Astronaut Alan Bean's paintings

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Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean was the fourth man on the Moon. In 1981, he retired from the space agency to put his otherworldly experiences on canvas. Seen above, "Tiptoeing on the Ocean of Storms" (acrylic on masonite). Bean's magnificent paintings are currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. From the Smithsonian:
Bean remembers running next to this crater and feeling like he could run forever without his legs getting tired. The reason he felt "super strong" was because he weighed so little. The Moon has one-sixth the gravity of Earth, making his total body and equipment weight of about 136 kilograms (300 pounds) on Earth only 23 kilograms (50 pounds) on the Moon.  

Although carrying weight required little effort, the spacesuits were stiff and hard to move at the knee and hip joints. Astronauts learned to move mostly by ankle motion, which Bean says "feels and looks as if you are dancing on tiptoe."
"Alan Bean: Painting Apollo, First Artist on Another World"

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  1. Strangely, there’s a song about Alan Bean (“The Return of Alan Bean”) on Stina Nordenstam’s first album, Memories of a Colour.

    Now Alan Bean he fulfilled his greatest dream / A step on the moon and his future was ruined / Alan Bean and Pete and Rusty too / They had nothing left that they wanted to do

  2. The episode of “From The Earth To The Moon” on Alan Bean was probably my favorite of the series.

    I need to break down and get that box set…

  3. #4: yeah that was a really good episode. Amazon had the box set on sale for around $20 not too long ago. See if the price is still the same.

  4. Unfortunately these paintings are quite boring – they are just well done copies of photographs. There’s nothing about them that makes them unique, they could have been painted by anyone else. I would have hoped that an astronaut could have produced something a little more subjective, something that gave us the feeling of what his experience was like.

  5. @7, Fortunately, that’s just your opinion. Subjectivity is in the eye of the beholder my friend.

  6. @7: Sorry to hear about your soul dying… Hope you get it back soon. Seriously, the first artist EVER to set foot on the moon, and his work is deemed “boring”? It’s a miracle that his persona combined the extraordinary technical and left-brain accumen to be an astronaut, and also the artisty to draw more than stick-figures. Sheesh.

  7. I volunteer at the Air & Space museum and these paintings are not all done from photographs. Many are done from memory (he creates miniature sculptures that he paints from for form). And in fact a number of his paintings were also done in the vein of fantasy instead of fact where he imagines a dune buggie race across the lunar surface and others conveying the feeling of standing on the moon rather than actual views they might have had on the missions. Additionally, he adds dimention by stamping his plaster-like canvas with a moon boot and tools from Apollo missions. And lastly, he adds bits of moon dust and uniform clippings – so that they each have a physical connection to the Apollo moon missions. I enjoyed the exhibit and recommend folks stop by if they have the opportunity.

  8. “Additionally, he adds dimension by stamping his plaster-like canvas with a moon boot and tools from Apollo missions. And lastly, he adds bits of moon dust and uniform clippings – so that they each have a physical connection to the Apollo moon missions.”

    I was hoping someone would mention the fact that there are pieces of Apollo in some of the paintings. Whether the paintings are fine art is individually subjective (as usual). Whether the paintings are unique works of a unique man there is no doubt. It’s great that the actual artifacts of space flight history are part of the work.

  9. @7: Actually, Alan Bean uses the NASA tools he used on the moon, like the rock hammer, to create textures in his paintings. He also embeds flecks of the foil solar shield that covered the lunar lander. I don’t know of any other painter who’s art was made with flippin’ moon tools! If I remember correctly from the afore-commented documentaries, Bean explained how at first his plain oil paintings were, to him, rather boring and mundane, until he came up the these ideas.

  10. Heck, he even puts a little tiny fleck of moon dust in his originals. Since he got to keep the Apollo 12 patch, the American flag, and the name badge from his suit, and those were filthy with moon dust, he has a (very small) supply of moondust, which he adds to the end of a painting.

    Also, @7, he’s done some subjective stuff about how it felt like to walk on the moon. It was called “How It Felt Like to Walk On the Moon.” Great title. Cool painting.

    http://www.alanbeangallery.com/howitfelt-story.html

  11. Since kilograms are properly a measure of mass, he would be 136kg on both the earth and the moon… his weight however (which could be measured in pounds) is affected by gravity and could be described as 50 lbs vs. 300lbs.

  12. @4 “The episode of “From The Earth To The Moon” on Alan Bean was probably my favorite of the series.”

    Mine too. I have never, (as a life-long space nut), seen any fictionalized space dramatization that put as much humanity and fun into the story of going to the moon.

    Alan Bean is one of my heroes.

  13. Alan Bean is interviewed extensively in the documentary “In the Shadow of the Moon”. He comes across as a very likeable, down-to-earth person. If you get the DVD, be sure to check out the extra scenes section: it has an interview with Bean in his studio, showing how he creates his paintings.

  14. I used to work with his paintings at a facility which reproduced them digitally. For a trained scientist/pilot, Alan Bean is a incredible renderer. I will second #12’s claim that he does indeed put real moon dust into his paintings

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