After graduating from art college (I have a BFA in Illustration), I worked for several commercial art studios doing illustrations for advertising.
I had always been a fan—for literally as long as I can remember—of both science fiction and astronomy so in my spare time I enjoyed creating realistic scenes set on other worlds. Much of my inspiration for doing this came from my admiration for Chesley Bonestell.
Learning that the new National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC was going to have a planetarium, I wrote to the director, asking if they had any plans to have a staff artist. No, he replied, but it sounded like a good idea. My wife and I soon found ourselves on our way to the nation’s capital.
I worked for NASM for four years before leaving to become a freelance illustrator … which is what I have done for the past 40+ years. I had my first book published shortly after leaving the museum—Space Art: a history of space painting—and my 60th book will be appearing this winter. It’s a lot of fun working on one’s own books: you not only get to write it you get to illustrate it, too. Admittedly, this hasn’t been universally true: several of my books have few if any illustrations by me. For instance, my biography of artist Chesley Bonestell or my histories of space travel and spacecraft. I have also written several novels … and even created a comic book series.
I have also created postage stamps (one of which is attached to the New Horizons spacecraft, now deep in the Kuiper Belt), and have contributed production art to several motion pictures, such as David Lynch’s Dune.
About 80 or 90 percent of what I do today is in the realm of scientific illustration … primarily space and astronomy-related art. Some of the clients I work for regularly are Astronomy Magazine and Scientific American. But I also do a lot of book covers, which is something I especially enjoy doing…if for no other reason than that they make a really nice change of pace after doing planets all day.
While all of my space art had been originally created using traditional media—acrylics on illustration board—I made the switch to painting digitally almost 20 years ago … largely because it was easier meeting my deadlines. However, I still do space art in real paint and with real brushes just for my own satisfaction.
The goal of all my space art is to convey the reality of other worlds … that they are just as real and substantial and beautiful as our own planet. I want people who see my art to believe that they are seeing places that they might very well be able to visit themselves.
Photo: Ron Miller, with his Hugo Award from World Science Fiction Society.