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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Painting Earth from Space

While you're at it, don't stop with just the planet Earth,
paint the whole damned solar system.
Space travel using a big gun.
The next time you encounter what I call in my book, Art THINK (available at right), "blank page syndrome," consider painting all or part of your home planet. No, you don't have to pay a few million for a trip to the International Space Station, all you need to do is simply visit the Internet for all the source photos you'll ever need or want. I'm not talking about science fiction art. You might better call it "science fact" art. Although it sounds like a radical idea, actually you would be following in the footsteps of quite a number of well-known painters who have found the limitless possibility of "spacescapes" an irresistible source of inspiration. Dating all the way back to the Jules Verne's 1865 novel From Earth to the Moon, and the subsequent 1902 movie version (right), artists of all types have been enthusiastic chroniclers of man's exploration of Gene Roddenberry's "Final Frontier." Whether fact or fiction, these artists are the last vestige of history painting today. And perhaps the best part is, in using NASA's photos, you don't have to worry about copyright restrictions. The rights belong to you and "We the people."

Each of the artists above relied heavily on NASA photos.
During the latter half of the 20th-century, when the so-called "space race" was in full swing, artists from Andy Warhol to Norman Rockwell jumped on the patriotic bandwagon, turning out a broad variety of styles, themes, and content, whether down to earth, as in the work Of Jamie Wyeth (above) or futuristic idealist dreams such as those of former Astronaut turned painter, Alan Bean, who actually walked on the moon. For its part, NASA has long been a great support of the arts, whether in providing high resolution photos for the professionals to sponsoring painting competitions for school children (below).

Art & the Cosmic Connection Youth Art Contest.
At a college level, NASA's Langley Research Center has a program called the Langley Aerospace Research Summer Scholars (LARSS, which allows Amanda Cichoracki (below) and others to make a mark that will linger long after she is gone. Amanda, for instance, is responsible for painting a mural in NASA's Langley cafeteria. Her theme is “NASA: 50 Years and Beyond.” She spends her mornings and afternoons in the cafeteria with paint on her hands, sometimes on her face, and even in her hair. Cichoracki has always been surrounded by math and science. Her father is a math teacher and her mother is a science teacher, both at the high school level. Her brother, Brian, is a computer science major. From the age of 12, Cichoracki carried her sketchbook with her everywhere. She is now a junior fine arts major at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she has embraced her love of art while dabbling in many other areas. Her goal is to become an illustrator, but she is embracing the opportunity to mix her passion for painting and her interest in NASA.

Amanda Cichoracki working on her mural on the cafeteria wall. She finished it just this past August, 2016.
For the artist painting in an abstract mode, NASA photos off a virtual treasure chest of highly detailed images (below) that, while not immediately identifiable in terms of content, are, nevertheless, literally "down to earth" otherwise. Their brilliant colors, shapes, and linear elements are all any such painter could desire.

Just add paint and a title--no need to credit NASA unless you want to.
For those bound to a more realistic style and philosophy, NASA has a surprisingly broad range of files involving manmade earth features. Want to paint Paris Pink? NASA has a stunning photo of the city's Arc de Triomphe (among those below) with it's twelve radiating boulevards from which you may draw, or simply derive inspiration. The color is up to you.

From Versailles to the Hoover Dam, NASA can take you there, so long as you don't insist on painting "en plein air." There's not much of that in space.
For those doubting the effects of climate change, one has only to notice the white "bathtub ring" around the shores of Lake Powell (below), now at its lowest level since its Glen Canyon Dam was built in 1963. Two years ago we noticed the same appearance around the shores of Lake Mead. Part of this problem may be attributed to excessive use of the Colorado River water flow, but in both cases it's hard to attribute cause and effect with so many interlinking causes to consider. Nonetheless, it would make a great semi-abstract mural with a meaning.

Lake Powell, about to become Puddle Powell.
Our planet earth is not nearly as pristine as
the NASA photo taken from a million miles
out in space would suggest, (top left)
especially when one considers the halos of
orbiting space trash presently encircling
our orb--another good topic for a painting.

If you find painting the earth too
mundane, turn your head, look the
other way; there's always the nebula
called the "Pillars of Creation" as
seen by NASA's Hubble Telescope.


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