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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 Art, Lunar Bases, and Space in Chicago

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Lacus Somniorum, Moon
Lacus Somniorum, Moon

Did you ever see that movie Sybil with Sally Field as the multiple personality woman? That’s me. Only I’m not a woman and it’s not multiple personalities — it’s multiple interests. Two interests that are obvious to people who know me are digital art and space — both of the astronomical variety and the space exploration variety.

My multiple competing interests — not to mention my interests in photography (see Jim Plaxco Photography), a wide variety of computing topics, and an interest in economics (my B.S was in Economics) — serve to limit the amount of time I can devote to each individually. In fact I’d say that I frequently find myself the victim of thrashing — an old computer science term describing the sub-optimal performance of a computer when it spends too much time switching between tasks.

It is much the same with my art. I have an interest in a variety of artistic subjects as well as creating art using a variety of stylistic approaches. I really chafe at the traditional advice given to artists that they should pick one subject and one style and stick to it. Where is the intellectual and creative fun in that? I understand how the one subject-one style approach works well for branding but why limit your creative ventures just so you can be more marketable and identifiable? In the acting profession that’s known as being typecast.

One recent activity of mine that neatly joined my interests in art and space was serving as a judge in the National Space Society’s 2015 International Student Art Contest (see NSS 2015 International Student Art Contest). We finished judging the submitted art last Friday. It took us a good number of hours to go through the 85 submitted works of art. Our first task was to categorize the art and determine whether or not each submission met the contest guidelines. The rule that all submitted art must feature one or more people doing something in a space setting disqualified a number of submissions.

The thorniest issue was regarding that of realism and led to the most intense debate between the judges. Some wanted to establish higher standards for the quality of the art that would be accepted. I argued that since this art contest was marketed as a contest for students and had entries from sixth grade through college, it was not appropriate to expect a sixth grader to produce artwork of the same caliber as that of a college student. On the whole, my approach won out.

One of the stipulations for the art contest was that if the judges felt that none of the submitted art was worthy of being awarded a prize then none would be given. Fortunately I can say that we did award several prizes. However, because the contest results have not yet been announced I can say no more on this subject.

On another space note, I’ve also been spending more time than planned taking the Introduction to Aerospace Engineering: Astronautics and Human Spaceflight online class from EDX.ORG. The class is being taught by MIT Professor Jeffrey Hoffman, a former NASA astronaut who made the trip to space five times on NASA’s Space Shuttle (Hoffman was the first astronaut to log 1000 hours on the Shuttle). My motivation in taking this class was to refresh old knowledge and hopefully pick up some new knowledge.

In one of my roles as President of the Chicago Society for Space Studies, I do a variety of educational space development presentations so a good understanding of the various issues is critical. It was in this role that I spoke a couple weeks ago at Loyola University as a part of the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. The title of my presentation was From Camp Century to the Moon and in this presentation I emphasized the future commercial opportunities of lunar development (neatly combining my interests in space and economics). The “Camp Century” in the title of my talk is a reference to the nuclear powered "city" the U.S. Army built under the Greenland ice outwardly to do science and learn to live and work in arctic conditions — but secretly a part of Project Iceworm. I use Camp Century in my presentation due to the similarities it has to a lunar base. On a related note, my next space to-do is actually tonight when I’ll be doing a shortened version of this presentation for the Rotary Club of Arlington Heights IL. I’m willing to bet that having someone speak about the commercial development of the Moon is rather out of the ordinary for them. We’ll see.

The Illustration: Lacus Somniorum, Moon

The illustration for this post is a small section of a digital painting I did of the Moon. This particular art project of mine was inspired by a painting of the Moon done in 1875 by astronomer/artist Étienne Léopold Trouvelot (December 26, 1827–April 22, 1895) whose work I greatly admire. At some point I do plan on adding this work, as well as several other works of lunar art, to my Moon Art Gallery.

The region shown in the illustration is that of Lacus Somniorum (Latin for Lake of Dreams), an irregular plain near the Moon’s northeastern limb. Specifically it is at selenographic coordinates 38 degrees north and 29 degrees east. With a diameter of 384 kilometers, it is the largest "lacus" on the Moon.

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Judging Art for the Humans in Space Youth Art Competition

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Humans in Space Youth Art Competition
Humans in Space Youth Art Competition

Last evening I finished judging 97 works of space art that has been submitted to the second international Humans in Space Youth Art Competition. It was my good fortune to have served as a judge in the first contest as well. I can’t tell you how happy I am to not only see the contest back for a second year but to also see an explosion in the number of entries submitted.

Contest partners include NASA, DLR German Aerospace Center, USRA (Universities Space Research Association), Lunar and Planetary Institute, Mission X, and the International Academy of Astronautics. The theme the artwork was expected to address is How will humans use science and technology to explore space, and what mysteries will we uncover? With respect to the contest’s goals:

The international Humans in Space Youth Art Competition encourages youth to “Be Inspired, Creative and Heard.” We ask them to think about the future of human space flight and to creatively communicate their ideas, and we promise to make these ideas viewable worldwide. By including the next generation in the planning of the future, the competition aims to enhance their awareness, interest in and support for human space flight, and to allow their ideas to begin shaping the future now.

The contest accepted submissions from March 9, 2012 thru November 18, 2012 from young people of 10 to 18 years of age, split into two groups: 10–13 years and 14–18 years. Submissions were accepted in the categories of visual, literary, musical and video artwork. Along with the artwork, each artist was expected to include an Artist’s Statement of Originality. The purpose of this statement was to provide information that would help judges to understand, appreciate, and evaluate the art. The winning artwork will be woven into displays and performances designed to relay the artists messages to a world wide audience. Most exciting for contest winners is the opportunity that their winning artwork might be displayed in orbit aboard the International Space Station!

Judging the Art

Youth Space Art Contest Entries Judged
The 97 Youth Space Art Contest Entries Judged

I had elected to be a judge in the Visual Art: 2D Visual Art category for the 14-18 year old age group. A special web site had been created for judges to view and rate the art submissions. Each judge is assigned a subset of the submitted art due to the large number of submissions received. When I log in to the system I see the art that has been assigned to me to judge. The only downside to this system is that I am limited to viewing only one work of art at a time (unless I open multiple browser windows).

Visual art judges were directed to judge the art based on the following criteria:

  • Aesthetics (Shapes, colors, textures, flow, proportions, composition, etc.)
  • Skill (Are knowledge of the media or principles of art demonstrated?)
  • Inherent meaning (What is the story or statement?)
  • Creativity (Is the artwork creative and original?)
  • Fulfilled intent (Does it meet the objective to express something about How will humans use science and technology to explore space, and what mysteries will we uncover?)

Additionally judges were asked to consider the scientific accuracy of the art. For example, if your character is walking around on the Moon then they had better be wearing a space suit.

In assigning ratings, judges were expected to assign equal numbers of 4, 3, 2, and 1 star ratings. To better judge the artwork, I downloaded the hi-res version of all the art to my computer. I then used Adobe CS4 Bridge in order to both view the art side by side, rank the art, and sort the art by rank. My methodology was to start from the ends and work inward. By ends I refer to first identifying the strongest and weakest artworks. Identifying 1-star and 4-star submissions was fairly easy. Much more difficult was distinguishing between the 2 and 3 star submissions. Upon completing my initial judging I found that I had the following distribution of rankings:

-Stars- -Allowed- -Given-
4 25 10
3 24 35
2 24 38
1 24 14

My distribution made it clear that my principal course of action was to promote art from the 3 star category to the 4 star category and demote art from the 2 star category to the 1 star category. Promoting and demoting was, predictably, the most difficult part of the judging process. In the end I did achieve the distribution of stars that judges were expected to award – though it was not easy.

The second round of judging will begin later this month with the entire process scheduled for completion in January 2013 and the winners to be announced shortly thereafter.

Links

In my own view, the important achievement of Apollo was a demonstration that humanity is not forever chained to this planet, and our visions go rather further than that, and our opportunities are unlimited.
Neil Armstrong – Apollo 11 astronaut and first person to set foot on the Moon

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