In the 60’s I was fascinated with NASA’s space program. I enthusiastically scrutinized any articles or images associated with space. By the early 70’s NASA directed some of their imaging system towards earth itself. One such program was the Earth Resources Technology Satellite, later renamed LANDSAT.
When I first saw a LANDSAT image, I thought I was looking at an abstract painting. It was only when I read the caption that I realized this was the surface of the earth as viewed from 438 miles up.
The raw beauty of the color and texture impacted me on a very deep level. In many cases, this macroscopic view of earth was surprisingly similar to the close-up view we observe from a few feet off the ground…the earth is a fractal.
In 1976 as part of the Bicentennial, NASA published Mission to Earth: LANDSAT Views the World. I immediately ordered a copy from the government printing office. It was $14 well spent.
The multiple levels of self-similarity influenced me greatly in my evolving paintings. I began to utilize a visual vocabulary borrowed from the LANDSAT imagery.
When my career in digital paint software development began in 1985, I had the ability to digitally convert my photographs to the computer for further interpretation and enhancement. I did a series of images that combined photos of graphic elements found on the ground, which I called MANSAT—LANDSAT style images of the ground from human height.
To this day, I still photograph details of textures found in nature…I have thousands of them! It is this unrelenting fascination with the fractal quality of our natural surroundings that I now realize is yet another puzzle piece that has led me to my latest project, the Emergence brush system for Corel Painter.
If you’d like to see a great set of examples of LANDSAT imagery, check out the NASA publication, Earth as Art. It is available as a free PDF file here.