Science Fiction Art by David C. Mueller / dcmstarships

Copyright 2018 – No part of this blog may be used without the permission of the artist.

About

My interest in spaceships has been life long. I can remember watching rocket launches, moon landings, and the Skylab missions in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Many of the toys I played with had space or other futuristic themes. In addition to having store bought space toys, I also made my own out of household objects such as paper plates, plastic straws, cardboard boxes, posterboard, and tin foil. I assembled model rockets as well as a large variety of plastic models.

As a teenager, my scratch built models got more elaborate. The crowning achievement of my modeling efforts was my version of the “Imperial Star Destroyer” of “Star Wars.” It was while I was in high school and took about a year to construct and fully detail. The duration of this project and the energy needed to complete it made me realize that I did not wish to become a professional model maker.

Concurrent with all the kinds of space modeling I was involved in, I drew pictures of space vehicles and related items. Spacecraft control panels, futuristic cities, and submarines were three such things that I depicted often in visual images accompanying the various spaceships that remained my constant interest. Both exterior and interior views were the subjects of my many, many spaceship drawings. As with the model work mentioned above, the drawings got more and more detailed.

The crayon drawings of childhood gave way to colored pencil and marker images of my teenage years. Some of these pictures were done on long rolls of shelf paper allowing me to depict giant starship exteriors with tremendous hull plating detail and huge starship cutaways where I could put imaginative furniture and machinery on the decks. While I occasionally did black and white line art images, most of my teenage work had at least some colored details.

As a college student, I acquired specialized art and drafting tools, and began using marker paper and vellum. I largely abandoned modeling and expressed most of my speculative spaceship designs in the form of drawings. In the mid 1990’s, I began using computer programs for drafting, 2D illustration, and word processing. Since 2000, I began using 3D programs as well.

Supporting my drawing and modeling modes of speculative spaceship design has been my attempt at creative science fiction writing. As a child, I made short booklets of my spaceship art, sometimes even telling a tale of exploration to accompany the images. I wrote a short story or two as a teenager but the majority of my writing was technical copy describing my ship designs and pseudo-historical commentary about them and the fictional environments they inhabited. These fictional universes I devised for my spacecraft became background information mentioned in the various collections I did of my speculative design work.

As a teenager, I conceived of these aggregations of my ship designs as technical manuals and named them appropriately. It was not until I was a young adult that my perception of my work altered to where I saw such groups of my designs more as artistic rather than engineering images and changed my names for such collections from manuals to books. As I made the transition from writing manuals to books, the copy generated matured from short descriptive blurbs to longer essays discussing various aspects of my fictional backgrounds in greater and greater depth.

As an adult, I have created not only a number of self-published books relating to my speculative spaceship designs, but I also have had one mass produced item in the form of a children’s spaceship coloring book.  I enjoy writing short reviews of my favorite fiction and non-fiction books.

A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY

I was born in 1963 in the Midwest of the United States. I found school, with the exception of gym class, a relatively enjoyable experience. The public schools I attended were of generally good quality and many teachers encouraged me; perhaps seeing my attraction to a positive future for humankind and wishing to help me not let it slip away. I got good grades and coming from a musical family took up the alto saxophone in grade school and kept up with it all the way to the end of high school. I found in the various school concert and jazz bands places where I could feel part of something larger than myself while developing my musical talents.

Near the end of my high school years, the instructors of my college prep courses suggested I pursue a career in engineering. Since my experience with art teachers in school had been neutral at best with some of them even looking down on my spaceship work, it seemed that the idea of studying engineering was a valid one. I sometimes wonder how my life would be different if just one art teacher had taken a positive interest in me during my time in high school and informed me of the existence of the various fields of design and technical illustration.

After graduating from high school in 1981, I went to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. I started out as an Astronautical Engineering student but after a year and a half found the mathematics too hard and uninteresting to continue. At a meeting with a career counselor, I was introduced to the field of industrial (product) design and immediately saw it as a much better fit with my artistic talents and natural bent towards design. I remember thinking that at least this field would give me the opportunity to learn how to draw spaceships better.

To get accepted into the Industrial Design program I had to present some artwork to the department head and of course I showed him samples of my speculative spaceship design work. I really do not know how impressed he was with my drawings, but my hard earned grades from my engineering classes showed I could perform well scholastically and so I was let in. I went from being a mediocre engineering student to a top industrial design student and was much happier. It took four and a half more years to finish college and finally in May 1987 I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine and Applied Arts in the field of industrial design.

My first career was in fields of design including commercial architecture, high-end home design, store fixtures and point-of-purchase displays. I have held the positions of staff designer, art director, design engineer, design drafter, senior design drafter, architectural designer, and architectural drafter. The tasks I have done have been as varied as the titles I have had. In the early years of my career I did hand-done color sketches, mockups, graphic layouts, and general manual drafting. From the mid 1990’s on I have used computers for drafting, illustration, and graphic layouts. Since the late 1990’s, I have created 3D computer generated imagery. Along the way, I have done my share of reviewing various types of graphics software.

My second career is in the field of Information Technology. I began my second career in 2011 and am currently working as an IT Specialist. I serve as the sole IT person at a small company where I manage servers as well as users’ work computers.  I have CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Securtity+ and Microsoft MCP computer certifications.

I have worked with many 2D and 3D computer graphics programs over the years. The 2D programs include Adobe Photoshop, AutoCAD, CorelDraw, Corel Photo-Paint, Dreamweaver, and Universe Image Creator. The 3D programs include ArchiCAD, ArtCAM, Chief Architect, Ray Dream Designer, Revit Architecture, Rhino, SoftPlan, SketchUp, SolidWorks, and TrueSpace. The rendering programs I have worked with include Flamingo, Piranesi, and Penguin.

I work with a variety of  Open Source programs in addition to the commercial programs I have used for years. I occasionally use GIMP for pixel-based illustration and Inkscape for vector-based ilustration respectively.  I have trained on Blender for 3D CGI but still use Rhino as my 3D program.  I used KompoZer for web design and have tried out the Linux OpenSUSE, Ubuntu and Xubuntu operating systems. In the fall of 2016, I migrated my website to WordPress.

In 1991, I married a wonderful woman I met in Minnesota. We have had an interesting and intense relationship that has grown to include substantial collaboration in the creation of my speculative spaceship design work and supporting science fiction writing.

INFLUENCES ON MY SPECULATIVE SPACESHIP DESIGN WORK

The topic of my early drawings and homemade models focused primarily on interplanetary exploration, with the space program and the science fiction movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” being my biggest early influences along with the space artwork of Robert McCall. After 5th grade, my direction shifted to starships and interstellar exploration with “Star Trek” and later “Star Wars” serving as primary visual influences. As a teenager, I began reading a lot of science fiction with the older literature of the 1940’s and 1950’s being the main source of inspiration for me. Much of my work of this period was focused on military themes. As an adult, I have attempted to more equally address all the various types of starships and related vehicles. While I have a fondness for large star cruisers and very large traveling space habitats, I also enjoy creating smaller designs such as scoutships and shuttlecraft.

The influences on my speculative spaceship design work are many. From childhood on I have collected a wide variety of spaceship and assorted futuristic artwork. Designs ranging from the silly to the sublime; vehicles plausible enough to be built in the next century to far future starships which give flight to the deepest longings of our imaginations; all these have left their imprint on my work. In addition, futuristic cities have played an important ancillary role as sources of inspiration. I have always felt a distinct connection between such architecture and spaceship design.

While many talented artists and designers who have specialized in spaceship artwork have influenced my own design, two stand out above the rest. They are Robert McCall and Chris Foss whose visionary designs inspired me to strive to be as original as possible. Other artists and designers whose work I have admired and at times attempted to emulate include Colin Cantwell, Nilo Rodis-Jamero, Brian Johnson, Joe Johnson, Andrew Probert, Rick Sternbach, and Doug Trumball. In addition to these I am sure there are many more who worked on such science fiction movies and TV shows such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Andromeda, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Macross, Silent Running, Space: 1999, all their various incarnations of Star Trek and Star Wars, and Wing Commander.

I have rarely done images in my speculative spaceship design work without thinking about and at times attempting to describe the fictional futuristic environments they are meant to occupy. The works of a wide range of science fiction authors have influenced the backgrounds I have devised. At the top of the list I would have to place my favorite science fiction authors, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. Other science fiction authors whose work has impelled me to create my own version of what I call the “Galactic Federation Vision” include the following:

1. E.B. Cole who also describes a diverse yet just galactic federation in the short story “Fighting Philosopher” and novel “The Philosophical Corps”

2. Alan Dean Foster who decribes a progressive interstellar alliance in his “Humanx Commonwealth” series

3. Ursula LeGuin who describes a peaceful interstellar organization called the Ecumen in “The Left Hand of Darkness” and “The Dispossessed”

4. Doris Lessing who depicts a spiritual galactic empire in her “Canopus in Argos: Archives” series

5. Olaf Stapledon who describes an awe-inspring spiritual interstellar organization in “Star Maker.”

6. James White who depicts an advanced galactic federation in his “Sector General” series

As with my artwork, I am sure they are many more writers whose work has left their mark on my own.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the importance of music in the creation of my speculative spaceship design work. As mentioned above, I come from a very musical family where each person either sang or played an instrument. I playing the alto saxophone and have tried outthe Xanphoon. I enjoy playing jazz standards, classical solos, and movie themes.

I believe the primary musical influences on my visual art to be soundtracks and classical music but I also listen to a lot of jazz and space/electronic music when drawing. Such a variety of music no doubt has encouraged me, at least subconsciously, to develop a corresponding diversity of ship designs. While I play music most of the time I am drawing, I have found that it is better to refrain from doing so when writing.

Having music in the background has been particularly important when I try to sketch brand new designs. Deciding upon favorite soundtracks is pretty daunting for me but I can say that my top selections include those to “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the “Star Trek” movies and the “Star Wars” films. It is a bit easier with classical works: Ottorino Respighi’s “Pines of Rome” and “Fountains of Rome” stand out in my mind. I often see scenes of spaceships in my mind while listening to such music. Since I play the alto saxophone, it should be no surprise that all kinds of saxophone music adorn my personal collection, with the works of Paul Desmond of the “Dave Brubeck Quartet” being the favored items.

Finally, I must acknowledge the influence of the Bahá’í Faith upon my speculative spaceship design work. I was made aware of this world religion as a child and had family members who were Baha’is, but it wasn’t until my college years that I begin to seriously investigate it. I did so in part because I realized that how technology is used and what it is used for was as important to creating a positive future as increasing the level of technology available for human use. I was looking for positive vision of the humanity’s future that I could not only admire, but also become actively involved in helping bring about.

I found such a vision in the writings of Baha’u’llah, Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. In the worldwide Baha’i community, I found a group of people committed to positive social and spiritual change in a way that respects not only the precious cultural diversity of our sentient species, but also delights in the varied ways that individuals express their thoughts and beliefs. I have been a member of the Baha’i Faith since 1981 and as my speculative spaceship design work has matured, I have attempted to include Bahá’í concepts, as I understand them, in my work. I have done so not only to express my identity as a Bahá’í, but also as a way to encourage those who admire my work to consider exploring the Bahá’í Faith for themselves.

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