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“Celestial Northwest”

Part 1: How To Create a Space Artist

I came into this world in 1964 during one of the most extraordinary times in history. NASA was in full swing of sending men and the first Gemini and Apollo crafts into orbit around our planet. I was plunked down on the good Earth just as some of us were learning how to leave it. Space exploration has been the foundation of my very existence, especially when considering that my father worked for McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, MO building parts for Mercury and Gemini spacecrafts. Four years later, I remember watching the grainy black and white images of the LM-5 Eagle blast moon dust at high velocities as it came closer to the lunar surface. I remember hearing the iconic beeps transmitting back and forth from Mission Control to the surface of the moon. I remember seeing the slow methodical decent Neil Armstrong took down to the base of the LM. And I remember the palpable excitement our household expressed when a man set foot on another planet for the first time in the history of humankind. Not a bad way to start out life’s journey.

Three years later when I was seven years old, my family relocated to Frankfort, KY. The activities of NASA seemed as distant as the moon itself for a seven year old in bluegrass country. By this time I was immersed in a creative home environment that laid the foundation for my interests in the arts. My artistic endeavors were celebrated and promoted by my parents with zeal and devotion. Because of their encouragement I grew up believing that I could one day become a successful artist if that’s what I really wanted. My parents taught me that it was okay to reach for my dreams.

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Spacefest VI - 2016

I worked very hard as a young girl to hone my artistic abilities. By age fourteen I had developed enough skill to sell my wildlife and landscape paintings. At age seventeen I had already launched a full-time business selling fine art and custom airbrushed apparel. After I graduated high school I toured the east coast checking out art schools, but in the end decided that since I was already making a living producing art that I would decline attending college and continue with a stern focus on growing my business.

In 1984 I headed to Daytona Beach. I was 19 years old and had already been a freelance artist for five years and had picked up airbrush as my main medium the year before. This led me to work in the Florida tourist industry airbrushing t-shirts, motorcycle tanks, murals, advertising posters, etc. The pace was invigorating and the large volume of daily work that passed before me helped to expand my abilities and explore other techniques with mixed medium. My customer base grew to include fine art commissions, large scale murals, architectural and engineering renderings, illustrations for film, music and literary markets, and commercial graphics for corporate and advertising companies.

It was my pure luck that Daytona Beach is so close to Kennedy Space Center, which in turn re-introduced me to NASA’s space program. I witnessed numerous shuttle launches from my front yard, from the storefronts I sublet on Daytona’s boardwalk, or from the beaches near Cape Canaveral. It was an exciting time to be on the east coast of Florida! These experiences made me imagine what it must have been like during the Apollo days when entire neighborhoods excitedly gathered on neighborhood streets to watch rockets blast into space.

Being so close to Kennedy Space Center did the only it could do, fuel my interests in space exploration, and well, all things space. It was an influence that soon showed up in my work. By the early 90’s NASA figures began to hear about my work and in turn commissioned fine art pieces to commemorate astronauts and retiring Apollo era dignitaries, and works that related to the shuttle program. Michael Leinbach, who I met in 1992, was one of these collectors. Leinbach moved up NASA’s ladder to eventually become the Shuttle Launch Director in 2000. By then he owned a few of my original paintings that proudly hung in his office. One of my career highlights is knowing that my work displayed in the Launch Control Center during the last twelve years of the shuttle program on a wall that overlooked historic launch pad 39-A. What a view! My running joke is that my art made it further into the space program than I ever could have.

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“Leinbach collection” ISS painting that hung in the LCC

Currently my works hang in many NASA offices around the country but it was Leinbach’s interests in my work that paved the way toward my serious efforts to produce art that featured space explorations. Shortly after this timeframe, I discovered Apollo astronaut Alan Bean’s artwork depicting his and his fellow astronauts’ experiences on the Moon. I quickly realized the significant communications he was sharing. When I saw Bean’s textured and surprisingly colorful paintings of astronauts conducting research on the Moon, I decided I wanted to do something similar with my art; tell my stories and share my excitement for astronomy, planetary science, space exploration and my growing awe of the cosmos. And there you have it, a space artist was born.

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“People of Pinnacle Point”


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