In 2003 I did a painting of a woman astronaut aboard a space station looking down at the Earth far below. ‘How Far We’ve come’ was about humanity’s incredible achievements in science and engineering, in understanding the laws of physics and using that understanding to go places and do things we had never done before. As somewhat of a space nerd since childhood, it was also a great excuse to paint the Space Shuttle and a view of Earth from orbit.

Now, 15 years later, I still love that theme, and that subject. I’ve been thinking of doing an updated version of ‘How Far We’ve Come’ for some time and even had the opportunity to do a 16 by 8 foot version as a commission in 2015. But there were a lot of ideas that didn’t make it into that commission piece. In fact, I have been thinking that taking that idea of ‘how far we have come’ and extrapolating it forward to ‘how far we can go’ would make an excellent theme for a series of paintings.

Over the past few years, my love of space exploration as a subject has become pretty obvious. Looking through my portfolio, since 2013 it has found its way into at least 12 serious paintings and scores of smaller pieces. It allows for visually interesting and dynamic compositions, poses, color schemes, and narratives, and is an excellent vehicle for portraying what is beautiful to me about human achievement, and about humanity’s place in the universe.

With all of that in mind, I’m starting 2018 off with the first painting in the ‘How Far We Can Go’ series.

In homage to the original How Far We’ve Come from 2003, I’m starting with a single female astronaut in Earth orbit, aboard a space station or possible an interplanetary ship. The station is clearly heavily inspired by the cupola on the international space station, which has provided a vantage point for some of the most breathtaking views of our planet ever captured, including the handful of images that I am using as reference material for the background of this painting. (Maybe someday I’ll get the chance to take my own reference photos from orbit, or do a little plein-space painting, but it’s currently way outside my budget.) The astronaut was drawn from reference photos I did take myself…of a very patient model.

Instead of looking down at Earth, this figure is arched upward, posed almost as if flying in the microgravity of the station. She is reaching toward the stars, away from the Earth, the Moon, and the places we’ve been before.

Instead of the shuttle outside the window, I’ve placed a section of another rotational-gravity station (or possibly ship) which is clearly beyond anything we’ve ever put into orbit although completely within our capacity to design, placing the scene in the future, but not too far.

 

This to-scale drawing is ready to be blown up to full size and transferred onto a 32×40 inch aluminum composite panel.