Early beginnings in space art
- and a short 'pre'-history of our studio-gallery

The 1950's and 60's was a time of great dreams, challenges, and accomplishments - a period often referred to in the business as "The Golden Age of Space Art" - with imaginative stories of space travel and exploration of other planets being seriously considered by the public!


Saturn As Seen From Titan
by Chesley Bonestell - 1944

Copyright Bonestell Space Art
and used by permission

Many of the space art pieces that we create and display here at Sky-High Gallery are reminiscent of a style that first came to the public's attention in the early 1950s'!  

It was a time of brilliant artwork created by famous space artists
such as Chesley Bonestell (as seen in these next two images), Lucien Rudaux, Rolf Klep, Fred Freeman, and others ahead of their time!

The pictorial exploration of space travel, other planets and solar systems through such 'photo-realistic' illustrations depict the subjects and scenes in a way that is easy to relate to!

The sharpness of detail in many of those early paintings caused the illustrations to first be thought of as actual photographs - and taken with great care by the photographer.

Assembling The Mars Ships - Chesley Bonestell 1956
Copyright Bonestell Space Art and used by permission

But such a photographer would need an extraordinary gift for composition and color - and utilizing the best equipment available - and most important - actually be standing at the scene!

Of course - decades and centuries will likely pass before scenes such as in our gallery can ever be captured by on-site photographers!

But for those of us here and now - these beautiful and wonderous works of art can help span the gap between art and reality through subjects and scenes none of us will ever see or visit in person!

The moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, vast Martian landscapes, and planets of other solar systems of galaxies so far away they may never be visited by any NASA probe or manned exploration - scenes of all these are to be found in these pages and at our Gallery!

These worlds are here and now for you to explore - through imagination, creativity, research, talent, and efforts of a few dedicated space artists worldwide!  
We hope you will find these glimpses of a possible future as we have imagined it - to be exciting, interesting, and thought-provoking - and if your own dreams and imagination are stirred - then we have achieved our goal!

Like so many of the early science fiction stories - these space scenes may play a small part in preparing future generations to meet the challenges and grandeur of exploring our own solar system, and perhaps someday even the galaxy and its' many wonders!

Blasting Off To New Space Adventures!

The first glimmer that was to spawn Sky-High Studio and Gallery (pictured here) some fifty years later started in 1947 - strangely the same year as the infamous 'Roswell Incident'!

The space age was just dawning in a serious way for mankind - and a love of aircraft and spaceships was being awakened in a 10-year old boy!

Growing up in farming country in coastal Oregon - and just over the fence from the U.S. Naval Air Station (which was very active in those scary days of World War II) - inflamed an intense interest for Junior in anything having to do with "what makes it work", especially things of a mechanical or aeronautical nature!

With black-and-white TV still almost a decade away - reading was one of the few activities available to fill his curious mind about the mysterious workings of all these wonderful things!

And to borrow briefly from a story Stephen King might have written:

'He acquired a county library borrower's card and anxiously awaited the arrival of the weekly "book-mobile" - a step-side delivery van, but with the inside lined with shelves and shelves of books - higher than he could even reach!

And it would visit for only an hour or so at the country store about a mile from Junior's home - but it always came - once a week, every week!

And the lady that drove the "book-mobile" would let him borrow a book or two - and sometimes three - until the next visit - a whole week later!'

What a world of learning that was! To be able to read , and spend many midnight hours - starting with Dr. Doolittle and then moving on through Hardy Boys into early science fiction stories - and there seemed to be no limits!

But the library book-mobile rules only allowed so many books to be checked out at a time - and within two or three days all the books would be read - and the book-mobile would not be back for another four days!

So - we would wait . . and wait . . and . . . . !

Being the creative mother that she was - and to keep "Junior" out of mischief - the suggestion was made that he start drawing something - maybe "airplanes" or "rockets"! And somehow Mom found in the meager budget enough extra money to buy some colored pencils on the next trip to town!   Then - it was colored inks - and materials that had a more "professional" look (as if he really knew what that was)!

Then on Christmas Eve 1949 - a present under the tree that would surpass all others for many years to come - a copy of "Conquest of Space" - the same book that would start many other young minds around the world to dreaming of rocket ships, space travel, distant planets, strange landscapes, and far-off adventures in space!

The illustrations were magnificent - landscapes of other worlds and sunsets that no man had ever seen! The artist was - of course - Chesley Bonestell - a name that would become synonymous with space ships and space travel over the next three decades!

Then - the family moved into town and he was able to visit the library anytime he wanted! And the aviation magazines, and magazines like Popular Science and Popular Mechanix just went on and on!

He even convinced the librarian to let him into the back room where the older magazines and research journals were stored!

Then his second year into high school and he enrolled in Art I and was working with tempera paints - still doing his "space-ship thing" and some other mechanical illustrations as well.

With an assist from his Mechanical Drawing and Shop Classes - he began to explore perspective, light and shadow, and color harmony. Even caricatures of movie stars entered into his area of interest in art - but only briefly!

Always coming back to space ships and strange landscapes - he received, again under the Christmas tree, a set of oil paints! What a treasure!

Now he set to work with a real mission! Collier's Magazine had just published a special issue titled "Across the Space Frontier" and space travel was in the news!

Soon the high school was displaying some of Junior's "unusual" paintings (including the two seen here) in the main lobby for everyone to see - and it was great!


Shortly thereafter Junior and two of his high school artist friends were allowed to join the local art association!

What a sight - three high school kids painting stars, space ships and other planets in the same room with a dozen grandmothers painting seascapes and fall foliage scenes!

And the ink drawings, the oil and tempera paintings - and the oil paint set in the wooden case - and the first "comic strips" his mother had encouraged him to draw ( he later learned that it was the only way she could come up with that would keep him busy enough he wouldn't bug his little sister ) along with those early comic strips, and the space travel books he received as Christmas presents some fifty years ago - all are now on display at Sky-High Gallery!

Even the letter of congratulations he had received - for his renditions of some proposed magazine covers - from the staff at EC - Entertaining Comics - and signed by Al Feldstein (in 1952), is on display.

Yes - Junior had sent two of his paintings (his first submittals) as possible magazine covers ( for Weird Science and Weird Fantasy ) to the EC staff in New York - and the editor and staff had liked them!

After 50 years of enduring constant rainfall -
How Did We Arrive - Here?

Our gallery and home studios are located in the High Desert region of Central Oregon - where the average annual rainfall is less than 8 inches - just a little more than twice the annual rainfall in the Sahara desert of Africa!

Our home studio - pictured here - is located six miles west of the Gallery atop a 750 foot rimrock plateau. The elevation is 3,000 feet above sea level and very warm and dry.

We have a breath-taking 180-degree view of all of Oregon's snow-capped mountains rising above the rugged desert and rim-rock canyons from our front deck - and no other houses or buildings to interfere with the panorama!

This view over our home looks west towards Mt. Jefferson - 22 miles away and the second-highest peak in Oregon.

To the south - four more snowcaps (three are seen below) can be viewed from our deck, plus great views of glaciers and the rim-rock cliffs! We built our home-studio here in 1992 - and have never regretted once the decision to move from the big city!

Settling In - In The Early 90's

When we settled here - we became the last house on a dirt road and electric power was still several blocks from our 5-acre property!   And five acres is enough - as all the property to the west and south of our home is government-owned and administered by BLM, National Forest, and National Grasslands!

This allows us to have one of the biggest front-yards of anyone we have ever heard of - without having to mow any of it - and also allows us to claim that we live in the first house east of Mt. Jefferson - some 22 miles away!

Always a great conversation starter on the commuter flights in and out of our local airport - 'and where are you from?' - "Oh - we live down there - see that house all by itself! That's the first house east of Mt. Jefferson - and that's ours!"

After a few power outages (since we are at the end of the power lines) we installed a 12-KW propane-powered generator - and also rely on solar-panels to heat our indoor pool - Shirley likes to swim in 92-degree water year-round!

Hazards of 'Living - Out There"!

The biggest hazard we probably face is from range-land wild-fires! In July 2002 our close friends lost their summer home to a huge fire that came within four miles of our own home! Shirley was in The Netherlands visiting our daughter's family and called several times to see how things were going - since the fire news was even carried on CNN-Europe-TV.

After moving some of our more valuable things (paintings and family photographs, etc.) from the house to our original gallery building six miles away - I was able to shoot a series of pictures that covered a part of the unfolding fire drama.

This next shot was taken from our front porch and shows the smoke clouds topping out at 24,000 feet with the fire only four miles away!

Below right - A telephoto shot of the storm clouds and the smoke clouds from the fire colliding with each other! All in all - a very exciting time!

We do have some exposure to volcanic activity but the closest mountain that is active to any degree is about 40 miles SW of us and the slow bulging that is taking place - and being closely monitored - is on the side of the mountain away from us!

To the north about 100 miles Mt. St. Helens erupts from time-to-time to remind us that we indeed set on a 'ring of fire'!

And - we do have volcanic rocks and boulders (even in our yard) strewn over the entire central Oregon area - and they range from the size of your fist to as large as a VW-Beetle - and those are just the ones you can see!

Less than two feet below our ground level is solid volcanic rock - so something went off at some time (local Indian legend suggests about 1,000 years ago) around here!

But - geographically speaking - some areas have floods, some have hurricanes, some areas have tornados, some have blizzards, and some are prone to earthquakes!

Hey - all we have are fires and volcanos!


Drilling For Water - In The Desert?

Another early step we were faced with was having a well drilled - 983 feet deep! But the water is absolutely great - and the water from our well fell as snow on Mt. Jefferson before 1940 - years before atomic testing was begun!

This has been confirmed by State of Oregon and State of Arizona geologists since no measurable trace radiation - other than natural background radiation - can be found in our water!

 


Rubbing elbows with George Lucas and Star Wars!

My very best to George Lucas!

I was fortunate to be able to attend the press-preview showing of Star Wars the same week in 1977 that it was scheduled to open nationwide!

What a glorious affair - we were transported in chartered buses from downtown San Francisco to the Exposition Center! Then we were firmly escorted from the buses through the auditorium entrance by security guards who took our special passes and tore them in two!

Of course - none of us really knew what we were about to see - and experience! That night my somewhat-dormant interest in space art and space travel was about to be kindled anew!

I have never forgotten the experience! George Lucas, Darth Vader, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Chewbacca were on hand to welcome us - and Mr. Lucas spoke to us from the stage about the movie and hoped that we would enjoy it!

That evening I called Shirley from my hotel room and told her "This is one movie you have got to see! - I'm taking you just as soon as I get home!"

As you can see from the above snapshot - it is over a quarter-of-a-century later but I am still hard at work saving one galaxy after another - even though I should have retired in 2002 - or was that 3002?

Thanks much, George!  It has been - and is - absolutely great!


Copyright Notice

All images on this site are Copyright 1952-2009 by Sky-High Galleries, Inc. and the artist
Frank Hettick.   Requests for reproduction, posting to any other website, or for
commerical use of any image on this site should be directed to the copyright
owners either via email direct to the artist or in writing to
the studio gallery at the mailing address below.