Like every artistic genre, Space Art has it’s own set of terms and phrases each with their own special meanings. Here’s a list of terms the IAAA has coined about astronomical art. If you have any suggested terms to add to this list, please feel free to contact the web master with the term and definition.
Asynchronous Illumination. Referring to the inconsistent lighting of objects in scene, i.e. stellar objects that have appear to have differing phases despite there being one source of light in the image.
Bonestellosphere, or, Titan’s Bonestellosphere. Chesley Bonestell created a seminal painting in 1948 titled “Saturn as seen from Titan,” which inspired a whole generation of space scientists, engineers and astronomers. It showed a rocky, icy surface with a beautiful ringed Saturn through a sapphire sky. Unfortunately, Titan was later found to be cloaked in opaque orange clouds. Space artist Ron Miller postulated that there must be a region within Titan’s atmosphere but above the opaque cloud layers where Saturn could still be seen, dubbed the Bonestellosphere.
Bump Map. In the world of 3D computer graphics, modeling and rendering, bump mapping is a technique for simulating bumps and wrinkles on the surface of an object. Bump maps are important to the 3D digital Space Artist as a means of generating realistic planetary or spacecraft surface detail. Bump mapping is achieved by perturbing the “surface normals” of the object and using the perturbed normals during lighting calculations. In simple terms, a surface normal is mathematical line that is perpendicular to a surface.
Cosmic Impressionism. Also known as “Swirly Art.” Like works done in the impressionist era, Space Art works in the Cosmic Impressionism style use color and form to give a viewer the artist’s impression of the image subject matter without trying to be technically accurate, highly detailed, or adhering to known scientific principles. Despite being loose in style, the subject matter is still clearly inspired by Space.
Cosmic Zoology. Though the question of other life in the Universe has yet to be answered, artists can speculate about it and imagine the possibilities. Cosmic Zoology is the depiction of extraterrestrial life in extraterrestrial settings.
Day After Dinners, also known as “Nuclear Nightmare Food” or “Pouch Food”. Dehydrated camping and/or survivalist food, packed in foil pouches meant to be boiled, sometimes used for subsistene at workshops, like the first Death Valley workshop. “Day After Dinners” reference the nuclear disaster movie “The Day After” that had just come out around the same time.
Descriptive Realism. Also known as “Rocks and Balls.” The direct inheritor of the artistic standards of Chesley Bonestell, Descriptive Realism is an aspect of Astronomical Art whose primary emphasis is to show a viewer a scientifically accurate visual depiction of extraterrestrial locations in the Cosmos. Descriptively real Space Art should convey a sense of why the lighting, sky color, even the chosen landscape surroundings appear as they do, and how a change in a specific condition as on other worlds could alter the scene. A descriptively real space artist should have a reasonable “grounding” in Astronomy, the nature of the sky and weather, Geology for knowing the Earth, space technology if depicting space hardware, and Science in general.
The Devil’s “Blank”. Many geological features at various workshop locations are named “The Devil’s something”, so frequently in fact that new features are often referred to as “The Devil’s …” before the actual name of the feature is learned.
Digital/photographic reference. The collection of images most space artists have of texture, light effects, geological references, etc which are employed either directly as elements in the art or are used as textures or patterns in the creation of computer graphic three dimensional models.
Greebles. A small piece of detail added to break up and add visual interest to the surface of an object, particularly in movie special effects. Greebles are closely related to Nurnies.
Hardware Art. Also known as “Nuts and Bolts” Space Art. Hardware Art is usually a form of Descriptive Realism but focuses on the detailed depiction of spacecraft hardware and related equipment being used in a space setting.
Heightmap. In the world of 3D computer modeling and rendering, a Heightmap is a 2D image that can be used to generate a landscape in 3D terrain programs. Heightmaps are important to the 3D digital Space Artist as a means of generating realistic planetary surface terrain. The Heightmap contains one channel interpreted as a distance of displacement or “height” from the “floor” of a surface. A Heightmap is sometimes visualized as a grayscale image, with black representing minimum height and white representing maximum height. When the map is rendered, the artist can specify the amount of displacement for each unit of the height channel, which corresponds to the “contrast” of the image. Heightmaps can be used with the bump mapping technique to calculate where this 3D data would create shadows on a surface. Heightmaps can be created by hand with a classical paint program or a special terrain editor. These editors visualize the terrain in 3D and allow the user to modify the surface. Normally there are tools to raise, lower, smooth or erode the terrain. Heightmaps can also be derived from various elevation databases provided by NASA, ESA and other space organizations.
Herding Cats With a Wet Noodle. The near-impossible task of trying to round up errant and distracted space artists while on a workshop in order to make it to the next location in a timely manner.
Imaginative Reimaging. A circumstance where another artist substantially “borrows” elements of another artist’s work and recreates it in their own. Often an unwelcome event and generally frowned upon in professional artistic company.
Fish Stew. Something pretty awful served up in the communal kitchen at the first IAAA Hawaii workshop. Once you’ve had it, you never forget it.
Gum Swallow Nebula/Galaxy. A galaxy or nebula seen through a telescope that is so amazing it makes you swallow your gum.
Mikey. In order for an organization to be truly successful and inspire its members, it is said that it must contain at least one Mikey. Not all Michaels are able to rise to the challenge of being a Mikey. In this regard, the IAAA is truly fortunate to have the one and only Michael Carroll as our official Mikey.
Millerite. The splatter of dots depicting small rocks of a rough planetary surface, created by using a toothbrush with paint on it and flicking one’s finger across the bristles. In the IAAA, rocks made by this technique are often called “Millerite” after Fellow member Ron Miller who first demonstrated the technique to other members.
Nurnies. Bits of detail incorporated on object surfaces, intended to represent fictional technical detail. They serve no real purpose other than to add visual complexity to the object. They can be used on both physical as well as computer generated objects. The detail can be made from geometric primitives, including cylinders, cubes, and rectangles, combined to create intricate, but meaningless, surface detail. Nurnies are commonly found on models or drawings/renderings of fictional spacecraft in science fiction. Nurnies are closely related to Greebles.
Nuts and Bolts. See Hardware Art
Orange Food. The preferred color and type of food consumed by Space Artists at IAAA Workshops. Traditional Orange Food is junk food with absolutely no nutritional or socially redeeming value. Recent Workshops have attempted to introduce healthy Orange Food variants, much to the chagrin of the traditionalists. The origins of the Orange Food tradition go back to the earliest Workshops.
Rendering. The application of artistic tools and methods to create an image or painting. Renderings can encompass a wide range of artistic or photorealistic styles. In the world of 3D computer modeling, rendering is the process of generating an image from a 2D or 3D model (or models in what collectively could be called a scene file) by means of computer programs.
Rock and Baller. A Space Artist practitioner of the descriptively realistic art form.
Rocks and Balls. See Descriptive Realism
Romantic Realism. This is an area where the truth of a subject can’t be captured by the camera and the artist has to expand the senses to truly capture the energy or wonder of an event or scene. Examples where this often occurs are stars which would be washed out shown behind a brightly illuminated landscape or a glowing blast from a rocket engine in a vacuum which would otherwise be too faint or invisible. In both cases they could perceived, but by different visual “camera exposures” or by the sense of hearing (not in a vacuum) or feel of pressure. Also known as “artistic license”.
Space Art. Also know as “Astronomical Art.” The general term for a genre of modern artistic expression that strives to visualize the wonders of the Universe. Like other genres, Space Art has many facets and encompasses realism, impressionism, hardware art, sculpture, abstract imagery, zoological art, etc. Though artists have been making art with astronomical elements for a long time, the genre of Space Art itself is still in its infancy, having begun only when humanity gained the ability to look beyond our world and artistically depict what we see out there. Whatever the stylistic path, the Space Artist is generally attempting to communicate ideas relating to Space, often including an appreciation of the infinite variety and vastness that surrounds us. In some cases, artists who consider themselves Space Artists use more than illustration and painting to communicate scientific discoveries or works depicting Space. Some have had the opportunity to work directly with space flight technology, scientists, and engineers in attempting to expand the arts, humanities, and cultural expression relative to space exploration.
Space Black. No, it’s not Benjamin Moore #2119-10 or Behr #N460-7. Many Space Artists use their own combinations of specific colors, not just black, to achieve what they consider to be the best and most appropriate representation of the black space background.
Space Sculpture. Works of Space Art Sculpture are more difficult to recognize as such as they are usually more symbolic or abstract in nature, like a rocket shape, stained glass windows representing stellar objects, or a sculptured work designed specifically for zero gravity display. However, the prime inspiration for three-dimensional works of Space Art is the same as other styles, Space itself.
Spatial Compression. Where objects that are spread out are all shown in one image to convey a concept. Used often on extraterrestrial bases on the Moon and Mars as the distance between landing sites and habitats might be too great to show together without both being too tiny in frame.
Strip Painting. A Strip Painting is jointly created by participating Space Artists at an IAAA Workshop. This traditional activity is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of Workshop attendance. Participating Space Artists will agree on a theme and sketch out the idea in pencil on a suitable board or canvas. The overall painting area will be separated into a number of “strips” equivalent to the number of participating artists. In recent years, and depending on the number of participating artists, the strip painting can also be separated into a number of rows and columns. Each artist will claim a “strip” and during the course of the Workshop, will paint in their portion. Creating the strip painting inspires a great deal of fun and camaraderie! The completed strip painting is usually bestowed upon the workshop organizers or perhaps a local science museum, university, or other organization that has provided support to the IAAA Workshop.
Swirlie. A Space Artist practitioner of the Cosmic Impressionism art form.
Swirly Art. See Cosmic Impressionism.
Terrain Generation. In the world of 3D computer modeling and rendering, Terrain Generation involves the use of various computer programs and techniques to create realistic landscape imagery. Many of these programs employ fractal-based algorithms. Some of these tools have become quite sophisticated and in addition to terrain, they can create realistic skies, clouds, oceans, flora, planets, etc. Some Terrain Generating software applications that are used or have been used by Space Artists include Terragen, Bryce, Vue, and others.
Terrestrial Analog. A place on Earth where geology, atmospheric phenomena, technology or other features resemble, or directly mimic, or are morphologically similar to features found on other planetary surfaces. Terrestrial analogs such as The Grand Canyon, Death Valley, and volcanoes and glaciers in Iceland have been the focus of many IAAA workshops.
Texture Map. In the world of 3D computer modeling and rendering, Texture Mapping is a graphic design process in which a two-dimensional (2D) surface or image, called a texture map, is “wrapped around” a three-dimensional (3D) object. Thus, the 3D object acquires a surface texture similar to that of the 2D surface or image. This technique is important to digital Space Artists who use this technique to render realistic planets, moons, spacecraft, etc. A number of space organizations and individuals have made some very high quality Texture Maps available for the worlds of the Solar System.
Time Compression. Where non-concurrent events that happen close in time are shown concurrently to illustrate a concept.
Tradigital Art. Space Art that is created digitally on a computer, but using traditional artist hand movements & techniques with digital brushes, pencils, and sometimes scanned traditional images done in acrylic, oils, etc. Tradigital Space Artists do not use any pre-made textures, photo elements, 3D techniques, etc. They typically use a tablet device and treat it as a physical canvas or drawing surface. They “hand paint” details using a selected digital brush and their own hand motions, in exactly the same manner as if they were painting with traditional paints, brushes, and canvas. Some Space Artists like to work completely in this manner while others will combine Tradigital techniques with other digital methods to create their artwork.
Workshop. A formal gathering of IAAA member Space Artists from all over the world. Workshops typically take place in some exotic “planetary” location, chosen for their resemblance to otherworldly formations and features. Attending Space Artists explore, photograph, go places they generally aren’t supposed to go, paint, and talk “shop” with the only other people in the world that think the same way. They live and work together for one or two weeks, learning from each other and feeding off each others’ creativity, exchanging ideas, clients, technique, and establishing lifelong friendships and professional bonds. They collaboratively create a Strip Painting and they eat lots of orange food! Workshops are what the IAAA is all about!
Zero-g Art. Any kind of art created in a microgravity or zero gravity space environment. The art subject matter does not necessarily need to be inspired by Space, Astronomy, or Science. The term “Space Art” has erroneously been used to describe any kind of art created in space. This is not correct unless the subject matter also conforms to the accepted definition of Space Art. See Space Art.