|Discovering-a-Blue Planet||Exoplanet and Star||Hanging out in Deep Space||Its Full of Stars||Jupiter|
|An oil painting of Mars||Spacewalk||Spacewalking over Titan|
Life as an artist in modern times is framed by some basic questions....
Are oil paintings stuck in the past, unable to compete with modern art?
Is digital space art the only way to illuminate the way to the stars?
Is a photograph of space better than a hand crafted painting of space?
Is there a future for oil paintings,is there a future for humanity in space?
Why do we dream something before we embark on a journey?
Are there precedents to help when painting our place in space?
It was while standing before an Aboriginal dream time painting that I finally "got it". First a small personal primer on Aboriginal art: I grew up in Australia and spent some quality time in the bush and on the beach. Sounds like I was living the dream, but if you tune in to your environment you can feel it tuning in to you. As Aboriginal art began to emerge commercially it was hard to decipher why these dotted paintings with ochre backgrounds were rising in prominence (other than its competition, modern art, was shooting itself in the foot and head with giddy immature enthusiasm and general over-hyped bullshit), but it was easier to discern at first glance that when it came to Aboriginal Art, there was the good, the bad, and the high quality; art that transcended European art and was truly unique. Modern art, no matter how abstract, funky, celebratory or raw, can’t quite compete with a unique Aboriginal painting.
So what made it unique? For me, a hobby collector of maps, and budding space entrepreneur, the moment when I connected the concept and concentration that formed an Aboriginal painting was a breathtaking and indeed calming moment: They were painting maps of places and energy. Their lives, pre-wifi, pre-satellite-TV, pre-printing-press, was essentially at one with the environment. Now, cast aside the romanticism of being part of a migrating stone-age tribe on the driest continent on earth and zero in on their art: Their art was conveying messages, history, also instructional, and when they were painting their space, they interpreted the energy around them.
And what is our universe but energy?
Sure, we send probes into space and take photos from different orbits in our Solar System and use sensors out there and here on earth to collect tonnes of data, but that data then requires a software filter before we are presented with an image, and even then it is manipulated to our tastes.
I stopped painting about 15 years ago, and then re-started a year ago. I had a vision of our place in space, and what really captivated me was the question what is the ultimate wonder future astronauts will feel: They will be alone, space walking, able to stare face to face with space, be it planets or just a sea of stars.
So how to represent this as an oil painting?
Well, you technically don't need to. Amateur astronomers and complex telescopes suck so many images from the heavens that it would take you decades to enjoy it all. I'd had fun using Photoshop to create illustrations for a book I wrote (Alien Contact and Diplomacy - Get it Right or We Suffer) mixing images of stars with a space walking astronaut, but a printed image is nothing compared to a living and breathing oil painting.
Now the technical question: Fine art, for those who have never tried it, is extremely difficult. That is what separates bad, average and exceptional art. I’d had a break from painting but kept up my drawing skills, yet in painting space and the universe how was I going to paint stars and galaxies? Then came the inspiration from the Aboriginal paintings - energy is a map. Paint the energy.
Simon Drake, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, December 2014