venerdì 16 ottobre 2015

The '2001' spacecraft art of Simon Atkinson

Now that Taschen's "The Making Of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey" is out in a more affordable version, many more fans have had the chance to access the superb work of Piers Bizony. They will surely remember that there was another book from Piers that had set the bar for the  most authoritative and complete source of information on 2001, and it was 2001: Filming The Future, that first came out in 1994.

The book featured some accurate artworks of the main spacecraft featured in 2001, made by Simon Atkinson, a professional illustrator who rendered the landmark ships seen in the movie with previously unseen accuracy and clarity. Here's how Piers Bizony remembers Simon's work:

“When Simon and I first began researching the hardware of 2001: A Space Odyssey in the early 1990’s, computer graphics tools were not yet widely available outside major film and media industries. Many brilliant artists have taken on the challenge of recreating 2001’s spacecraft using the very best digital techniques, and as often as not, the results are stunning. Yet almost without exception these modern practitioners cite the importance of Simon Atkinson’s painstaking traditional analogue work as an inspiration. 2001 was put together very much by hand. So were Simon’s wonderful renderings of the spacecraft. In fact I would challenge any CGI system to recapture the tone and feel that Simon accomplished.

Simon presented one of the original pod illustrations he produced for Filming The Future to Arthur C. Clarke during a 2001-related event in 1992 (Piers Bizony is on the right of the photo).

Simon and Piers during a recent event at the Museum Of Science in London. Behind them, a LEM mockup.

Simon recalls the thrilling experience of producing those artworks and his meetings with Harry Lange (NASA designer and technical consultant to 2001) and Arthur C. Clarke in this page of his website - an exciting account on its own that I suggest all the 2001 fans to read. What's more exciting is that Simon has recently rediscovered the original large format transparencies of his illustrations that were used for printing purposes, and has painstakingly restored his artworks to a level where they can now be reproduced as large scale prints very close in size to his original paintings with much greater detail and clarity than previously seen. Simon's artworks are now about to be released as a signed limited edition fine art print collection.

The prints will be produced using the Giclée process and printed on 260 gsm satin art paper; a Giclée print is high-quality art paper printed with super-fine ink spray dots and it's almost indistinguishable from an actual painting - it is indeed the same high-quality method used to produce Oliver Rennert's fabulous Discovery cut-out illustration I proudly own and that I previously reviewed here.

Here's Simon Atkinson holding a print of his Aries 1B side elevation illustration from 2001: Filming The Future (airbrush/coloured pencils on CS10 artboard, 1990). The original artwork of the Aries  is now in the collection of Tom Hanks, a keen 2001 fan and collector; the limited edition prints will be very close in size to the originals.

Simon's prints will be available to purchase from 30th October 2015; as the print run will be limited (only 250 for each artwork), Simon is currently inviting expressions of interest. You may contact him from the the contact page of his website,

Actual print sizes

(remember: the images of the various prints seen here 
are not in proportion with their actual sizes)

ARIES 1B : Overall print size 20” x 22” (510mm x 555 mm); image size 13 ¼” x 14” (336mm x 360 mm)

DISCOVERY 1 : Overall print size 38 ¼” x 6 ½”  (975mm x 257mm); image size 32” x 4” (828mm x 104mm)

ORION III : Overall print size 32” x 24” (830mm x 610mm); image size 25 ¾” x 15 ½” (658mm x 396mm)

POD SIDE: Overall print size 17 ¾” x 19 ¼” (452mm x 490mm); image size 11 ¾” x 10 “ (300mm x 250mm)

POD FRONT: Overall print size 17 ¾” x 19 ¼” (452mm x 490mm); image size 10 ¾” x 10” (277mm x 250mm)