Sunday, October 4, 2009

Space Train

Here's another one of my spacecraft pictures from the mid-80s. "Space Train" is passing by the rings of a giant planet, accompanied by smaller escort craft. This was done after I learned architectural perspective at night classes at Harvard's Graduate School of Design.

It was yet another of my futile attempts to create a science fiction book cover that could be plucked out of availability by an editor. But though I knew perspective, I still didn't know how to make an exciting composition. Decades later, I know now, but I am not near the science fiction illustration world any more. How to make it more interesting? The most important thing is to tilt the horizon line. Nothing is more boring for a book cover than a level horizon and perpendicular lines. Next is to break up the masses of the spacecraft so that it has interior depth, rather than being all one block. After that, it's important to create the illusion of speed. I tried that with the smaller craft, but the big "train" looks like it's standing still. And finally, all cover art is now done in digital media, so I would need to do this all in Photoshop and other even more complicated programs.

These compositional tricks were not something that you learn naturally. What I later found out was that every artist whose work I admired, from Paul Alexander to Michael Whelan to current digital artists like Craig Mullins and Thom Tenery, all of them went to the famous Art Center College of Design at Pasadena, California. This expensive, exclusive school teaches you how to do that stuff and oodles more. The Art Center teaches a slick, sure-fire commercial style that looks like brushed aluminum, thrills art directors, and sells like wild. I wish I had gone there instead of Harvard. But it was 3000 miles, and even more dollars, away from me.

"Space Train" is acrylic on illustration board, 12" x 20", March 1986.

1 comment:

Tristan Alexander said...

I can see how the lack of angle makes this not exciting, though well done. And I disagree that all covers are now done digitally. I am sure that many are still done the old fasion way even if digital is the fad now days!