Pat Rawlings has never been to space, but that hasn’t stopped him from showing us what it looks like.
For more than 30 years, Rawlings has illustrated – or, you could say, “storyboarded” – the future of space exploration. His realistic views of both human and robotic space exploration provide a chronology of the plans, hopes and aspirations of some of the planet’s best visionaries.
“It’s really the best possible job for someone who grew up with a love of art and space,” he said. “I get to talk to some of the most interesting people in the country – usually NASA scientists, engineers, astronauts – build miniature models of spaceships, and then sit in my studio painting or working on the computer for hours while listening to movie soundtracks and classical music.”
Rawlings will be the guest speaker for the opening of a traveling exhibit 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Center for Earth & Space Science Education at Tyler Junior College. The event is open to science center members.
“The Artists’ Universe: Mars,” features 34 paintings by space artists, including Rawlings, who are members of the International Association of Astronomical Artists. He is an IAAA charter fellow and trustee. Two of Rawlings’ works, “Red Storm” and “The Pit,” will be featured.
The exhibit runs Tuesday, Nov. 5, through Sunday, Jan. 5. For more information on the TJC science center, go to www.tjc.edu/cesse.
Dr. Tom Hooten, director of the TJC science center has long been a fan of Rawlings’ work.
“I knew we went to the same high school in Greenville,” Hooten said. “He graduated in 1974, and I graduated in 1978. I didn’t know him in high school, but I’ve been a fan of space art since I was a kid.
“I loved the old NASA illustrations showing astronauts at work on the moon or Mars; and as I grew up, I started to learn the names of the space artists. That’s when I discovered Pat Rawlings.”
Rawlings worked his way through college, with stops at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M Commerce), Galveston Community College, College of the Mainland and San Jacinto College before ultimately receiving his degree in applied design and visual art from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
In the Galveston area, he worked as a marine draftsman, preparing detailed drawings and designs for boats, which eventually led to a job at nearby NASA, where he became a technical illustrator.
“In that first NASA job, I spent two and a half years drawing most of the systems on the space shuttle,” he said. “It taught me a great deal about how a spaceship is made.”
He spent a few years designing exhibits for NASA before becoming art director of Eagle Visuals, a design studio within Eagle Engineering Inc., a firm established by retired astronauts. From 1983 to ’89, Eagle Visuals produced the majority of NASA’s advanced program artwork.
Since 1989, he has telecommuted from his home in Austin, producing art and providing creative guidance and contracting with NASA Headquarters and its field centers.
“It’s a rare thing to be able to make a serious living as an artist,” he said, “but I was really fortunate to have figured out early about specializing in the space art field.”
To ensure scientific and technical accuracy in his compositions, Rawlings consults with astronauts and experts in spacecraft design, mission design, mission operations, planetary geology, meteorology, and other related fields. The resulting photorealistic images give the viewer a sense of “being there.”
Rawlings’ paintings, digital images and designs have appeared in hundreds of magazines, books, television programs, motion pictures and as murals in the U.S. and abroad. His artwork for all of the NASA centers reflects more than a quarter century of space exploration plans, ranging from robotic planetary missions to the human exploration of Mars and beyond.
In 2012, Rawlings received the Space Education and Inspiration Award from The Federation of Galaxy Explorers. This award had previously been awarded to Bill Nye the Science Guy; The Discovery Channel; and Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City.