Sunday, May 27, 2018

Alan Bean 1932-2018

Alan Bean in his painting studio, photo courtesy Smithsonian
Alan Bean has died. He was the fourth man to walk on the moon and he was also a painter.

I fondly remember him calling me with focused questions about color mixing. (Link to SoundCloud file).

Many people recall him as being a kindly gentleman, and he certainly was, but he also had a test-pilot's tenacious insistence on understanding a subject thoroughly, as if his life depended on it.

In my conversations with him, I took the opportunity to ask him about what shadows look like on the moon. He said that from a scientific perspective they really were black (except for reflected light), and the surface of the moon was full of grays. But from his artist's perspective, he wanted to introduce more color into his painting to convey the feeling, as well as the optics, of the experience.

He had to be careful during his time at NASA not to talk too much about such things. He didn't want to sound too much like a dreamy artist, or they would have dropped him from the program. As he completed his mission on the Moon, he was observing and recording it in his mind, and after his return to earth he pursued a successful career as a painter.


Alan Anderson said...

Rest In Peace Alan, jobs well done, on the moon, on earth, and in heaven!

Nick Webb said...

It would be great for an extra-terrestrial plein-air expedition. Hopefully for Mars.

R's Rue said...


swyattart said...

Plein-air on the moon! I wonder how the materials would hold up? (no pun intended)