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.