Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Patch Guy

Hidden among the sand dunes of the Space Coast there resides an artist with a unique resume. Many of his works make the journey into Space as part of the equipment located on a Shuttle crew member's spacesuit. Tim Gagnon, who goes by the Internet name of "kscartist," has created several crew member patches for various shuttle crews throughout the years.

I like to call him "The Patch Guy," because Tim also designs many other different patches that range from commemorative patches for anniversaries of famous spaceflights to patches that encompass an entire program of flights like his Mercury, Gemini and Apollo series of patches.

Tim is a member of a group of children that grew up during the 1960's and were inspired by the race to the Moon. As such, his love of spaceflight and art came about almost at the same time and has continued to this day. Since 1986, Tim has used his own inspiration to inspire young kids through his work in the Young Astronaut Program. Tim has been a local ambassador for space flight in his community.

Personally, I have known Tim for many years through my visits to Florida and the Kennedy Space Center where our paths have crossed during various space related events down on the Cape as well as our enjoyment of art.

In response to my inquiries about what inspired Tim to create patches, he said, "People and events inspire me. Whether it is a meaningful shuttle mission like "Return to Flight" or Eileen Collins and her daughter," people and the events that they are involved in frequently provide the inspiration for art."

I have been trying to get Tim to paint some original patch art work for me for quite some time, but owing to his busy schedule, it took awhile to procure a couple of his works. Recently, Tim produced original pieces of two patches for me. The works of art are representative of his capabilities in creating space mission patches as well as commemorative patches.

One patch celebrates the 50th Anniversary of NASA and our country's history of space exploration. The second patch is an original patch design by Tim and his friend, Jorge Cartes for the STS-126 space shuttle mission to the International Space Station.

The painting shown in the photo below is from his commemorative series of works.

Tim originally created this patch digitally and I first saw this work as a embroidered patch in 2008. This patch is officially titled as, "Celebrating 50 Years of America in Space." The patch is such a wonderful representation of NASA's unique history as well as honoring the men and women who participated in those past events.

I must admit that I fell in love with this patch design. The shape, the colors and objects shown in the patch are a wonderful mix of design and symbolism. The red, white and blue colors of our country's flag coupled with the golden colors that represent a traditional 50th anniversary really caught my eye. The addition of the brilliant colors of a rocket launch against a background that feature the Earth, Moon and Mars just make for a composition that is pleasing to the eye. With the addition of the stars, as symbolic gestures to both the Moonwalkers and astronauts who gave their lives in duty to their country, the work becomes majestic and a fitting representation of NASA's achievements.

There is more symbolism in the work, but I will let Tim explain it in the following scan that proves his explanation of "Celebrating 50 Years of America in Space."

The second patch in the Space Art collection is that of an actual shuttle mission. Although Tim has co-designed many patches with the flight crews and Jorge Cartes, the patch displayed below is very personal to my family.

While a more complete explanation of the patch design process can be found at the Space Patches website by following this link, , the patch is of personal interest to our family, because of our friendship with some of the members of the crew.

Tim actually digitally designed the patch, as shown below, for embroidered patch manufacture, but I would later have him paint an original artwork for the collection.

When the STS-126 mission launched on November 14, 2008, it carried a little piece of our family into space. Unknown to me, my wife had conspired with Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper to place a family photograph on orbit in the Space Shuttle, "Endeavor," as a Christmas gift for me. I should have known something was up when Patti suggested that we go to the launch, but I didn't have a clue.

At Christmas, I was told that a surprise present would be arriving soon. Little did I know that the surprise would entail a visit from Heide in April of 2009 and a "Christmas gift" of a family portrait flown into space on STS-126.

It was a wonderful idea and gift from both Patti and Heide. We would later frame the photograph, certification and patch together and it now hangs in our living room.

Heide would also present us with a flown patch presentation that current hangs in my office.

As one can see this was a very special flight to our family, so when Tim suggested painting the STS-126 patch that he co-designed, I enthusiastically said, "Yes!"

When I asked Tim how he was able to work so successfully with the astronauts, his response was, "If I had to explain the "secret to my success" it's that I never forget that the art I am creating is not mine, but belongs to the crew. It's not my patch, but theirs. Accordingly, I will make suggestions based upon my experience, but the crew makes all the decisions. I am just the lucky guy to be able to work with the people I respect and admire."

In the photo shown above Tim shakes hands with Steve Bowen as Eric Boe, Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper, Chris Ferguson and the rest of the STS-126 crew looks on.

Through the years, Tim has worked continually to perfect his skill as an an artist and designer of crew patches as well as commemorative space patches. At the same time, he has worked to give back to the community by his avocation of space exploration. Tim's donation of his artistic talent, time and treasure to NASA as well as his community has rewarded him in being one of the few people on Earth to have something as personal as his art travel to outer space.

You can see a gallery of his work at " "

Friday, July 31, 2009

Stepping on the Moon with Paul & Chris Calle

Paul Calle 1928-2010

It is with regret that I note that Paul Calle has passed away at age 82 in Connecticut on December 30, 2010. This site is dedicated to his memory.

In 1963, James Webb, instructed NASA to record America's drive to the Moon through the eyes of artists. Of the eight artists first chosen by NASA to document manned spaceflight, one of the artists was a 35 year old illustrator named Paul Calle. In hindsight it seems almost nature now that Paul was among the first to document Man's first journey to another world, since he had illustrated the covers for such science fiction magazines as Amazing Stories in the 1950's.

Although Paul is extraordinarily talented in the use of oils as a painter, it is his use of the pencil that truly makes him a master in the artistic world. This phenomenally gifted skill with one of the simplest implements in an artist's toolbox has allowed Calle virtually unrestricted access to his subjects during America's race to the Moon. Calle was the only NASA selected artist to attend the "suit up" of the Apollo 11 astronauts as they prepared for Man's lunar landing. His pen & ink sketches of those final moments prior to the crew's launch have been widely exhibited around the nation and currently reside in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

Among his many talents as an artist, Calle is a creator of postal stamp art. As such, he designed many US postage stamps for the United States Postal Service including several that are related to spaceflight.

Calle was the creator of one of the most popular USPS stamps ever issued. The "First Man on the Moon" stamp artistically recreates the moment that Neil Armstrong placed his foot onto the surface of the Moon for the first time.

Since the stamp's release in 1969, as shown in the above photograph featuring the Apollo 11 crew and the Postmaster General during the official stamp presentation on September 9th, 1969, it has remained a favorite as a stamp and a collectible. On September 9th, 2009, the 40th anniversary of the stamp's issuance, Collectspace's Robert Pearlman interviewed Paul Calle about the famous piece of postage art. The interview can be found at the link listed below.

Recently, I was able to acquire this preliminary pencil drawing of the "First Man on the Moon" stamp directly from Paul Calle. This sketch represents the final version of the stamp.

Here is a photo of Paul with a final stamp version of the original sketch.

Forty years ago, my parents purchased an original United States Postal Service "First Day Cover" of Paul's "First Man on the Moon" stamp. These cache envelopes or "covers" were issued and canceled on the official first date of a stamp's issue. The above cover was issued and canceled on September 9th, 1969. There is also another cancel imprint for July 20th, 1969, the date of Man's 1st landing on the Moon. A second cancellation imprint is unusual and reflects the importance of that date in the history of human endeavor.

I was also the recipient of a most generous gift to the space art collection by Leslie Cantwell. As a gift, Leslie gave me an original Paul Calle pencil drawing of Calle's initial idea for the "First on the Moon" stamp. The gift was greatly appreciated and came as a complete surprise from a wonderful friend.

As the above scan of the pencil drawing attempts to show, Calle masterfully uses his talent to portray Armstrong's first step onto the Moon's surface. Calle uses an artistic method that ranges from broad course strokes, reminiscent of Van Gogh's work, to finely detailed pencil marks. He pulls this vast range of technique together to provide us with a wonderful sketch that is alive with the potential energy of one of history's most famous moments.

Paul has passed his artistic genes on to his son, Chris, who has also become a well known artist and stamp designer in his own right. They even work in the same art studio together. There must be an impressive exchange of ideas on composition and technique in the workspace that they share in rural New England.

Paul and Chris have collaborated on various projects involving both stamp and coin design. The above photograph shows a completed design drawing for a commemorative coin series for the Marshall Islands.

Paul Calle has been in the unique position, as one of the few artists, to document the transition from science fiction to science fact in the span of his lifetime. He has intimately chronicled manned spaceflight and will be forever linked to Mankind's first footprint on the Moon.

Recently, I have been in contact with Chris Calle. Chris has designed a website, located at , showcasing both his and his father's art work. Through that site, I was able to contact Chris and procure three first day covers provide a representative example of the Calle style.

This first cover pencil drawing of the first man on the moon is the grand daddy of them all. Paul recreated his famous design for the 1969 version of First Man on the Moon stamp on this original first day cover. The cover was cancelled on day the stamp was first displayed publicly by the US Post Office.

Chris Calle shows his talent with a pencil on this first day cover. Chris used the 20th anniversary of Man's first lunar landing to portray Armstrong and Aldrin planting the first American flag on the Moon.

This stamp is up of election as the most iconic stamp to represent the United States in the upcoming International Exhibit at the National Postal Museum. Cast you vote before January 20th, 2010 at museum's website:

Finally, Paul and Chris collaborated on the stamp design representing the 25th anniversary of man's landing on the Moon.

These three covers illustrate the style and technique of two generations of space artists.

While there is sad news in Paul Calle's passing, He leaves his son, Chris Calle, who is an extremely talented artist, to carry on their artistic tradition as Chris demonstrates in this pencil drawing of his father as a Mountain Man in the Old West.*


*UPDATE December 2010:Paul and Chris were prolific painters in the Western Art genre. Both participated in the Prix de West art competition held annually at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK. Their art is shown here at their website.


UPDATE: August 1st, 2009. I had lunch with Chris Calle today. Chris brought along his new book, "Celebrating Apollo 11: The Artwork of Paul Calle." Chris's book lovingly traces his father Paul and his artistic journey through America's race to the Moon. The book represents one of the best retrospectives of Paul Calle's space art, since Abrams published the now famous "Eyewitness to Space" catalog in 1973.

Chris has enlisted many of the people involved in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo program to describe their feelings about Paul Calle's artwork. Astronauts like Bill Anders talk about a painting like "Power to Go!" (reproduced on the book's cover) provided such a vivid recollection of the his own Saturn V launch on Apollo 8 that he choose the painting for his residence which he was Ambassador of Norway as an example of American art.

Andy Chaikin wrote the forward for the book and really nailed the description of Paul's drawing technique by saying, " vibrate with some kind of fantastic energy, like iron filings tracing the contours of a magnetic field." Any of us who had ever played with a game called "Wooly Wily" on a long road trip in the family automobile in the early 1960's ( ) will understand what Andy was describing when he wrote of Paul's pen and ink drawing technique.

The book's publisher used high quality paper and high resolution photographs to capture the detail in Paul's exquisite pencil work.

The book is short and sweet and full of Paul's magical pen and ink drawings. It is a book not to be missed by any space art fan.

I would urge any one reading this blog to contact Chris Calle at to buy a signed copy of the book.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Robert McCall Space Art

It is with great sadness that I note that Mr. McCall past away in Scottsdale, AZ. on February 26, 2010 at the age of 90. This site is dedicated to his memory. _______________________________________________
In 2009, I was able to make one final purchase directly from Robert McCall, just prior to the donation of his entire collection to the University of Arizona for permanent display.

The above original work titled "First Men on the Moon" was painted as a smaller study for an eight by twelve foot mural.

The work that I was able to procure is a two by three foot original painting that was the study for the mural. McCall used a grid scale to determine the location and dimension of the subjects used in the mural. The scale grid marks show on the canvas of the study. While the study is very true to the mural, there are some differences. The study shows the lunar module (LM) is facing the artist, while it is turned sideways in the mural. Aldrin appears further away from Armstrong in the study. Finally, in the study, McCall used more of his technique of placing the Earth in the background of the composition while immersed in a cross pattern of stars and galactic dust.

In tracing the history of the painting, I found a San Antonio
College News Release that provided some information on the mural itself. The article states, "On July 20, 1969, Colonel Charles E. Cheever and bank employees gathered around a TV in the bank lobby to watch and celebrate the momentous touchdown with champagne. He commissioned the painting from Robert McCall, who in 1970 completed the life-sized painting that has hung in the Broadway Bank lobby ever since."

Recently in 2008, the Cheevers family donated the mural to
the San Antonio College, where it now hangs in the Francis Scobee Planetarium.

Mr. McCall granted my request to pose with this original work of art.

This is a major addition to the space art collection. It is, in all likelihood, the last acquisition that I will make directly from Robert McCall.

The Original McCall Article

If Chesley Bonestell is the Dean of Space Art, then Robert McCall is the superstar of the genre. McCall's work on very large murals at the National Air and Space Museum, it's annex, the Udvar-Hazy Center and the Johnson Space Center are seen by hundreds of thousands each year and his movie poster art work on Tora! Tora! Tora! and 2001 as well as other movies have been seen by millions.

Beginning in 1963 under the orders of James Webb, NASA commenced a program to have artists help document the work being done in the race to the Moon. McCall was one of the artists brought on board to record Man's journey into Outer Space. Since that time Robert McCall has documented some of the most famous images of a special time in history.

In March of 2001, I was lucky enough to have the chance to visit with Robert McCall at his studio. I photographed him as he was posing next to pieces of his art work that he had prepared for movies like 2001. During our time together as I interviewed him about his art and his time at NASA. Mr. McCall is a truly fascinating man as well as an excellent subject for an interview about the Apollo era.

I brought along some space related covers for McCall in the hope that he would do a small pen drawing on each of them. He did so much more.

My personal favorite of the works included here is this portrait of Robert Goddard. This is a first day cover issued in 1964 commemorating the professor and his work on liquid fueled rockets. As shown above McCall depicted the man between two famous eras of rocketry, the testing of a liquid fueled rocket in Roswell, NM in the 1930's and the Saturn V. Both rockets are launching in the daylight of one of McCall's trademark brilliant Suns.

The other reason that this piece is a personal favorite has to do with coincidence. Goddard moved to the southwestern desert near Roswell, NM to test rockets that had outgrown his farm in Massachusetts. At the same time, Edgar Mitchell, who would walk on the Moon during the Apollo 14 mission, grew up in Roswell and would walk past Goddard's home on his way to school. I showed the cover to Edgar and he inscribed the line "I lived down the road" and signed it. Coincidence that the inventor of the liquid fueled rocket and a moonwalker lived near each other? I think not!

McCall is also a prolific designer of stamps for the USPS.

Recently, I was able to add the above preliminary sketch of one of McCall's more famous stamp designs, "A Decade of Achievement." This stamp was issued by the US Post Office in August of 1971 to represent the 10th year since Kennedy issued his proclamation of sending a man to the Moon.

McCall sent this sketch along with another design for a twin stamp to be printed in time for the anniversary of NASA's 1961 directive to send a man to the Moon. One might call this rendering the birth certificate of a stamp. McCall also wrote several lines of instruction for use of the designs for the stamp. Bob also used the sketch paper as a artist pallet for the colors used in the painting.

The initial "twin" stamp design shown in the sketch above differed from the final design. McCall included the other programs that lead to the Apollo Moon landings in the above design sketch.

Project Mercury and the Gemini Program are represented by their spacecraft orbiting Earth on one side of the twin stamp. The Apollo Project was reflected on the second side of the stamp by the lunar module and lunar rover on the Moon's surface and the command service module orbiting overhead. McCall points out in his notes on the sketch that he had the latest NASA information on the rover's design.

As the above "twin" stamp block printed by USPS shows, the final design omitted the other projects for the inclusion of the Earth and the McCall trademark sun with four point sunbeams. The question in my mind is "Why did McCall leave out the two very important programs that lead to the final accomplishment of landing a man on the Moon?"

In my opinion, I find the initial sketch more representative of the achievements that NASA accomplished in that marvelous decade.

The above painting is a recent gem acquired for the collection. The painting titled "Only the Beginning" was completed in the early 1970's.

In talking with Robert McCall about the painting, McCall "was inspired by the wanting to make a simple statement of our remarkable achievement of landing on the Moon, recognizing that this is Only the Beginning."

When asked if the painting was for publication, Robert McCall said, "The painting was purely for fun. There was no client, no reason other than I simply wished to express the feeling that I had. It was so remarkable to me that we had accomplished this great achievement."

"Only the Beginning" is one of those works that define my knowledge of the artist's technique. It is a prime example of his unique use of composition with the Moon in the foreground and the Earth centered in the background. The addition of the lunar module landing on the lunar surface, while the command/service module streaks overhead completes the Apollo theme in this painting.

Although not painted for publication, the painting did appear as a two page spread in a book of McCall art titled, "Vision of the Future" written by the famous science fiction author, Ben Bova.

McCall was kind enough to remarque, inscribe and sign the reverse of painting for me also.

I was extremely lucky to purchase a McCall painting from Gene Cernan's collection via Novaspace. The painting has special significance. The painting, which is 26 inches in diameter of acrylic on Masonite, a representation of the Apollo 17 mission patch that was designed by Robert McCall and used during the mission. McCall gave this painting to Cernan at the time of the mission and it remained in Gene's collection until it's sale.

The work represents a painting of a mission patch by the insignia's designer for a lunar landing mission and given to the commander of the mission.

The painting had suffered some damage over the years. The painting had been hung by screws and incurred some scaring to the paint as seen in the above photograph taken upon it's arrival. By looking closely at the photo, drill holes can be seen across the middle of painting and linear black marks can be seen on the edges of the piece.

I brought the work to a museum art restorer to assess the damage and to determine a plan of conservation for the painting.

The first step was to attempt clean the painting to remove the various discoloring marks on the surface of the "canvas" (difficult task due to the use of acrylics). The initial work would be followed by filling the holes. Then the restorer worked to match the paint used in the original work. The restoration was finished by touching up the damaged areas. A conscious decision was made to leave the damage on the edges untouched due to the difficulties in repairing them and the fact that the frame would cover that area.

The above photograph shows the finished work prior to framing.

After the restoration was complete, McCall's signature on the work became much clearer as it emerged from under the contamination on the surface of the painting due to it's years of exposure to the elements. The painting now hangs proudly on display.

Recently through the help of Catherine McCall, Robert's daughter, and her gallery McCall Studios ( I was able to purchase the painting shown above that is titled, "Launch of a Saturn V." The original painting is 23" x 30" and was completed in 1973. McCall worked with acrylic on paper to create the massive effects of the liftoff of world's largest launch vehicle. To me, personally, this painting sums up the race to the Moon.

The painting depicts the night launch of Apollo 17. Since he designed the mission patch for the flight, McCall and his wife, Louise attended the launch as guests of the crew. He recalled that "it was a night launch and a spectacle to behold."

Slightly off topic concerning the Apollo era, but still germane to Robert McCall's body of work, are his designs for floating cities. After watching flat bottomed clouds float across the sky, McCall came upon his designs for floating cities. Although not within today's technology, McCall hopes that one day cities will float above the Earth and thus protect the precious open land left on the planet. The above work is a minor pen and ink sketch of just such a city.

The pastel original pictured above is a more finished study of a floating city much like the one depicted in the finished painting entitled "Desert Nocturne."

Back in 2001, as we wrapped up our visit, I asked Mr. McCall about his book and he produced one and drew the above felt tip pen sketch on the inside of the cover. At that, my visit ended and I was on my way home.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

To the Moon with Snoopy

I purchased this painting from Gene Cernan. Captain Cernan was the Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) aboard the Apollo 10 mission to the Moon. The crew of Apollo 10 named their two spacecraft with code names, so ground control could determine which craft was communicating at any one time. Charles Schultz had given NASA the license to use the characters from the cartoon strip, "Peanuts" at the time. The crew named the Command/Service Module "Charlie Brown" and the Lunar Module "Snoopy" after two of the main characters in the cartoon. The crew had paintings of Charlie Brown and Snoopy done and took them onboard for the mission.

The above picture shows the back of the painting. Gene Cernan wrote "Flown on A-10. Seen on inflt TV" and signed it. John Young would later sign it in Tucson, AZ during a Novaspace signing.

The reason for the paintings was that they were to be used as a test of the color television camera that was being used for the first time on a trip to the Moon. The paintings were done on brightly colored backgrounds, so they would show up during the broadcasts from the spacecraft during it's voyage to the Moon. The picture included here is a still photograph taken from one of the television broadcasts and shows Tom Stafford, Commander of the Apollo 10 mission, holding the Snoopy painting.

Here is another still photograph from the color television broadcast on the Apollo 10 misson. John Young is holding the Snoopy painting.

In 2004, I traveled to Burbank to meet with Gene Cernan to discuss the painting. I was able to photograph Cernan with the painting.

In 2008, I met with General Stafford in Florida prior to helping his curator move some artifacts to the Stafford Air and Space Museum in Weatherford, Oklahoma. We met for dinner in a restaurant in Cocoa Beach. The photograph above show the General signing back of the Snoopy painting. We were sitting at a bar and I was silently praying that nothing would fall near the piece. While my prayers were answered, sometimes you do what you have to do to complete a task.

The artwork now has the signatures and inscriptions from crew of Apollo 10. The photograph was taken of the painting that is now encapsulated in an archival UV protected frame and shows the signatures of the crew.

This photograph shows the painting in it's plexiglass frame. I wanted to have the ability to show both the front and back of the artwork. The unique frame does just that.

The painting has been sent to Santa Rosa, California, where it is currently on loan to the Charles Schulz Museum for it's new exhibition, "To The Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA."

Credit: Susie Martinez courtesy of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.

The Snoopy exhibit opened at the Charles Schulz Museum and will run from January 31st to July 20th, 2009. The above photograph shows part of the exhibit currently on display. The Snoopy painting, sporting a new museum frame, is visible in the far left corner of the center kiosk. As an aside, Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan were in attendance for the exhibit opening.

A friend, who attended the opening with Stafford and Cernan snapped this picture of the Snoopy painting on display.

The caption shown in above photograph is from the Snoopy painting display. It states that Charles Schulz wrote about the painting and it's meaning to him in his biography.

The exhibit provides a guided tour about a small, but unique, story in the larger history of the human exploration of Space.