After years of pondering and experimenting, I am happy to share with you my current direction in art, painting MarsScapes (like landscapes but of the Martian surface). This effort happily combines my art with my educational background in Planetary Science and previous research focus on water on early Mars.
To create my MarsScapes, I use NASA images of the Martian surface taken by the rovers Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity as guides to painting these landscapes. The painting shown above, If These Hills Could Talk, was inspired by a scene the Curiosity rover observed of Mt Sharp in Gale Crater on Mars in 2015. Within these ridges (red, lower right), rolling hills (orange-yellow), rounded buttes (blue-ish purple), windblown cliffs (distant pink), and mysterious mountain (yellow) is a story about a ancient Martian land, exposed to water and wind in varying ways that both resemble processes on Earth and present something entirely new.
I am creating my MarsScapes primarily with a palette knife, applying thick, textured layers, and with some minor brushwork to add thinner glazes of paint. Each layer was allowed to dry between applications, which for me is a lovely representation of how a planetary surface is modified over time: gradually added to, changed, covered, removed. The colors are exaggerated and altered from the actual colors imaged on the Martian surface to provide visual interest. Instead of muted ochres (yellow-brown) and siennas (reddish-orange-browns), I use pinks, reds, oranges, yellows, and purples, with pops of blue or green to add contrast and energy to the work. I took this artist liberty with the idea that, while my efforts are far greater in intensity, it is symbolically similar to the color adjustments scientists use to show subtle differences in mineralogy, elevation, etc. Ultimately, my goal is to create landscapes that uniquely represent our celestial neighbor, not replicate it. Therefore there are inconsistencies in my work compared to the actual landscapes that exists just next door, and I’m okay with that. ;-)
Below are some close-up images showing detail within If These Hills Could Talk.