If space is the final frontier, what does that say for Space Art? Throughout history, scientists and artists have teamed up to present images of places where fact and illustration met theory and imagination to create and shape our visions of the universe. One artist, Simon Kregar, has combined his love of space and science education with painting portraiture to create his current body of Astronomical Art work. Combining portraits of famous historical space leaders and visionaries with scenes from remembered events or discovered places, Simon brings these stories to life on canvas of the great adventure that is Space.The son of a painter, Kregar has himself been painting for several years. For a few decades now he’s shown his portrait work in several galleries, but it wasn’t until he became associated with the International Association of Astronomical Artists three or four years ago that his passion really took flight. Inspired by fellow association artists like Rich Sternbach of the Star Trek fame, space art visionary Don Davis, and world known space artist Kim Poor, Simon was encouraged to show his work. This organization has made it possible for Simon to meet many of the famous scientists and astronauts that he paints, letting him get a feel for their personality before he paints them. “I glean little bits of information and little bits of their personality – how they carry themselves – and try to incorporate that into my work.”
Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. Marie Curie
A big reason why Simon has chosen this current lane for his work? He wants to educate and inspire what he feels like is a general public that is still very much hungry for the ideas of space exploration and science. Recently, he’s been focusing on stories in science that feature women and minorities to not just celebrate their contributions, but to remind these groups of people in today’s world that they have always been a part of science and discovery, even if their voices were kept quiet to the public knowledge of it.
When he works on something like a painting of a sulphur volcano on Io (the innermost of the four Galilean moons of the planet Jupiter), he’s also probing the human imagination to think that we, too, can do this – stand on Io and look at exactly that – that the Human Race has the potential for these great new discoveries in this vast frontier.
When it comes to space art, Simon definitely has a process to how he approaches his work. First, he examines our history for some sort of fact, experience, or person that stands out. He then spends his time pouring through the NASA archives because they are a huge resource of copyright free information. He’ll find something that responds to him or something that he wants to convey and sets to work. Simon will use these photographs as a reference, but at some point he puts them away to keep the work from being flat and instead infuse it with his vibrant painter’s imagination and his choices like how to convey mood with color or sculpt a scene with light.
Many of his early pieces depict an anonymous astronaut in isolation experiencing space, so that the viewers can then imagine themselves in that place. The finishing touch often includes a layer of real meteorite dust that is applied to the surface, which you can see in The Geologist above. Simon engages his followers by asking them to vote on who they would like to see honored in paint. Some of his paintings have even utilized viewer interactions by allowing the audience to paint stars on the paintings themselves, reminding them once again that they, too, have a place in this universe.Simon is a fascinating person to sit down and have a conversation with. His ideas about art & color and the description of his process were fascinating, but what struck me the most about Simon was his passion for what he paints. He loves space. He loves science. And, he loves inspiring that knowledge into other people. He told me a wonderful story about how he became interested in inspiring people through his art; it involved pulling out his telescope in his small Tempe, AZ neighborhood and showing Jupiter to a grandmother that had never seen anything like it before. “You could see the realization on her face that that little point of light up there had all of a sudden become a place. There was a reality to it, it wasn’t just a little point of light anymore.” He was hooked.
Neil Degrasse Tyson said it best in the Cosmos episode when he said a lot of people want to live in a small world – and that’s okay – but I want to live in a big world – that encompasses all of this. And I want to look up and know my place in the grander scheme of the universe and to be able to communicate that. And the beauty and power of that – that’s my life’s mission.
Simon is currently hosting an indiegogo campaign to help him bring science to the world through art. The campaign features a great introduction to not just his work, but to Simon himself. Click here to make your contribution.
His work can also be viewed on his web site at http://simonkregar.com/