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Winners of 2016 NSS Space Settlement Student Art Contest Announced

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Space Settlement Student Art Contest Grand Prize Winner
Space Settlement Student Art Contest Grand Prize Winner
Pioneers of the Cosmos by Adrianna Allen

The National Space Society has announced the winners of its 2016 NSS Space Settlement Student Art Contest. As one of the contest’s art judges, it was once again an interesting experience. While I did not write about my experiences judging last year’s contest, I did write about Judging the 2014 NSS Space Settlement Student Art Contest. As an art contest for students, entries were received from grade levels 5 through college with the vast majority of entries being submitted by non-U.S. students.

A number of entries were disqualified for failing to meet the contest’s few but clearly stated criteria. Unfortunately some of the art disqualified was pretty good. Even worse, there were a few submissions of plagiarized work. For example, taking an existing work of space art and running an edges filter on it does not give an "artist" the right to call it their own art. Worse yet is lying about the process and claiming it to be a drawing by hand.

Aside: As a digital artist who enjoys writing his own image processing and digital art software, one of the self-challenges I used to do quite regularly was analyzing digital art and attempting to figure out exactly how it was created and what software was used. This process helped me to develop my own programs and to have a better feel for the overall digital art creation process.

The judging of the art consisted of two stages. In the first stage, I, Lynne Zielinski (contest manager), and David Brandt-Erichsen (fellow judge) went through the art eliminating those entries that clearly failed to meet the stated criteria regarding size, subject, and content. Once this was done, I created a browsable version of initially valid submissions and distributed that package to the panel of judges (there were six of us judging the art). We had a total of 125 entries to judge with a remarkable 66 coming from 5th graders, the largest grade submission category by far. In contrast, there were only 2 submissions from 6th graders.

It was two weeks ago that all contest judges had a web conference to judge all the accepted entries. It was quite the marathon session with some of the art submitted generating significant discussion. The structure of the art contest’s rules provided us with complete latitude when it came to selecting winning art entries. In fact, we judges were not required to select any entries as winners if we decided that all were of sub-standard quality. Fortunately that was not the case. It was at this stage that we looked more seriously at whether or not the submitted art fully met our subject and content criteria. Unfortunately a large number did not. The most common shortcoming was the failure to show any people in the artwork – as showing people living and working in space was a central theme to the contest.

The easiest part of the entire process was selecting the art to be awarded the Grand Prize. We judges immediately and unanimously chose Pioneers of the Cosmos, a digital painting submitted by Adrianna Allen, as the Grand Prize winner. Adrianna attends Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, MI.

The judges awarded one First Prize for the submission Space Aviary by Vindya Malla, an 11th grader from India.

There were also three Honorable Mentions awarded. A very well done work of 3D digital art was the piece Micro-Gravity Lunar Orbit Research Center Apollo submitted by Hidayat Saad, a college student from Malaysia. Frankly I thought this artwork to be deserving of a First Prize. The second Honorable Mention went to The Martians submitted by Pranab Kumar Padhi, a 12th grader from India. The artwork depicts a settlement on Mars. What most sold this artwork to the judges was a table of people in the foreground having a meeting. The third and final Honorable Mention went to Shuttle Transport Station (shown below) submitted by Anushka Hebbar, a 9th grader from India. Given Anushka’s wonderful depiction of an O’Neill Colony, this was my second favorite submission to the contest and I thought it should have been awarded a First Prize. So Anushka Hebbar: consider this my personal congratulations to you for your wonderful submission.

Space art contest honorable mention - Shuttle Transport Station
Space art contest honorable mention – Shuttle Transport Station by Anushka Hebbar

A gallery of the winning art and the art submissions that met all the contest’s criteria is now online at Gallery for NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement International Student Art Contest 2016. Enjoy.

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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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Judging the 2014 NSS Space Settlement Student Art Contest

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Arcturus Space Settlement
Arcturus Space Settlement by student artist Bogdan Alexandru Cionca

Sunday night you would have found me on a conference call judging the art that had been submitted to the National Space Society’s Roadmap to Space Settlement 2014 International Student Art Contest. I previously wrote about this art contest in December: Roadmap to Space Settlement 2014 International Student Art Contest.

I do enjoy judging space art contests because not only is the artistic composition and skill of the artist judged, but so too is the realism, accuracy, and practicality of the artist’s vision with respect to space engineering. For this contest, artists were expected to create art that satisfied either of two milestones outlined in the National Space Society’s Roadmap to Space Settlement. The two milestones were:

In judging the art, judges were expected to evaluate the submitted art based on the following criteria:

  • The art had to compositionally satisfy either milestone 18 or 19 shown above.
  • The art had to be a realistic depiction of a space settlement or associated activities. For example, the works of Chesley Bonestell, Pat Rawlings, or David Hardy are examples of the realistic representation of space development activities.
  • If the art is an interior scene, then there has to be some aspect of the artwork that makes it clear that the setting is not of this Earth. Obviously the easiest way to satisfy this criteria is to provide a window through which can be seen the surface of the Moon for example.
  • The artwork should have an uplifting, positive message. On the flip side, art depicting battle scenes or criminal activity, etc. were not to be considered.
  • The art had to be non-offensive and family-appropriate.
  • No art with identifiable individuals, real or fictional. The sole exception was if the artist wanted to include themself in the art.

With respect to this art contest, there were three things that disappointed me.

First, I was most disappointed to see over the course of the contest submissions of art that had been taken from NASA and commercial sources and submitted as original works. The contest rules were quite clear on the requirement that the submitting artist be the creator of the art submitted. Fortunately none of these works made it into the contest’s art gallery. As I did during last year’s contest, I advised the committee to issue a ban for life for anyone submitting stolen art to the contest.

Second, it was a real disappointment for me that there was not one single submission from a student from the United States. (Note: I’m not aware of the nationality of those submitters whose art was rejected on the grounds of plagiarism or inappropriate content). So kudos to the student artists from India (6), Romania (4), and the Czech Republic (1).

Third, I was disappointed that there were not more submissions to the contest. I think this was due to the lack of promotion for the contest.

Back to judging the art, I was surprised by how easy it was for us to reach a consensus. According to the contest rules, we were to award one grand prize, up to 10 first prizes, and optionally an honorable mention. We awarded one grand prize, one first prize, and one honorable mention.

The Grand Prize went to Bogdan Alexandru Cionca, an 11th grader from Romania, for the submission Arcturus Space Settlement which illustrated the asteroid-related milestone. This is the artwork I’ve used to illustrate this post. We awarded a First Prize to Aleksandra Voinea, a 12th grader also from Romania, for Asteroid Mining near Mars, another asteroid-related artwork. Lastly we awarded an Honorable Mention to Tudor Tomescu, an 11th grader from Romania for Ancesius Asteroid-Mounted Settlement. So it was a clean sweep for students from Romania.

The contest results are now up on the National Space Society web site. To view the winning entries and all the other art that was accepted into the contest, see the Gallery for NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement International Student Art Contest (2014).

In closing, if you are a student artist with an interest in space exploration, NSS is expecting to run the contest again next year (December 2014 – March 2015) so keep your eyes open.

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The 2010 NASA Moon Art Contest

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

NASA Art Contest

Last night I finished casting my votes as a judge in the NASA Life and Work on the Moon Art & Design Contest. The art contest is open to all high school and college students. This is the third year NASA has run this contest and this is my third year as a judge for the contest. The contest has really grown in terms of the number of submissions received. NASA has Elizabeth Ward, the art contest’s coordinator, to thank for that. Judging the first year was pretty easy in that it didn’t take much time. This year was another matter entirely. The number of submissions has grown dramatically.

The judging criteria has changed somewhat from the previous contests. In the contest’s first year, judges were expected to evaluate submissions based on the Artist Statement (worth 20 points), Artistic Elements (worth 30 points), Creativity (30 points), and Validity (20 points). Dropped from the criteria after the first year was the artistic elements component. This year the judging criteria are Artist Statement (20 points), Creativity and Artistic Expression (50 points), and Validity (20 points).

For the Artist Statement, students are to explain what inspired them, what artistic media they chose and why, and anything else they want to say about their artwork. Not surprisingly the quality of the artist statements was as varied as the quality of the submission.

The Creativity and Artistic Expression was more subjective as there are no really definable standards to guide a judge – other than their own experience. For example there was one artwork that was pretty good artistically but the imagination that went into creating the piece led me to give it more points than I would have on purely artistic grounds. Another judge may have responded quite differently.

In many cases, judging Validity was the most difficult. Validity refers to the scientific accuracy and degree of understanding of the space environment. For example in the case of a painting that consists only of a space suited astronaut walking on the surface of the Moon – does the person really understand that environment? Some artists did not reveal a lack of understanding in their art but did so in their artist statement. Others made their degree of understanding, or lack thereof, apparent in their art. For example, people without spacesuits on the Moon is kind of a dead give away.

In spite of the large number of submissions I felt compelled to vote for all submissions in the visual categories. My rationale was that voting for some but not other works would skew the final results in that the way in which I award points is likely to be different than the way in which other judges award points. The visual categories for the contest are 2D art, 3D sculpture/dioramas, Digital art, and Video. The two categories in which I did not vote were Literature and Music.

The Biggest Pleasure
What I found most rewarding about the experience was having the opportunity to review the art, think about its meaning, admire its quality, and read the artist’s words about their intent and inspiration.

The Biggest Disappointment
What I found most disheartening was that overwhelmingly the art depicted NASA facilities on the Moon. I know it is a NASA art contest but if we are going to have a large scale human presence on the Moon, then realistically it is going to take more than a government agency to make a go of it. When I go to the Moon, I want to hit Starbucks for my latte, stay at the Lunar Hilton, and dine at the local Uno’s. So while many of the students participating in the art contest showed a solid grasp of the lunar environment and what we could do on the Moon, I don’t recall any of them really featuring the role of private enterprise.

Given the recent decision of the Obama administration to cancel NASA’s plans for a return to the Moon, I will be most interested to see what happens with respect to the future of this art contest.


To get details on the 2010 contest, visit the NASA Life and Work on the Moon Art & Design Contest site. You may also want to take a look at the Winners of the 2009 art contest

I previously wrote about the NASA art contest in the following blog posts:

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BLUECANVAS Art Contest and New Art

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

With A Flourish
With A Flourish

The folks over at BLUECANVAS Magazine are having an art contest with the winners to be published in the next issue of their magazine, that being issue five. The deadline for submitting art for the contest is April 16, 2010 and there will be 4 to 6 winners chosen. The theme of this contest, BLUECANVAS Magazine’s second such contest, is solace and artists are asked for their interpretation on this theme. From the contest web site, There is no right or wrong interpretation, we just want to see what you come up with.

There is no fee to enter the contest. Instead the magazine requires that those wanting to participate in the contest create an account with BLUECANVAS, which is free; put your art in the art gallery associated with your account, and then contact the magazine and inform them which item(s) in your gallery you wish to submit to the contest. You can see the profile that I created for myself at

The stated judging criteria for submissions are originality, technique, and title/description. There is a limit of 3 submissions per artist. For complete contest details, see

The theme of solace is an interesting choice. I don’t have anything in my existing body of work that would be appropriate for this theme and at the moment I’m drawing a blank on what I could create that would be appropriate.

The New Art

To illustrate this post I’m using digital art that I just added to my web site titled With A Flourish. For complete details, see the With A Flourish gallery page.

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