-time students aged 12 to 25 world-wide. Art must be submitted by March 16, 2014 with the winners announced by April 1, 2014. In terms of prizes, there will be one Grand Prize and up to 12 First Prizes awarded on a school grade level basis. There is also an opportunity for some artwork to be awarded an Honorable Mention. Details for the prizes for the art contest’s winners is detailed on the contest web site (listed below).

My Role as Art Judge

As one of the judges for the art contest, I will be paying attention to the aesthetics of the compositions. But artistic aesthetics will take a back seat to realism. It will be obvious which artists researched the subject and which artists did not. One suggestion I have for student artists entering the contest is to seek out a science teacher for advice on the science and engineering of living and working in space.

Art Contest Links and Reference Links

Contest Links

Research Resource Links

In closing I want to wish all students entering the contest the best of luck and do urge you to research the subject of your painting (digital or otherwise). Approach your art project as though you were an engineer or an architect out to create a real working space settlement. Do that and you will greatly improve your chances of being a winner in the contest.

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