Research and contextual resources

“To be the first to enter the cosmos: To engage, single handed in an unprecedented duel with nature – Could one dream of more?” – Yuri Gagarin

Whilst there are beautiful and awe inspiring skylines here on planet Earth, I feel there is true beauty in the depths of space that, although we may not witness through our own eyes, are glorious to imagine and hypothetically could be real and possible skylines that may actually exist. Through using infrared lenses scientists have been able to capture the beautiful and electric colours of space. Greens, reds, blues, yellows, gold. purple almost every colour imaginable is out there! Not to mention the powerful explosions and constant movement and changing of state taking place, chemical reactions forming stars and destroying planets, the universe is powerful, beautiful and frightening all at once. Many people including myself are captivated as a young child with space and the universe for the many questions and wonder it produces. Even as an adult the universe is a wonderful and impossible thought, so I aim to capture the awe and wonder at the beauty of the universe almost all of us have felt at one point on our lives.  It could be said that the Earth itself is just an element of a huge skyline that is forever expanding.

This sense of awe and wonder has been captured by many artists through out the century’s. from the very first people charting the planets in the sky for aid and direction on a long dark night, charting time through the suns rays, to the planets being named after Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Bible had the three wise men follow a star to find Jesus and the very first children’s story’s follow this pattern of the stars bringing joy, hope and adventure, for example Peter Pans “second star to the right”, and old traditions of wishing upon a star, space can be a source of comfort, through constellations, a source of predictions but always a source of hope.  The pyramids of Giza were erected by using three pivotal stars for guidance showing that space has even influenced architecture.

One of the most fascinating celestial occurrences is the Northern lights otherwise known as the  Aurora Borealis. Deriving from the Greek terms for  sunrise and wind, The Greeks believed that Aurora was the sister of Helios and Seline, the sun and moon, and that she raced across the early morning sky in her multi-coloured chariot to alert her siblings to the dawning of a new day.  Likewise the Romans also associated them with a new day believing them to be the Goddess of dawn Aurora.  In North America the lights were seen as spirits of the deceased, this belief being echoed in Norse mythology (those who died in battle) and has held many connections to myths surrounding childbirth. Each culture has their own interpretation of what the lights mean to them, surprisingly the lights have been seen as far away as China, Japan and Australia  during an especially significant solar event. it is believed that they may have started the myth of dragons.

Space has had a heavy influence on me since childhood through popular culture without me consciously realising. I was always fascinated by star signs, as I held an unusual position of being on the cusp between Gemini and Cancer ( the twins and the crab) effectively having two star signs to choose from. Through songs: ( at an early age we all learn Twinkle Twinkle little star) the key line being “How I wonder what you are?” lyrics from the 19th century and passed down the generations.  To David Bowies 1969 Space oddity and Life on Mars? songs written during and taking influence from the space race between the USA and Russia.   A space oddity playing on the 1968 movies title: 2001 A Space Odyssey.  Science fiction has played a huge role in peoples impressions of space, two of the most notable being Star Wars and Star Trek popular in both the 20th and 21st century.  Throughout the movies hand made props were used to create the settings and backgrounds of space, which I find particularly impressive. although in the case of Star wars the later versions were digitally edited in order to ‘enhance’ them. Not to mention Doctor Who being broadcast ed since 1963 and throughout my childhood. Two of my favourite childhood movies were centred around space, one being a 2002 Disney steampunk action adventure Treasure planet, a play on the original 1883 Novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Treasure planet combined all the elements of adventure, science fiction an steampunk to create a unique and heartwarming story, gaining less credit than the movie deserved,  ‘Zathura’ was a remake of Jimanji although instead of being themed around the idea of the jungle  Zathura was based around space. again a heavy influence in my child hood (especially the scene where the kids are sucked into a black hole). Overall I feel the vibrant colours and imaginary scenes of the skylines I am creating is linked back to my early impressions as space as a vast and colourful land, rather like the fantasy space exhibited in classic movies such as Flash Gordon.  The style of the backgrounds also reminds me of the style of one of my artists Scott Naismith.

Related images

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Zathura (2005)
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Imaginative space backgrounds of Flash Gordon (1980)
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Scott Naismith canvas similar to Flash Gordons backgrounds?

Early influence of science fiction

‘Voyage dans la lune’- ‘A trip to the moon’.

As far back as 1902, before the first and second world wars before travelling to the moon was a possible thought people dreamed of the impossible. French illusionist and magician  Georges Méliès created a movie about a group of astronomers travelling to the moon.  Whilst on the moon the astronomers encounter a strange race known as Selenites ( lunar inhabitants) and having

Movie poster at the space centre

captured one return to Earth.  It was extremely popular, and its remarkable length theatrical style and influence on story telling has influenced film makers ever since. I first heard about this remarkable movie from the movie ‘Hugo’ and on a visit to the space centre was revisited by it. In the mini theatre the movie was playing. what I find amazing is the resourcefulness in creating the special affects, especially  during a time before green and blue screens.  If you like classic movies this movie is well worth the watch!  The most remarkable fact was that each from was hand coloured with a paint brush by  Elisabeth Thuilliers colouring lab in Paris.  Sadly most of Méliès work was lost, his films melted down bu the French military for the traces of silver to make boot heels and in a moent of anger Méliès burned all of his remaining negatives. After years of being lost to time his work was finally rediscovered in the 1920s where he was awarded the Legion of Honour.


Movie playing in the theatre


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The iconic image of the man on the moon.



























The space race 

The space race was driven by political tensions between America and the Souviet Union.  Some key dates in the space  race are:

20th February 1947- Fruit flies launched by America become the first living creatures in space.

4th October 1957-  Sputnik the first artificial satellite is sent into orbit by the Soviet Union.

November 1957 – Soviet Union sends Laika, a stray dog into space. First living creature to orbit Earth (died within a few hours)

13th September 1959- Soviet Unions Luna 2 mission becomes the first man made object to reach the moons surface.

12th April 1961 – Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human being in space.

12th September 1962-  President Kennedy delivers the famous ‘We choose to go to the moon’ speech.

16th June 1963- Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space

20th July 1969- Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to step onto the moons lunar surface aboard the spacecraft Apollo 11. This is broadcast-ed  world wide.

“That’s one small step for man….one giant leap for mankind”- Neil Armstrong

A trip to the Space Centre

On Saturday 25th March I took a trip to the space centre for research and inspiration.  Whilst there  I was able to visit an Planetarium much like the one in my original inspiration of La La land. The show we watched was called We are made of stars and showed how the universe,sun and the planet was formed. The show was spectacular taking place on a screen that was concave in shape so that it surrounded the audience truly making them believe they were in space. Unfortunately due to copy right reasons I was unable to get footage or photographs of the show although i did get pictures of the Planetarium before the show began.

planetarium 2planetarium

The most interesting thing shown was how the molecules formed together creating chemical reactions and forming the sun. This was shown in a vary abstract way with tiny moving blocks of colour filling the planetarium.  The formation of a star was shown by slicing the sun in half as the camera pans into the centre and then closes making you feel entrapped until the camera moves out just before you are trapped.

Throughout the day I focused on the way in which things were presented or shown. Models of the planets created to sow the details especially of the moon. Interactive exhibits that the children loved such as training to  become a space man or becoming a Weather person were also used. I particularly liked the lighting which gave me some ideas in how to present my final out come. for example a disco ball was used to create shiny patterns on the wall and dramatic lighting was used to showcase exhibits on the walls.

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Disco ball lighting
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Planet  Earth illuminated

Above: Interesting textures in the space centre

Below: Space centre from the outside and moon model with interesting texture

Throughout the day I took photos of what inspired me, such as interesting textures, layout and objects.

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The trip was extremely helpful in understanding more about space and gathering inspiration.

For an interesting website that showcases how the different colours of space are created :





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