Sunday, February 19, 2006

Working Art: The Apollo 12 Checklists of Linda Gordon

Sometimes art takes the form of a historical recreation of an actual working object. The artist attempts to recreate copies of a one of a kind artifact of historical importance for the masses.

As an example, in 1823, Noted engraver, William J. Stone was commissioned by the US Government to make a limited number of copies of the Declaration of Independence. The reasons cited for copies to be made of this "one of a kind" historic document ranged from the deterioration of the original to the request by the original signers for a copy to place in their personal archives. Stone used a wet ink method to draw ink off the original vellum and onto a copper plate where the artist engraved the plate using the ink as his template. Stone used the original document's medium of vellum to make the copies, so that they would be as close as possible to the real document. They were so close to the original document that the US Government purchased the copper plate for safe keeping and for future reproduction of the artifact.

How does the aforementioned example relate to space history and artifact preservation?

The answer to that question came in 2005. Linda Gordon, artist and wife of Richard Gordon, Apollo 12 Command Module Pilot, became concerned that the current practice of breaking apart Gemini and Apollo Era flown checklists or Flight Data Files (FDF)* for individual sale would result in the loss of historical evidence for future generations.

Linda commenced a project to duplicate the checklists that Dick maintained in his collection after his return from the Moon. The results are virtually exact replicas of the original checklists. The full color Apollo 12 mission patch on the cover in the above photograph is one of the few clues the differentiate the replicas from the original Flight Data File.

Linda told me that the initial attempt at the preservation was to photocopy each checklist. The purpose of copying the FDFs was to provide a complete record for future historical study in the event that the checklists were broken up by succeeding generations. It was during that work that she had the idea of using her skills as an artist to replicate the Flight Data Files in a limited set of 50 editions.

After studying the project, Linda contacted a printer with the specifications necessary to produce each edition. Working together, Linda and the printer copied and printed on the proper paper stock. I had the chance to see the replicas in person at San Antonio this year and the results were striking.

To illustrate the similarities between each checklist, I have placed example pages from both the replica and the original Flight Data Files from my own collection. The replica will be the first photograph of each type of example.

The first three photographs, starting with the replica shown above, show an representative page titled "P37 Block Data." The card was used to provide the burn times necessary for course corrections during a lunar mission.

As mentioned previously, the initial photo is of the replica. The above picture shows an actual blank "P37 Block Data" page from the original Apollo 17 CSM Updates checklist used on the mission. Visually they are very similar, but the feel of the card stock really completes the whole artistic process required to make each replica.

The final example of the "P37 Block Data" card is one of the actual pages used by Harrison Schmitt during the Apollo 17 mission. This example shows how the pages were used during the actual lunar missions.

These next two pages show graphic images both the replica and an original Flight Data File. The star charts were used during the mission to locate stars that were necessary to determine the spacecraft's position in space. The above photograph is from the replica.

The above photograph is of an actual star chart used on the Apollo 11 mission. Do a visual comparison of both star charts, because the card stock is virtually identical.

There was one thing I learned as I collected Flight Data Files. There were pink color pages in many of the checklists. The pink color represented emergency procedures for various parts of the flight.

In comparing the pink pages, Linda captured the proper pink color that NASA used originally on the checklists. The only difference between Linda's checklist and an actual pink page from one of Gene Cernan's LM checklists is the slight fading on the original FDF page's color due to aging.

The back cover provides the only real acknowledgement that the checklist is a replica. Linda has signed the back cover, labeled the edition number and stamped a copyright notification on each back cover of the Flight Data Files. Linda has followed a similar tradition that William J. Stone took when he identified the 200 copies of the Declaration of Independence. Stone engraved his name into the copper plate used to create the replicas, thus identifying the replicas from the original artifact.

The artist has, from this collector's standpoint, very successfully replicated the original Apollo Era checklists to the point of requiring the application of her name and the edition number on the back cover.

In 2006, Dick and his fellow Apollo 12 cremate, Alan Bean pose with my copy of the Apollo 12 Operations Checklist that Linda Gordon created.

The beauty of the faithful replication of the Flight Data Files is two fold. Linda has created an artifact that can be used for research or display by historical researchers. It also can be handled by the space artifact collectors without the worry of destroying an original. Also, although the price is high due to the need to hand make each replica in order to maintain such high fidelity, the price allows more collectors the ability to acquire a relic of the Space Age.
*The accurate term of the checklists is Flight Data File. The initials "FDF" were used in communications during the missions. I have used the terms interchangeably through out this article, but they all refer to the same artifact.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Space Art of Ed Hengeveld

Europe has spawned several new members of the space art genre. Ed Hengeveld is one such artist. A resident of the Netherlands, Ed works for a Dutch television station as such he has had the chance to watch the NASA feeds for space launches. As a collector of NASA photographs, Ed publishes a weekly post with a rare photo from the NASA Archives. He is also a major contributor to the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal. Ed uses those photographs as his inspiration for his paintings.

One of the first paintings of Ed's that I purchased is his X-15 painting titled "Drop." Here Ed depicts the moment of launch for the research rocket plane. The painting contains all the major components used in the air at the time of the drop of the X-15 including the B-52 "Mothership" and the chase planes.

During our discussion Ed told me this about his inspiration for this painting, "The X-15 and Lifting Body programs have always been a special area of interest for me. They represent the transition from aeronautics to astronautics...I have always had great admiration for the test pilots who flew these hybrid machines."

The composition focuses the eye to the forefront of the painting. The use of the "vanishing point" and color draw the eye along the B-52's contrail to the painting's background of desert and distant hills. It is that diagonal composition that gives the painting great depth. The colors give the painting a stark contrast between the sands of the desert and the sky. Add the excitement of the moment of launch and I know why this is one of my favorite paintings from Ed.

Ed has been published in European space and art publications like Spaceflight. The article shown above provides a brief comment about where Ed first saw space paintings done by artists in contract with NASA. The article does contain two of the works that I commissioned from him.

Over the past few years I have commissioned Ed to create paintings based upon ideas that I have had concerning events that occurred in the exploration of space. The above painting shows the CSM/LM stack during TransLunar Coast (TLC). Ed choose to put the Moon in the background to highlight the fact the spacecraft was traveling to the Moon.

One fact about Ed's work is the detail he puts into the paintings he creates. The work is almost photographic in detail. It is just that no camera was in a position to capture the spacecraft configuration that is shown in the TLC painting.

For the most part, I have placed Ed's paintings within my collection in chronological order in this blog. After the "Drop" piece, I have placed the paintings in sequence for a lunar exploration mission. Ed has painted various scenes during a lunar exploration mission.

In the piece shown above, Ed has used the famous Earthrise photograph from Apollo 8 as an inspiration for the above painting that is titled "We Came In Peace." The painting is stark in its contrast between the barren lunar surface and the bright blue jewel that floats above it. The sight of the Earthrise usually marked the astronaut's arrival in orbit.

"Apollo 8 really started my interest in spaceflight when I was 12 years old. Until that time my 'artwork' was influenced by the comics that I read as a child. ...I think that for a while I wanted to become a real comic artist.."

Ed started a comic book based on Apollo 11's mission to the Moon. As Ed tells it, "Because the 'comic virus' had not completely died, I embarked on a monster-project in 1991: to create a comic books about the Apollo 11 mission."

This is the title page of that comic book project. Although Ed did not complete the project it was still major step in his development as an artist. "I came as far as page 9 of a planned 50 pages, at which time I gave it up. When looking back I realize that these comic pages represent the transition from color paint." Ed would go on to say the comic book project was "an essential step in my development as an artist."

Ed's original media of choice was driven by his work on comic books. "Initially I worked only with colored pencils and specialized in portraits. Because of my interest in spaceflight it was inevitable that astronauts became the subject of my artwork. ...I slowly developed my abilities and my works became increasingly ambitious. Some effects, such as the black of space, are hard to create with colored pencils, so I started exploring other media such as watercolors paint. I settled on gouache as a medium that suited me best and since the mid 1990's I have used that (media) almost exclusively for all my works."

Ed's work maybe almost photographic, but there was no camera in place to record the moment of touchdown by the lunar module (LM). Ed was so detailed in this work that when asked which mission this painting represented, he replied that it was Apollo 16's landing. Why? The LM had a rover mounted on it and the terrain showed Stone Mountain in it.

The "Two Flags" shown here is a commissioned piece. I asked Ed to do a "Flag on the Moon" painting. This painting is shown on this site in an earlier post about paintings that show the American flag on the lunar surface. Ed was creative in showing the flag on the astronaut's suit, who had just planted the flag on the Moon.

Ed highlights the spacesuit flag patch by showing only the shoulder of the moonwalker as he walks away from the lunar surface flag.

"Rolling Rock" is also a commissioned painting. In listening to Edgar Mitchell, he said that he had hoped to roll a rock down the wall of Cone Crater. That is if he had made the rim. Edgar and Al Shepard did come very close (good enough for the scientists), but Edgar never got his chance to roll that rock down Cone Crater. I thought it would be an interesting "what if" to see what Edgar Mitchell might have done if he made it to the rim.

In 2004, Edgar Mitchell stayed with us while attending a local museum event. I showed Edgar the painting. Although I normally don't have another party sign a painting. I obtained approval from Ed (the artist) to have Edgar Mitchell sign the painting. In this photograph, Edgar is sitting at our kitchen table holding the painting.

Sunita Williams, a future member of the ISS 14 crew, was also over at the house. She asked Edgar about the painting. Edgar proceeded to tell her that if we were looking towards that area on Cone Crater at the time of Al Shepard's and his moonwalk, then you would have seen the top of their helmets as they walked parallel to the crater rim.

The first painting I bought from Ed Hengeveld was "Heading West." It an extremely detailed view of the lunar rover and the painting had been signed by Harrison Schmitt. The two voyagers are heading out on the beginning of their second EVA. Cernan and Schmitt are driving toward the South Massif on what would be their farthest venture from the LM. You can see the LM and the North Massif and Sculptured Hills in the background.

Also, in 2004, I met Gene Cernan at the UACC show in Burbank, California. I had him sign the work too. Here is Gene posing with the piece. You can also see these photos of Edgar Mitchell and Gene Cernan on Ed's website located below.

Ed also has done work in the panoramic field. In "Descartes" Ed has used the panorama that John Young photographed of Charlie Duke at Plum Crater. If you were to compare the photograph to the painting, you would be able to see the individual craters that also appear in Young's panorama. There is one difference. Young did not appear the actual photograph. Ed painted John Young into the work.

I discussed this painting with another local artist. He commented that the shadows of the astronauts were too black. I showed him the actual photograph that this piece was based upon and, indeed, the shadows were completely black in the photograph too. The artist was thinking with his critique based upon how things function on Earth and the Moon is a very different place.

In "Sampling Shorty," Ed has painted another panoramic view of the Apollo 17 mission, here is Cernan and Schmitt working to obtain a sample near the crater "Shorty." These sweeping vistas of the Moon by Ed are some of my favorites. If you go back 50 years, you will find the same type of vistas set up by Chesley Bonestell. The difference is that Bonestell envisioned jagged peaks like the Alps and not the smoothed, rounded hills that exist in real life.

Currently, Ed and I are working on a long term project to put a new light on the old NASA graphical works that depicted the various stages of a lunar mission. The above painting, "Reentry," shows the Apollo command module (CM) reentering the atmosphere as it returns home to Earth.

Ed chose to avoid the traditional view of reentry of showing the blazing hot heatshield. Instead, Ed focused on the top of the spacecraft as it plunges into the atmosphere at 25,000 miles per hour.

Another in the Apollo lunar mission paintings to be included in the project is "Back from the Moon." Ed uses another unusual perspective. The artist is positioned behind a recovery helicopter pilot to see his view of the CM as it descends under parachute to the Pacific Ocean and home.

In doing this series of paintings, Ed said, "In a sense the series of Apollo timeline paintings that (you) have asked me to paint is also sort of (like a) comic: a moment by moment depiction of all the steps in a lunar mission."

In Ed's most recent painting titled "Exploring" I really enjoy the solitude of the lone astronaut working in the glow of the Earth. Ed's use of a vertical canvas accentuates isolation of the moonwalker on the lunar surface. "Exploring" also represents a change in the type of media Ed is currently using to create his artwork.

In a new twist to Ed's work, he has created a variation on a very old theme. His use of the Triptych, a form of art that dates back to the Byzantine and Renaissance Eras, creates and unifies a lunar surface scene that began as the single narrow painting titled Exploring and is shown above.

While each scene stands alone as a painting, together they tell a story. When combined that three paintings equal a 20 x21 inch painting and show four of the main components of the Apollo lunar surface exploration, Two moonwalkers. the lunar module, the lunar rover and, high in orbit, the command module.

Ed has been requested to expand the size of his paintings. In order to create a larger canvas, Ed has started experimenting with different paint surfaces. As Ed explained to me, "This 2006 painting 'Exploring' is the latest step in my artistic development: it was painted on thick cardboard instead of the heavy paper I always use. Once in a while I want to expand my horizon and try new media, so one day I may make the transition to oil and canvas."

Ed is pictured here with one of the larger works in his collection. Ed has made a nice transition from paper to art board. One wonders what the future has in store for Ed Hengeveld and his artwork? I, for one, see more great works from a talented artist.

The Space Art of Detlev van Ravenswaay

During my travels to find and add various artists to the collection, I have quite literally stumbled on another artist painting in the space art field. Detlev van Ravenswaay is just such as example.

There are several talented painters of the Space art genre in Europe. Detlev, who hails from Germany, came to my attention during an auction at Superior in 2001. I saw the original work of "One Earth and Fifty Stars" as a lot during that auction. The piece really captured my attention as the composition was one of my favorites. Although I did not post the high bid on the original artwork, I was able to procure this study directly from Detlev two years ago.

I have described "One Earth and Fifty Stars" in a previous section of this site entitled "Flag on the Moon." A more detailed description of the work and the artist's feelings have been written in that chapter. I encourage you to scroll down and read it.

The other factor in my enjoyment of Detlev's work is his eclectic choice of subject matter such as the work shown below.

In "Ancient Observatory," Detlev has depicted early man's rudimentary attempt at understanding the Universe. His choice of technique in this piece was working "wet in wet" which mingles colors together to form a smoky atmosphere that mimics the shadowy existence of early man. As the tribe huddles under the rock close to the fire, a lone observer draws a circle in the sand as a representation of the full Moon rising in the sky.

You can see the difference in technique between this fast sketch versus the more formal work shown above in "One Earth and Fifty Stars."

Detlev has documented past historic events in Space and his views are world oriented. In "April 12th, 1961 - I Feel Good," he paints Yuri Gagarin in Vostok One on Man's first voyage into outer space. Detlev once told me that he was trying to capture the loneliness of space by showing the small capsule against the vast background of Earth and sky.

With an eye toward the future, the artist paints what Mars may look like as Man sees it from the surface of it's moon, Phobos.

In a more formal portrait, Detlev explores the possible views that Mars might produce for future. His idea was to show a dramatic view in the Valles Marineris. The composition draws one's eye from the bright sunlight and then follows the explorer's line of sight to the other members of the expedition far down into the darkness of the valley below. The lights on the ends of their staffs the only thing visible to us.

As we end this part of the retrospective, I wanted to include one of my favorite pieces of van Ravenswaay's work and it is titled, "Marsonaut in Orbit - EVA." Detlev has chosen a close up view of an astronaut during an EVA while in Martian orbit. Although just a study, it shows the weathered face of a veteran astronaut with the planet Mars reflected in his visor. It is truly one of the most personal pieces I have seen in the genre.

In Part Two, the retrospective will discuss some further works that demonstrates Detlev's versatility and in what new directions he is heading.

The Space Art of Detlev van Ravenswaay (cont.)

To continue on, let's look at other works that demonstrate Detlev's versatility.

"In the Rings of Saturn" in one of my favorite subjects. I agree with Detlev when he says, " It must be a stunning view with the rocks and dust... The contrast between the (rock's) rough surface and the soft cloudy planet Saturn in the background." What a beautiful scene.

I have also included a pen and ink sketch of an asteroid encounter with Earth. In "Toutatis Encounters Earth," Detlev shows his ability with the pen sketch.

As a Space art collector, I feel that Detlev is one of the more creative Space artists in the craft today. He has the ability to paint in the traditional mode or the abstract mode as well as utilize methods from another artist's style and adapt them into his own work.

Detlev's training as an illustrator show in his ability to mimic other methods and techniques as in a work entitled "In the Glare of the Sun." A work that copies the style of Robert McCall as an experiment in color and technique. Personally, I enjoy the work because of it's vibrant colors.

One of his more unique works also shows his ability to mimic other artists, but also to be creative and abstract in a genre that is more adapted to traditional subjects such as planet landscapes and scenes of the future. Detlev's use of Worhal's pop art style for the piece "Buzz on the Moon" shows that unlike many Space artists, he has been willing to experiment with Modernism.

This painting that imagines what ice might look like at the South Pole of the Moon, while a wonderful work is not an original painting in my collection. The painting is printed on a postcard. While the postcard is ordinary, the place it has been is not. The postcard and Detlev's painting journeyed to the International Space Station.

This postcard was imprinted with the official ISS stamp on the station by Sergey Zalyotin. The blue octagonal stamp located at the center of the postcard is the ISS stamp. Zalyotin signed and dated along the bottom of the card making Detlev one of the few artists to have his work flown in Space.

Detlev is also now the first space artist to have his work flown by all three manned spaceflight nations as a special cover was flown on Shenzhou-6 recently. Now Detlev has taken new direction with his work. Through the use of computer technology as a new canvas and palette, he is producing artwork like the above view called "Shadowgames on a ringed planet somewhere in space."

Detlev has been designing mission patches for some of the German cosmonauts including ESA Astronaut Thomas Reiter, who is training for a mission to the ISS.

Besides being a friend and a genuinely nice guy, Detlev is a very talented artist who's work is not that well known to the space collecting community here in the US. Anyone who is interested in his work should visit his website at and view some of the many examples of his works.