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Name
Donald Davis
Alternate Names
Donald E. Davis
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Don Davis (Donald E. Davis, born October 21, 1952) is a space artist known for his portrayals of space-related subjects. His work is characterised by attention to detail and authentic portrayals based on what is known of the subject. Chesley Bonestell, considered by many to be one of the most accomplished practitioners of the space art genre, critiqued Davis' early paintings and encouraged him to pursue an artistic career.

Davis worked for the U. S. Geological Survey's branch of Astrogeologic Studies during the Apollo Lunar expeditions and has since painted many images for NASA. The NASA art included portrayals of interiors of giant space colonies, based on the work of Gerard O'Neill. He was part of the team of space artists gathered to provide the visual effects for the PBS series Cosmos by Carl Sagan. Later he painted the cover of Sagan's Pulitzer Prize–winning book The Dragons of Eden. Other books by Carl Sagan including Don's work are Comet and Pale Blue Dot.

Davis has made numerous paintings of impact events for publications and for NASA. In the early 1980s he created planetary texture maps for use in Jet Propulsion Laboratory computer graphic simulations of the Voyager encounters with the outer planets. During the 1980s and early 1990s Davis created models and film animations as part of the visual effects production teams for the PBS shows Planet Earth, Infinite Voyage, Space Age, and Life Beyond Earth with Timothy Ferris.

He painted and filmed in 35 mm an animation of the Galileo probe entry into Jupiter for NASA Ames. Numerous sequences for Discovery Channel science shows such as Savage Sun and Cosmic Safari were later created using computer graphic animation methods. Animations done in immersive hemispheric formats for planetarium type domed theaters now form the balance of his work.

Davis received an Emmy for his work on Cosmos, and the 2002 Klumpke-Roberts Award by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy. The asteroid 13330 Dondavis is named after him. In 2000 he was elected a Fellow in the International Association of Astronomical Artists.

Source: Wikipedia, "Don Davis (artist)", available under the CC-BY-SA License.


From website:

Painter and animator, born Oct. 21, 1952.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, interested in space related things ever since Sputnik 1 was announced to our Kindergarten class. One day my Mother gave me a copy of 'The World We Live In', the classic book by Life compiled from a series of articles appearing in the weekly news picture magazine. Probably never has any one volume presented such a rich collection of excellent nature artists. At the start and end of this fantastic volume the paintings of Chesley Bonestell provided visions of both the dramatic forging of the Primordial Earth and the cosmic context to the world the bulk of the book presented.

The elementary school I attended was Luther Burbank School in San Jose, where I painted in art classes visions inspired by Bonestell. This watercolor was done in late 1964, after I had turned 12. It is the earliest surviving work by my hand

After a tumultuous High School life in the late 1960's I graduated from Menlo Atherton High School, class of 1970. Aside from High School I have had no formal art training, although a number of painters provided generous artistic and professional advice in my formative days.

In the late 1960's the U.S. Geological Survey's branch of Astrogeologic Studies was involved in a hiring program for high school students as go-fors and for hand coloring copies of geologic maps, long before the days of color printers. I brought a recently finished oil painting of the Moon to my job interview in late October 1968. The Geologist, Don Wilhelms, hired me on the spot and soon I graduated to working as an illustrator for the branch of Astrogeology. Among the projects Wilhelms envisioned for me were a series of portrayals of the Moon in its early history. Artwork of geological features as they developed have periodically appeared in geological literature, but these were global images of a world whose battered history was just being unveiled.

Don Wilhelms and Jack McCauley were the principal authors of the great Lunar Earth side Geologic map, nearly a decade in the making. With it the relative ages of features of the Moon were shown and I was able to first remove the most recent craters from the fresh maria lavas, and then in the more ancient scene remove the maria from most of the surface and generalize what lay beneath based on unburied examples of similar features. The fascinating thing for me through the project was that the relative ages of these features were well known but the absolute ages couldn't be given until samples from the Moon were returned, months after the paintings completion! These appeared in Icarus, 'Two former faces of the Moon' Wilhelms and Davis, Volume 15 no. 3, December 1971. Carl Sagan was then editor of Icarus, and when I met him soon after its publication he complimented me on the work and related the care he took to make sure the reproductions preserved the detail as much as possible.

At that time, a visit to the Menlo Park office from the science writer for the San Francisco Chronicle took place, with my supervisor Don Wilhelms among those interviewed. When asked for some new images, Don suggested I be consulted, showing as an example my earlier 'Apollo 8 in Lunar orbit' painting.
This led to my first commissioned and published piece of art, a concept of Apollo 11 on the lunar surface based on spacecraft photos from previous missions, notably Apollo 9. Some details were wrong, but it was a big break.

As it happened, a Bonestell painting of a moon landing was on the cover of Collier's the week I was born. This appeared 17 years before the landing, and was incidentally repainted by Chesley for a current Popular Science article comparing the concepts then with the imminent reality. The concepts of old he had long painted were dissolving into fantasy at that time, yet Chesley had the satisfaction to live to know and paint many of these worlds as they really were.

At the time of the initial Moon landings there was a large show of Bonestell originals in Palo Alto, and I was able to closely inspect many of his famous images and begin to see how they were done.

At the U.S. Geological Survey I was to learn of the forces which shape the landscapes of other worlds. Even in earthly scenes, the geologists liked to point out what looked natural and what didn't, and what made the scenery look like it did.

My own efforts in Space painting began to incorporate knowledge of the surfaces of the Moon and Mars practically as it was being gathered. The battered cratered rubble covered Moon is given a characteristic small scale rough texture by the many tiny meteors steadily stirring the soil over time. Any given millimeter sized piece of debris whizzing through the inner Solar System is about 10 times as plentiful as a given centimeter sized piece, and the ratio of crater sizes reflect this. Understanding cratering is thus an important aspect to visualizing and painting Lunar and many airless landscapes.

Another major space related adventure came my way when I arranged to be on a space related cruise aboard the S.S.Statendam to see Apollo 17 lift off. During the cruise I met people like Marvin Minsky, Krafft Eriche, and Robert Heinlein and saw Carl Sagan again after meeting him a couple years previously. I saw other luminaries in space, science, and entertainment. Rick Sternbach also attended the Apollo launch Cruise. It has been said the Space Movement as we know it had its genesis during that cruise in the climate of urgency brought about by the end of Apollo.

In October 1973 I moved back to the West coast, and by good fortune became a boarder in a three story mansion just purchased by Jack and Alice Cosgrove. It lay in the heavily wooded affluent community of Atherton, near an exclusive private elementary school called Peninsula School. I lived at the Mansion nine years, and used that time of relatively easy living to bring my painting abilities to some maturity.

All my paintings were done in oils until the end of the 1970's, using techniques suggested as useful by Bonestell. I later took up the airbrush in earnest after working with them on Cosmos so much. For reference on one painting of the Moon I borrowed some Lunar Orbiter spacecraft prints of the Lunar far side from work. The Mare Orientale basin was at that time poorly photographed, detailed topographic information of the basins Western regions was still lacking until the recent Lunar orbiting missions finally competed our maps of the Moon.

I used the USGS maps to sketch in where the crater rims, etc. would go atop a perspective drawing of a gridded sphere. The Photographs were used to actually paint from, it being important to refer to original sources whenever possible to try and maintain the fidelity of the subject matter.

The books my work appears in include Carl Sagan's 'Cosmos', 'Pale Blue Dot', and his Pulitzer Prize winning 'The Dragons Of Eden', for which I did the cover.

Among the magazine covers my work appeared on is this May 1976 issue of Saturday Review. The work is a highly enlarged part of one panel of my first Mars panorama, done for use in the Morrison Planetarium.

Sky Publishing's recent book "The New Solar System' contains many images conveying recent discoveries of what our neighboring worlds are like and how they got that way. The earlier editions include my traditional work, the later my digital work.

Other publications include Gerard O'Neill's 'The High Frontier', and issues of 'Parade' and especially 'Sky and Telescope' magazine.

I have painted many depictions of real and imaginary projects for NASA, ranging from images of what the Voyager probes would see at the outer planets to grand schemes for the colonization of Space by millions of people. Among the most widely distributed of my NASA paintings were a series of depictions of the interiors of giant space colonies of various designs. Some of these paintings were done for NASA Ames, under the direction of Public Affairs Director Pete Waller and various experts.

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