Tag Archives: Space

Revisiting Space Exploration with Affinity Photo for iPad

In June of 2015 Affinity Designer for Mac caused a splash when it was released. I’d never heard of it but was anxious to try something that might allow me to replace Illustrator. I spent a couple weeks with the trial and decided pretty quickly that I would be purchasing it. During that time I created a series of space-themed posters and shared them is a couple of blog posts: post one and post two.

Of course, Designer is primarily for creating vector-based art. But just as Affinity Photo on Mac is very capable of doing vector work so too is the iPad version. I thought it would be fun to revisit with a new space exploration themed image again using a Carl Sagan Quote.

The quote in its entirety:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” – Carl Sagan

iPad Journal: Painting astronomical objects with iPad and Procreate

Just to be clear from the start, aside from grade school, I've never painted anything other than room walls and home exteriors. I'm not a "painter" and only occasionally had a passing interest in trying it out. I've sketched a few times but there too, very minimal. A few months back the iPad app Procreate popped up on my RSS or twitter feed. I had recently bought some supplies to begin an attempt at sketching astronomical objects while observing at the telescope. Those supplies have gone unopened and sit in their original bag. I'd not really figured out how to go about setting up to sketch in the near dark but it was on my mind as something I wanted to try. Suddenly a lightbulb went off and I had the thought that perhaps I could use Procreate and the iPad to sketch? That approach might be easier because I always have the iPad out with me anyway. So, no extra supplies, no set-up of lighting and supplies. I'd give it a go.

My first effort was Mars which was a pretty basic object to paint/sketch. A circle with a few faint strokes to denote a few of the larger features viewable through the telescope. The next was the Lagoon Nebula. A little more too that but still not a whole lot. Then it occurred to me that it might be fun (and good practice) to try my hand at painting an object from a photograph. Actually, it was not quite like that. It was more like a moment of boredom as I was looking at the a beautiful image of the Eagle Nebula on the cover of a book sitting on my coffee table. It occurred to me to give it a try. To be honest I didn't expect it would go as far as it did. I'm often good at starting little projects but often don't finish. For some reason in this case I found myself drawn in.

I started playing with the brushes. There are many, many brush options in Procreate. I had absolutely no idea where to begin. I tinkered with a couple of brushes and settled in on the airbrush as it seemed the best candidate for painting something like a nebula. I focused on just a portion of one of the "Pillars of Creation" and after a couple hours I decided to try a larger portion. Over the course of a few days I came back to it. It was surprised how quickly time seemed to move as I focused on the "brush". I would look up and two hours would have passed. After about 15 hours I had this:

As it turns out the process is very enjoyable. I worked mostly with the airbrush on the first project. I worked i layers in a way mimicking what I imagine the dimensionality of an actual nebula to be. I created a background of black and on top of this a layer of background nebulosity. On top of that another layer of nebulosity. And then another. And another. Stars had their own layer on the very top though in reality, of course, the stars in intermingled dimensionally.

A few weeks later I decided to paint a much larger portion of the Eagle Nebula though not the whole thing. I started with my existing painting of the pillars and then painted them in. I used the same brushes and techniques. I finished that in about a week.

The next project was the Orion Nebula and then the Lagoon Nebula. The most recent was an infra-red image of the Horsehead nebula which shows the detail of the nebula not seen in the visual spectrum. My current project is a wide field view of the nebula that surrounds the Horsehead, IC 434 and the Flame Nebula NGC 2024. Really, it's just a complex of various nebulae of which the Horsehead is just one, tiny component.

Clockwise from top left: In process IC 434 (tiny dark spot near the middle is the thick gas and dust of the Horsehead Nebula), Orion Nebula, Lagoon Nebula, close-up Horsehead Nebula in infrared

Clockwise from top left: In process IC 434 (tiny dark spot near the middle is the thick gas and dust of the Horsehead Nebula), Orion Nebula, Lagoon Nebula, close-up Horsehead Nebula in infrared

As I've worked through these various projects I've been trying out some of the different brushes available. There's so much to learn. I have no idea how this compares to painting on a canvas though I expect some of it would carry over to that process. I do feel as though I'm making some progress. Learning how to see details I would have likely missed in the past. Learning how to use the different brushes and their interaction with one another. Learning how to layer and blend color. Painting with Procreate and the iPad has allowed for a whole new experience, a new form of expression that I would not have had otherwise. It's something I thoroughly enjoy and intend to continue with for a long time to come.

Space Exploration Themed Posters Part Two

I continue to enjoy Affinity Designer. In fact, after three months of use I far prefer it (as well as Affinity Photo) to Illustrator or Photoshop. As of this moment my plan is to only use the Adobe apps if a client/project requires it. These new Affinity apps by Serif are fantastic and did I mention they are not rented via subscription but available for purchase the old-fashioned way? Buttery smooth, fully featured and a pleasure to use.

In my downtime this summer I’ve continued working on my series of space exploration-themed posters which I’ve made available on Red Bubble.

Marathon Valley Overlook

This view from NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows part of “Marathon Valley,” a destination on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, as seen from an overlook north of the valley. The scene spans from east, at left, to southeast. It combines four images of the rover’s panoramic camera on March 13, 2015, during the 3,958th Martian day of Opportunity’s work on Mars.

Marathon Valley was selected as a science destination because observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter yielded evidence of clay minerals, a clue to ancient wet environments. Opportunity has been exploring the Meridiani Planum region of Mars since January 2004.

“For me, the most ironic token of [the first human moon landing] is the plaque signed by President Richard M. Nixon that Apollo 11 took to the moon. It reads, ‘We came in peace for all Mankind.’ As the United States was dropping seven and a half megatons of conventional explosives on small nations in Southeast Asia, we congratulated ourselves on our humanity. We would harm no one on a lifeless rock. That plaque is there still, attached to the base of the Apollo 11 lunar module on the airless desolation of the Sea of Tranquility. If no one disturbs it, it will still be readable a million years from now.” -Carl Sagan

Space Exploration Themed Posters

My trial run with Affinity Design continues, this time with a series of space exploration posters featuring Carl Sagan quotes.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” – Carl Sagan

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” – Carl Sagan

“Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.” – Carl Sagan