On the 40th anniversary of the Apollo mission into space I would like to add my own related Apollo memory!
Alan Bean Artist and Astronaught On the Ocean of Storms
Alan Bean was the Fourth Man to walk on the Moon. He was lunar module pilot on Apollo 12 in November 1969 landing on the Ocean of Storms. Alan was 37years 8month 4days old on that day. Back in 2006 he was still a very lively and fit 74year old when I met him at the Arts Catalyst Event, ‘Space Soon’ at the Round House in Chalk Farm, London. There he gave a presentation about his paintings and the inspiration for his art.
He would appreciate the nerdy correctness of my description with regards to time; he struck me as being very particular about everything. Imagine how fascinated I was to meet the ‘Al’ Bean who flew the rocket and who had touched the moon’s surface. I felt fortunate to hear him speak about his exploration into space and how he described his experiences of being an artist now.
What stuck in my mind was that he said, there was no colour in space no colour on the moon and that there was a rather unpleasant smell of gunpowder. That the most beautiful thing he did see was our earth from space. Having travelled in space made him appreciate how special and privileged we are and how he would never want to live anywhere else but earth because it is the best planet he saw and only planet with a vast range of colour.
Over a lunch of ‘rocket salad and chips and ice cream’ at top on the terrace of the Roundhouse he discussed his art making and how he wanted to reproduce certain moments of that moon landing that were important to him. He explained how for certain situations he had models made to recreate these moments so that he could paint them as accurately as possible. He told me how much in awe he was of impressionists like Monet and how important but also frustrating he found the mixing of colour. I sensed his struggle with the medium. And he explained that being a scientist he would just paint everything grey but as an artist he needed to add colour.
His paintings are impeccably rendered historical moments.
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