Friday, March 26, 2010

Art Feature - Ring Colonies Envisioned by Artist Don Davis

I am hoping to do more art features, and to include more art here on the site.  To that end I went looking for art and artists I could display here.  But of course, there are copyrights to abide by, and given that my blog is only just starting out, I didn't want to start knocking on the doors of big name, well-established artists just yet.

Still, I wanted to do a post on art as inspiration, and so dug around until I did indeed find some space art with open permissions ... thus this post.

I have always adored space art; from my first introduction to that work in old science fiction stories and books, through the era of Cosmos and 'serious' space art, and now to the computer generated spacescapes of perfection.  I love it all.

But I do have something of a soft spot for the art that kindled my imagination, and thereby contributed to my choosing to become a planetary scientist (and eventually getting my PhD in that field).  This same art continues to inspire me to create works of fiction today.  That art, as I called it above, was the 'serious' space art characterized by the Cosmos book and series.  Art of that era and in that sub-genre attempted to create accurate visualizations of astronomical phenomena using the best data and observations available.  Without computers, space art was oil, canvas, and airbrush.  Artist Don Davis was a major contributor to that effort.
Don Davis is one of the most influential space artists of the age.  You can visit his webpage for a look at his bio, projects, and some of his work.  There is no point in trying to list it all here, he has worked on everything; maps, books, cover art, television, missions, and more.  And interestingly, while doing this, the US government paid for Don to do some of that art.  Again, when computers were not an option, the best way to get an idea of what a space station might look like was to give the details to a talented artist and let him or her paint it.  Because of that, some of Don's art actually belongs to the general public, and he has posted the best resolution photos he has of that art.  Some of which now appears right here in this blog post!  Our tax dollars at work ...

Here I am going to focus on the art he created to depict a range of 'ringworlds'.  These were ideas for possible human colonies.  In these pieces, Don hoped to emphasize the difficulties with creating and maintaining a closed ecosystem.
The first, the beautiful orange and red piece above is listed on Don's site as one of his first colony pieces.  What is depicted is not so much a ring world, but cylindrical habitats orbiting at the L5 Lagrange point.  Don has envisioned that clouds would form over the terrain.  The orange color is due to the 'setting' of the sun, as the habitats fall into the Earth's shadow.

The second image is the inside of what became known as the 'Stanford Torus', filled with plenty of planned green space, as well as housing and commercial space.  Looking at this, I can't help wondering how people will get around.  I hope there is a monorail built all the way around the structure.  Hopefully one on both sides, actually.  The third image is an external view of the Stanford Torus in the assembly phase.  There is incredible detail both in the inner contents of the torus, as well as hints to how it would be constructed.

All these images raise practical questions about colony feasibility, and about the philosophy of having humans move into space in general.  But I'm looking at these works of art as a fiction writer, and so I don't have to figure out how to justify the budget in real life.  Instead, I can enjoy the voyage of the mind, imagining how it would feel to be there, to see it built, and then to live there.  I wonder what aspects of our culture would change the most dramatically, and which would become entrenched even further.

There is so much to be gained from bringing art and writing together.  Since I write poetry, I perhaps feel this more intimately than some.  In any case, I have invested time searching out new artists on the internet who publish their work on art sites, hoping to get some feedback and recognition.  Perhaps I will be able to showcase some of the work of these artists of tomorrow in a whole host of genres: science, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the just plain weird.  This should give all of us plenty of new ideas to write about!


Image Credit:  Artist Don Davis public domain works

1 comment:

Alan said...

Here’s an essay on a young poet’s journey through craft and the lessons learned along the way. Please read it at