September 27, 2012
A few days ago I came across an old post on a science art blog lamenting the fact that there are few artists and bloggers these days whose primary focus is space and astronomy art. Maybe because much of what is currently "observable" is not actually viewable--even with the aided eye--this limits the personal experience with objects or scenes that can inspire an artist to create. Perhaps artists are intimidated by the perceived expectation to comment accurately on the science behind their works, or maybe they feel their efforts trumped by the scads of beautiful photographs created daily by professional and amateur observers alike.
Having occasionally experimented myself with observationally based astronomical sketching as well as illustrations of imagined objects, I've spent a lot of time thinking about my own concerns in approaching celestial subjects. One of the biggest hangups I've had is making sure that what I draw retains a degree of accuracy and scientific meaning. I know there's lots of art that is wild, abstract, out of proportion, and not at all based on a picture-perfect rendering of reality that is still aesthetically viable and even conveys a deeper sense of meaning about its subject than it might have otherwise. Still, when I've sat down and drawn a made-up nebula or star cluster, or thought about creating an abstract representation of a famous astronomical object (like the Lagoon Nebula...one of my favorites!), I always feel a little queasy about it. I worry that any artistic interpretations of an astronomical scene might only detract from the perfect beauty of the original, while simultaneously giving a false account of what actually exists in the universe.
I know. I worry too much.
Which is why, I finally gave in to my inclination to complete a rather unconventional portrait of a totally fictional astronomical body...
The creative spark for this drawing--which I'm calling Stellar Nursery--was initially inspired by those cool math pictures I wrote about a few posts ago, but then sat around untouched for days while I ruminated over how to develop the initial sketch (I hate that stage). Later, after I finished reading Frank Herbert's The Jesus Incident, I went back into the studio intending to put to paper a few of the fantastical scenes that were banging around inside my head. However, when I removed the old sketch and went to refit my drawing board with a clean sheet of paper, I hesitated. There was something about the sketch that still compelled me. I stared at it for a while, and decided to make a go of completing it.
Though the result looks only faintly like real stellar nurseries I've seen, and definitely does not accurately portray any scientific principal or process, it still evokes for me the exuberance I've felt when learning about, viewing, and remembering past observations of, our galaxy's active star forming regions.
It remains to be seen if this drawing signals the beginning of a series...