Painting High Moon

While attempting to gain practice drawing and rendering the wrinkles in cloth I hit upon the idea that spacesuits are nothing but wrinkles. I did a little research and found that every spacesuit is hand made and the price tag for each one is between 26 and 30 million dollars. A whopping figure for a suit you can’t wear to dinner.

I have always been an avid fan of the Space Race and now that I’d documented the construction of a panel it was time to put an image on it. When I was a kid in the 60’s the astronauts were everybody’s heroes. The everyman of heroes journeying to the farthest, loneliest place human beings have ever been is an epically mythic image. The Space Race was borne out of war though and it occurred to me, what if we’d arrived at the finish line only to have to defend the territory? How insane would it have been if we’d fought the Soviets over the moon on its surface? Trying to encapsulate this idea led me to the most iconic of American imagery, the Old West.

This sketch on newsprint was spontaneous and lively but I wanted a bit more dimension and focus on the action so I re-sketched in my Moleskine book with black Prismacolor.

I made a transfer sketch to work in some of the details of the Apollo missions.

I then transferred it to an acrylic crackle skin I’d constructed to give it my signature distressed look when done.

More as demonstration than anything else I chose to paint the sky using an airbrush. I chose to work it subtractively like a watercolor, which meant masking all the parts I didn’t want to paint.

The complete mask includes a fair amount of newsprint at the edges. You can never over-estimate overspray. When shot through an airbrush or spray gun paint gets everywhere in a fine fog.

I used a Paasche Model V. It’s an inexpensive, simply constructed airbrush that’s easy to clean and maintain. Great for acrylics.

The finished spray shows the surface imperfections in my hand made skin but I like that. Plus, once I applied the final varnish they disappeared.

Next the mask is pulled off.

I painted in the details over a few sessions. I chose to paint a more modern spacesuit on the cosmonaut to infer present-day competition from Europe and Asia.

I added some technical collage with old labels from computer test equipment. I then gold leafed the edges with a synthetic leaf and stressed the acrylic skin, making carefully chosen cracks in the surface. However, I got a little carried away and neglected to photograph these steps.

With heavy acrylic gel I bonded the painting to the panel. This ensures no other imperfections appear in the surface.

The finished, unvarnished work.

After 24 or so hours of letting the acrylic gel cure I added the label, varnished both front and back, and added hanging hardware.

Now that it has sold I’m tempted to paint it a second time but I have some other moonscapes in mind to work on first.