The terminology of the heroic Apollo missions has entered everyday use, from ‘moon-shot’ to ‘Mission Control’ and more.
Even a serious creative endeavour might now be termed something of a ‘moon-shot’. We free ourselves from the shackles of everyday gravity and soar ever higher, our rockets roaring with fire. But eventually the fire falls away, and the shiny capsule of our imagination coasts up into an exhilarating creative orbit. Then our artistic journey really begins.
Every artist, of whatever ability or vision, gets a feel for that snug chair at the top of the art-rocket, the feel of the growing thrust as our ‘impossible’ endeavour lifts off into an immense space of possibilities. Then that final teeth-clenching breakthrough into a tiny free-floating bubble of artistic achievement. Sometimes, we also know fiery death, falling back to earth in a tumbling spiral of smoke.
But, like the Apollo astronauts, we should feel immense gratitude to those who help us launch to orbit. Gratitude to those at the ‘Mission Control’ of our chosen creative software, and to the engineers and tinkerers who stand behind them. But we should also feel gratitude to those who did thankless work in past centuries. Far too many people had to suffer scorn and derision for challenging their era’s consensus on what was deemed ‘impossible’ in science and technology, or what it was ‘possible’ to think and imagine and say.
But they persevered, to the benefit of us all. They have bequeathed to us imaginative scope, clear ideas, and the ability to go where we want and dream what we want.
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Xin Liu is the Arts Curator for MIT’s ambitious new Space Exploration Initiative, at the famous MIT Media Lab.
FINE ARTS | SPACE-TECH
“Arts in space is not a new area, but it’s by no means a mature field. [At MIT] mostly I have to be creative and think of possible collaborations and projects to pitch. One of my primary objectives is to advocate the importance of the arts in spaceexploration.”
Jeremiah is a flexible and in-demand concept artist, who blends 2D and 3D to create convincing visions of the future.
PHOTOSHOP | WACOM
“Sketching is by far the hardest part for me, since it requires the most thinking and creativity. … The harder you work on the sketch, the fewer headaches you have down the road, so for me it pays to be disciplined during the initial stages of my paintings.”
Jan makes his 3D models in Blender, then works in Vue to visualise vast space bases and outposts on remote moons.
VUE | BLENDER
“I work very intuitively, most of the time not even making sketches or concepts. When I model, I might start with a simple thing like a wheel, and it grows into a landing gear and then I attach a spaceship to it. It is not like having meetings with artdirectors…”
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Jan van de Klooster models in Blender and works in Vue, to create epic future landscapes that depict advanced moon bases, space mining outposts and and research stations.
DAL: Jan, welcome. We especially like your sci-fi art, and it has the feeling of being influenced by the classic sci-fi paperback covers of the 1960s and 70s, the era of the Moon landings. How did you first become interested in science fiction art?
Jan Klooster: Thank you,. You ‘hit that nail right on the head’, and it says something about my age. I’m actually in my own 70s, and so maybe not your typical 3D SF guy. My first science fiction was the Flash Gordon comic, which I read daily in my parents’ newspaper. I loved it! That was in 1952, before we even had TV, and long before any space launch program had even started!
DAL: Wow. That was…the same year Collier’s magazine galvanised the mood in America for a Space Race. I recall they gathered the free world’s great space experts. Then, in a series of beautifully illustrated magazine articles, had them give a very comprehensive scenario for the exploration of space. Sadly it wasn’t to be, at least not then. But it had a strong effect on the social acceptance of science-fiction, apparently. Probably inspired a whole bunch of kids who read their pa’s Collier’s after he finished it.
JK: Yes, I read many of the magazines and writers from that era.
Later when I learned some English, I read a lot
of SF paperbacks, writers like Asimov, Bradbury, Niven, Anderson, you name it.
DAL: Were the paperback covers an influence? I sense a slight Chris Foss influence on some of your art. He was around a lot on the UK and European paperbacks, back then?
JK: Yes, when I was in my twenties I bought a box which contained mini-posters of Chris Foss art, and I papered my room with them. And to think he did his art with the airbrush! His enormous spaceships and constructions opened a new vista for me, and changed the way I experienced my science fiction. Then, in 1979 or there abouts, I saw the first Alien movie and after I left the cinema I spun around on my
heels and went right back in to see it again! I loved the realism, the grungy inside of those Nostromo corridors, the natural way the crew acted, complaining about the conditions and suchlike. Ridley Scott’s image of the ship landing on that alien planet is an all-time classic, as far as I’m concerned. I recently tried to capture that feel with one of my renders. It is on my Facebook, of course, all my work is.
DAL: And later sci-fi movies?
JK: Later movies like Avatar, Oblivion, the Star Wars saga, Elysium, in which I mostly look at the graphics, the ships, the special effects in those. The stories became less and less important for me.
DAL: I think that can also put down to the fact that older people, who read just about all the SF books and stories there were before circa 1985, have heard just every plot going. It’s difficult to show us a new twist in outer space SF, at least in terms of what’s able to get past a producer in a film or TV studio. Any other 2D artists?
JK: Yes, I also admired the traditional 2D space artists, including the painter John Harris, who made really awesome science fiction and space art.
DAL: Thanks. So did space art influence you to take up digital art? And when did you get started? Did you go straight to making 3D art, or did you try digital 2D art first?
JK: I got into the digital side of things via Corel Draw and Photoshop. In 1987 I had my first Atari 16 computer and it had a very simple 3d program. I’m afraid I cannot remember the name, but you could do a simple spaceship and turn it around, and it even could do hidden lines! You could only print the result from the screen, there was no rendering. That software was an eye-opener for me. Later, in 1995, when I was in the United States I bought a copy of Lightwave. Version 1, I think. I actually made some money with it, by visualising designs for booths and stalls for trade exhibitions, the interiors of shops, etc. But then I became too busy to do science fiction art with it.
DAL: Who were some of the earliest digital or 3D artists who inspired you?
JK: Well, maybe the first one was a guy named Peter “Loki” Bausteadter, a guy from Austria, who later went to the USA. It must be the same person who works now at Marco Polo Productions. He had made this image of a spaceship that I would have died for. Today I wouldn’t make the sacrifice, but back then I almost had that feeling! I also saw a lot of matte paintings, which at that time I wrongly thought was made with 3D.