The truly great thing about the '40s and '50s was that the future seemed to have no limits. Science and technology were truly exciting and had an aura of mystery and magic that made everything seem possible. Belief in Martians, mutant giant ants, robots like Gort, and interstellar travel didn't seem at all unreasonable back then and SciFi movies at that time seemed entirely credible. When I saw The Thing, in 1951, I got so scared I checked the closet in my bedroom every day for a week (didn't have a greenhouse). I read all the Heinlein I could get and virtually lived in Chicago's Adler Planetarium. Clinging to my grandmother's roof, I saw Sputnik fly over in '57 and while NASA was busy blowing up its rockets, a schoolmate and I launched our own; frequently with better success.
Life on Mars: I couldn't get to the stars, but in '58 Selby Maxwell, a retired meteorologist who had built his own observatory, let a friend and me observe Mars when it was in opposition. For several nights we took turns sitting on the scaffold, peering into the eyepiece and sketching the Martian surface, just as Percival Lowell had done so many years before. As I peered through the lens I had the eerie feeling that somewhere out there a swift fate might be hanging over us, or that from the blackness of outer space we were being scrutinized, and studied.
In '61, I did time in the ski troops and learned about solitude and desolate beauty. Alaskan nights were breathtaking and sobering. Alone in the stillness, under an unearthly aurora and in the bitter cold, it was easy to conjure up images of alien worlds. Immense glaciers, ghostly mountains, and vast fields of snow and ice that stretched beyond the horizon in every direction appeared as images taken from a Bonestell portfolio.
Hard Science: Working while in school, I held down a wide variety of jobs: autopsy assistant, security guard, ambulance attendant, zoo keeper, orthopedic technician, reference librarian, phlebotomist, lab instructor - whatever I could get. I finished with an M.A. in biology and eventually joined the department of anesthesia at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco. By '88 I had finished a number of research projects and co-authored 13 papers. While doing a study in the operating room I met a patient by the name of Robert Heinlein. We had an interesting conversation!
The Art: At the age of five I discovered crayolas. It was so neat, the way they dribbled down the sides of our steam radiators. I filled in every coloring book ever made, but before long I found the best medium to be plain old paper and pencil. I drew ships, airplanes, trains, people, church steeples, roller coasters; anything that had lines of interest. Art was always my favorite class in grammar school. By the time I reached high school, however, drawing had become an infrequent pastime; after all, I was getting ready to go to Mars - who had the time? Throughout most of high school and military service I drew very little; in college I stopped altogether. During my years in medical research, however, to unwind from long, tense days in the operating room, I began painting again, just for my own pleasure. Eventually my office mates began to commission pieces and before long I realized that I had a career change to consider.
The world of "real science" is not a place for the incurable romantic. It's relatively cold, hard and uneventful, so in '88 I left medicine to paint full time. In '89 I joined the Artists' Guild of San Francisco and began showing in city parks. Everyone was painting cable cars, seascapes, barns and fishing boats - everyone but me. Although they juried me in, I don't think the members of the guild really knew quite what to make of the work.
Back to Mars: In '89 I showed at my first Con; it was Mars all over again! The experience was wonderfully alien, the people were great, and the fun well worth the work! Today I earn a living showing at cons and selling paintings through galleries, shows, publishers and auction houses. Now I'm free to break the laws of physics and once again explore the magical universe of my youth, and sometimes, late at night, when all is quiet and the sky is clear, I lay down my brushes, step outside, and search the heavens for the first wave of Martian war machines that I know are coming.
Read about Editor Guests of Honor Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden
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