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Archive for the ‘Calls for Art’ Category

Space Settlement Student Art Contest

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

Earth and Moon Digital Art Wallpaper
Earth and Moon Digital Artwork

Once again I’ve been asked to be an art judge for the National Space Society’s Roadmap to Space Settlement International Student Art Contest with this year’s theme being People Living and Working in Space Settlements. The objective for the student artists is the creation of realistic illustrations of some aspect of what life would be like in a space settlement – whether it be on the Moon, Mars, an asteroid, or in free space. The artwork must include at least one person and a view or perspective that clearly establishes the setting for the space settlement. This means interior-only views are out – unless it includes a grand window view of the world outside. The "realistic" includes not only scientific and engineering realism, but also representational realism, aka photorealistic.

I find judging these art contests to be a rewarding, yet challenging, adventure. What is particularly challenging is the back and forth between individual judges over the pros and cons of the individual artworks submitted. Picking winners can be difficult in a crowded field of submissions. FYI, the grand prize winner of last year’s contest was an artwork titled Lunar Outpost Construction by Hidayat Saad of Malaysia.

In order to enter the contest, the artist must be a full-time student between the ages of 13 and 25. Artists not yet 18 years old must have parental permission to participate in the art contest. And it goes without saying that the artwork must be the original work of the artist (yes the contest has received a few entries over the years that were plagiarized works).

The contest will have one Grand Prize winner and up to twelve First Prize winners based on student grade level. There may also be Honorable Mention prizes award. I must point out that if no entries are judged to be suitable, then no prizes will be awarded.

Two of the prizes that will be awarded to the Grand Prize winner are having their art published on the cover of Ad Astra magazine, the official magazine of the National Space Society, and complimentary registration to the 2016 International Space Development Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico (does not include trip expenses) The deadline for submitting art to the contest is March 16, 2016. For complete details, visit Roadmap to Space Settlement 2016 International Student Art Contest.

The Earth and Moon Illustration

The art I used to illustrate this post is The Earth and Moon, which is a generative artwork I recently completed. I cropped out most of the Earth in order to use this art as a masthead for the post so I’ve included the uncropped version below. I have also made this artwork available for purchase at Redbubble and CRATED.

Earth and Moon Generative Space Art on Redbubble
Earth and Moon Generative Space Art on CRATED

Earth and Moon Generative Digital Painting by Jim Plaxco
Earth and Moon Generative Digital Painting

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NSS 2015 International Student Art Contest

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Dustfall on Mars space art
Dustfall on Mars space art

The National Space Society is holding a student space art contest which is free to enter and is open to students aged 13-25 years old world-wide. The theme for this art contest is life in a space settlement. Submissions to the contest are to focus on the daily activities of living and working in a space settlement located somewhere in the solar system. A key rule for art being submitted to the contest is that it has to be a realistic depiction of human activities. That means no aliens, no faster-than-light UFOs, and no other violations of science. The contest is particularly interested in photo-realistic submissions.

The contest’s Grand Prize winner will have their artwork published on the cover of Ad Astra magazine as well as receiving a complimentary membership in the National Space Society and complimentary registration to the 2015 International Space Development Conference being held in Toronto, Canada.

In addition to the Grand Prize, First Prizes and Honorable Mentions may also be awarded depending on the artistic merit of the submitted entries. I must point out that the contest does contain a provision that if none of the art submitted adequately meets contest standards, then no prizes shall be awarded – which is reasonable given that unlike most other art contests there is no fee charged to submit art for this contest.

For my part, I will again be serving as one of the art judges for the contest. Here are some tips from me for students submitting art. First, if your artwork is set inside a space settlement then have a window in the scene so that the viewer can identify where in the solar system your settlement is. Second, since the art is to depict settlement life, make sure to have a person somewhere in your artwork. Third, if the subject of your art is an astronaut exploring or working on the surface of the Moon, Mars, or an asteroid, then make sure that you have some sort of habitat somewhere in your scene. For example, an astronaut exploring the surface of an asteroid with a settlement in the distance, either on the surface of the asteroid or in orbit above it. Lastly, be sure to get your science right. In one space art contest I judged, the artist had an astronaut in a spacesuit on the surface of the Moon standing next to a pool of water. No matter how good your art is, if you do something like that your art will not be a winning entry.

Submissions to this art contest are due by March 16. Students who are under age 18 must have their parents permission in order to participate.

Art Contest Reference Links

The Illustration

To illustrate this post I used some of my own space art. Dustfall on Mars is a piece I was commissioned to create for presentation to Mars Society President Robert Zubrin on his 65th birthday. Unlike much of my art, this piece is a straight forward example of painting digitally. The version shown here has been cropped.

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Enterprise Orbiter Design Contest

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Space Shuttle Enterprise art
Space Shuttle Enterprise

This is the Starship Enterprise. No it’s not – although it is an Enterprise. It is in fact a representation I created of the very first Space Shuttle. Formally designated NASA Orbiter Vehicle OV-101, this Enterprise “space” shuttle is unique in that it never made it to space.

More recently another Enterprise has been in the news. That is Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise, the first of five planned suborbital spacecraft that will be used to send tourists and experiment payloads on suborbital trips to space.

While the media tend to focus on the space tourism aspect of companies like Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace, their suborbital vehicles will be important platforms for conducting experiments in a microgravity environment.

However, suborbital is not orbital. With luck, the first Enterprise to orbit the Earth will be the NSS Enterprise Orbiter – which will carry approximately 100 competitively selected student experiments into low Earth orbit.

But before the Enterprise can be built, it must first be designed. And that’s where you come in. As a feature of this very public program, the Enterprise in Space team is calling on artists, engineers, science fiction fans, students, and dreamers to come up with their own concept of what the NSS Enterprise Orbiter should look like! And for the winning designer there will there will be accolades and prizes.

Unfortunately I can’t enter the contest because on the evening of Oct. 28, 2014 I accepted an offer to manage the Orbiter Design Contest – an opportunity and honor I readily accepted.

But first for people not designing spacecraft – you can still support the Enterprise in Space project by donating to the EIS campaign – with a $20 donation getting your name onboard the NSS Enterprise Orbiter as a virtual crew member. For details see the Enterprise in Space Donation Page.

Now, if you are up to accepting the challenge of designing the look of the NSS Enterprise Orbiter, here are some tips for you.

First, do not design a spacecraft that looks like a spacecraft that is associated with a spacecraft from TV or film. It must be your own original design. When reading through the contest details you will see that it says “The orbiter must be a science fiction inspired spacecraft.” Personally I would not take this literally. What the EIS team is looking for is a spacecraft from your imagination – not a spacecraft that looks like the product of a government contracting process. By necessity NASA spacecraft are designed to fulfill a specific function and “artistic” is not a consideration. For this project, EIS wants the spacecraft designer to step outside the box of traditional, purely functional satellite/spacecraft design. The EIS team is looking for a design that is not just functional, but beautiful.

Second, because your orbiter has to accommodate an internal payload of experiments, your design should be mindful of the usable spatial volume it encloses. Your design should be somewhere between the extremes of a solid cube or sphere at one end of the spectrum (boring) and an overly-streamlined design that provides minimal internal volume at the other end of the spectrum. Note that whatever your design, it must be bilaterally symmetrical. So your challenge is to balance functional design with elegant, artistic design – hopefully capturing the best of both worlds.

Once manufactured, your orbiter will physically have as its maximum dimensions a length no longer than 8 feet, a width no wider than 8 feet, and a height no taller than 6 feet. So in creating your design, be mindful of the factors 8 by 8 by 6.

Now, if all goes according to plan, the NSS Enterprise Orbiter:

  • will be launched as a secondary payload on an expendable launch vehicle,
  • will remain in low Earth orbit for approximately seven days,
  • will be de-orbited and recovered,
  • will go on tour,
  • will retire as a museum exhibit.

So now is the time to either fire up your favorite graphics software or grab your drafting supplies and get to designing a spacecraft that is truly unique. The submission deadline is set for November 27, 2014. To make sure you fully understand the contest, please read the Enterprise In Space Design Contest Rules.

And don’t forget that bilateral symmetry!

Answers to Some Really Basic Questions

Can anyone enter?
Yes, but not me or other folks associated with the project. Oh – you do have to be at least 18.
Is there an entry fee for the contest?
No, there is no entry fee. It’s free!
What’s the deadline?
It’s coming up fast – November 27, 2014.
Who is sponsoring this contest?
The National Space Society.
Where can I find the contest rules?
At Enterprise In Space Design Contest Rules.
How do I actually enter the contest?
Via the EIS online contest submission form
What are the prizes?
For the grand prize: in addition to having the honor of designing the first Enterprise to make it all the way to orbit, you will get to be present at both the launch and at the official retrieval. You’ll also receive a complimentary registration at the 2015 International Space Development Conference being held in Toronto, Canada. And there’s more. Complete prize details for this and the 1st and 2nd prize winners are on the Orbiter Design Contest Rules page.

And may the force be with you! Oh wait – wrong universe. Sorry about that.

Per audacia ad astra. – Through boldness to the stars.

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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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Call for Artists for Space Solar Power

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Solar Power Satellite under construction
Solar Power Satellite under construction

Here is a rather unique call for artists. What makes it unique is that it is a call for art portraying space solar power satellites. FYI, space solar power involves the construction of large solar arrays in Earth orbit where they can collect solar energy 24×7 and beam it down to receiving stations on Earth.

Specifically this is a call being made by the International Space Solar Power Symposium for an exhibition of space solar power art at their upcoming conference to be held in Kobe, Japan at Kobe University in April 2014. Participating organizations include the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Power Committee, the National Space Society (NSS), SPACE Canada, and the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA)

For my part, while I do lecture on the subject of space solar power (SSP), the only SSP artwork I’ve ever created was art for my talk’s title slide and a SSP logo. Unfortunately much of the art associated with portrayals of space solar power is dated and the production of new artwork rises and falls as specific studies are undertaken and terminated.

If you are an artist who has created art that portrays solar power satellites, their construction, or associated infrastructure, I would encourage you to contact John Mankins to learn the specifics of the call. John can be reached at:

john dot c dot mankins at artemisinnovation dot com

For more information about solar power satellites and their history, see the National Space Society web site section on space solar power.

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