As we start the Memorial Day weekend , I was thinking back to an interview I had with the late Alan Bean (March 15, 1932 – May 26, 2018). Alan was a naval officer, aeronautical engineer, test pilot, NASA astronaut and a fine artist. Alan became the fourth person to walk on the Moon on in 1969 with Apollo 12 and spent fifty-nine days in space (at the time a record) on the Skylab 3 mission in 1973. Alan stayed on at NASA training for flying the Space Shuttle, but Alan left NASA shortly before that program became operational. Alan left because he felt a calling to what would become another career for him, artist! He took classes and studied. He became as meticulous and detailed as he had been in his test pilot and astronaut pursuits before.
All of that hard work paid off, because Alan Bean became a highly respected and world known artist for his amazing renderings of the Apollo astronauts exploration of the Moon. You can see examples of his work here https://www.alanbean.com/
Alan’s paintings were also unique not just for the subject matter, or the person that was painting them, but also for his creative process. Alan would use lunar boot treads and lunar tools such as his geology hammer handle to make impressions on the still wet paint of the painting. Other special elements such as fibers from the patches of his spacesuit that he wore while walking on the surface. These patches are also covered in Moon dust and were worked into the paintings. Alan also acquired scale models of the Lunar Module, Lunar Rover and astronaut figures that he could articulate to study the lighting and scale for an upcoming painting project. He was passionate about his work and felt he had a duty as one of the few (to date there have only been 12 men that have walked on the Moon) that had been there, to try to convey what it looked and felt like to be there.
Alan Bean’s paintings hang in galleries, have been the subject of special exhibitions, books, and hang in several NASA centers around the country. One of my favorite books on this subject is the award winning, “The Astronaut Who Painted the Moon: The True Story of Alan Bean” by Dean Robbins and illustrated by Sean Rubin. http://deanrobbins.net/astronaut-painted-moon-true-story-alan-bean/
It is a book for kids, and does an amazing job of showing Alan’s life, his art and his process for painting. If you want to inspire young ones with some stellar art activities, check out https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/search/art/
And for my nod to Alan Bean I will again be doing the Tinfoil Moon art project again this Summer at our library, which can be found in this collection of other fun Moon art related projects https://diycandy.com/moon-crafts-for-kids/
If kids would like an opportunity to have their own artwork sent to space on a postcard and returned to them https://www.clubforfuture.org/
Much like Alan Bean felt it was important to share what he felt and saw during his time on the Moon, I have felt an urgency to collect the stories of astronauts and engineers who worked on Project Apollo. This generation is passing away now. There are only four surviving astronauts from the twelve that walked on the Moon. I try to share the interviews I have conducted with newspapers, in videos, transcripts typed up that students can access. And I couple these interviews with artifacts I have collected to bring these stories alive for students. I encourage you all to find out if there are any retired engineers or other Apollo era employees in your area. Recording their experiences for future generations and for your own community is important. There will never be another first time that the Moon is explored again, and Alan Bean’s paintings are a fitting monument to that achievement.