Science Fiction Art by David C. Mueller / dcmstarships

Copyright 2020 – No part of this blog may be used without the permission of the artist.

24 Images That Influenced My Starship Designs


My starship designs are influenced by many things, but the most influential are a small number of science fiction illustrations done in the 1970’s and 1980’s. This was the time period spanning my late childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. I share these images below as a loving tribute to the artists whose speculative spaceship designs most inspired my own. I will also try to describe how these particular images directly influenced my own spaceship styles. I hope such a gallery as this will help keep their work alive in the hearts and minds of all those who love spaceship art.


The work of Robert McCall is one of the two primary influences on my own. It is not only the forms he used that inspired me, but also the way he made designs that were both visually interesting and plausible from an engineering perspective. His approach of striving for both unusual, appealing forms with arrangements of design elements in well-thought out and convincing ways set the standard for me. I attempt to employ this same design philosophy in the majority of my work. Another way that Robert McCall deeply influenced me is in his very positive and compelling view of the human future in space. His upbeat approach filled me with excitement and awe and I have tried to imbue my own work with these same attributes.

In his images below, we see long hull forms with a mix of angular and curving shapes. We see a desire to given a sense of scale by including smaller craft in the scenes. We see a willingness to go beyond one particular style and experiment with new shapes. We even see the adoption of a small bit of asymmetry to add additional life to the designs. Features from these images that you can see in my own work include the mix of angular and curving shapes, open hangar bays, the style of solar arrays, and the varying levels of surface detailing in the group of images as a whole. I have done one direct tribute to Robert McCall, “Starship Epiphany.” The design I have done that I believe comes closest to capturing the feel of his work is “Starship Inquiry.”


The work of Chris Foss is the other primary influence on my own. His style is more organic-looking than McCall’s with a much heavier use of asymmetry. His ships look like they come from further in the future than most of McCall’s and their apparent size seems much larger. I am not sure Foss’ designs make as much sense from an engineering perspective, but they are so visually compelling that it does not matter to me. Foss is the master of visionary starships and a number of my own designs are based on the ones seen above; especially “Star Surveyor Outreach” and “Starship Inquiry.” Also, I have one tribute design meant to directly imitate the Chris Foss style, “Chris Foss Factory Ship.” Finally, the color schemes of many of my ships are inspired by the bold and colorful ones of Foss.


A handful of artists have created spaceship designs that included features I incorporated into my own designs done in an angular style. In David Egge’s design, I see the primary inspiration for all the faceted hull forms I have done over the years as well as the waist-band detail panels that appear on many of my ships. The closest designs I have to Egge’s are the “Humanasol League Fleet” starships set in my “Space Opera” universe.  In Graden Elliott’s design is the primary influence for the catamaran and trimaran hulls I have done in my  “Star Vessels” universe.   I have been fascinated by the octagonal, separable hulls of Brick Price’s starship ever since I saw it.  I have done a handful of designs inspired by it such as the “Ventronian Interstellar Consolidation Fleet” starships set in my “Space Opera” universe. Paul Jaquays’ angular ships struck me as having a look reminiscent of “Star Wars” designs while being more rational in overall design and use of detailing. I have done a tribute project for Paul Jaquays’ “Atlantic Class Heavy Cruiser,” and have numerous designs set in my “Star Vessels” universe that follow the same basic design philosophy.


A handful of artists have created spaceship designs that included features I incorporated into my own designs done in a curvilinear style. Chris Moore’s arrowhead shaped ship is a particular favorite of mine and is the inspiration for “Star Defender Aspiration.” Andrew Probert’s very smart design for a scoutship inspired me to use trios of features in a number of my designs. In my opinion, his ship closely approaches Robert McCall’s mix of interesting forms and engineering believability. Probert also designed the now iconic “Galaxy Class Starship/USS Enterprise-D.” Tim White’s colorful and curvaceous design has a similar far future visionary look to Chris Foss’ work and inspired me to be bold in the color schemes I used for my ships, especially those in the “Star Vessel’s universe. The “Macross Zentran Battleship” awed me by its sheer size organic flowing hull. My much smaller “Starship Leviathan” owes something to this behemoth.


A handful of artists have created unusual spaceship designs that inspired me to strive for originality of hull forms. Syd Mead’s starship is the primary influence for original version of the “Depths of Dream.” Angus McKie’s parallelogram-shaped vessel awed me by its size and surface detailing. Randy Weidner’s saucer-shaped cruiser showed me that even a simple shape can be made to look interesting given the right detailing and attention to engineering plausibility. Theo Page’s huge star liner encouraged me to think beyond the typical deck stacked interiors found in the majority of speculative spaceship designs.


I owe all the artists mentioned above a tremendous debt of gratitude. By seeing the variety of their designs, studying the differing approaches they took to their work, and witnessing the courage they exhibited in going beyond the conventional ideas of what spaceships were supposed look like, they helped me find my own voice as a speculative spaceship designer. My work is attempt to carry on their spirit and pass on to others their design enthusiasm and artistic daring.

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