This painting idea started with this tin toy space capsule, made in Japan in the 1950's. The interior of the capsule has the astronaut in a rotating seat, giving him the best possible view out his two windows.

After purchasing the space capsule, I looked at a number of period art pieces and really thought this Space Cadet lunch box was very cool. I'd use some of this imagery to help me develop my painting.

A third vintage object was this motor oil company sign. The 'Rocket' Motor Oil was perfect for my growing idea.

Here's the idea I came up with. A gas station attendant is getting ready to pump some fuel into a toy car that has a toy person aboard, when a random space capsule floats into the station. The background is made from bits and pieces of the lunch box and is painted on a wall behind the attendant.

Change of plans!!!
Just after completing the design of this painting, I was approached by a friend and soon to be collector, asking me what I had for sale. He was looking for a surprise Christmas present for his special partner. She just happened to be a long time fan and follower of my work. Well, he really liked this outer space theme and when he wanted to commission me to do it, it was only natural to not only have him pose in the painting, but to also have his young lady take the place of my comical toy man who was in the car. I would have her standing outside the car, reading a road map. Also, with two people in the painting, I've decided to name this image, "Spaced Cadets."

I purchased a replica gas pump for the painting and decided on this tin car to replace the other car.

I've started on the canvas, rendering the space capsule first. I love the way the astronaut appears to be eyeballing his landing area at the gas pump.

The Rocket Motor Oil sign hangs above the pump, connected off canvas to the gas station building.

Here is a look at the entire width of the canvas, with the background outer space blocked in.

This close-up gives you an idea how dramatic the space capsule looks against the dark sky.

The tire stand and the price stand are old standards for gas stations in the 50's. Some are still being utilized. I paid $.25 a gallon when I first started driving in 1965.

This photo shows the beginning of the background with the rocket ship and the planets.

Here's an overall look at the entire canvas.

The gas pump is very cool. I've added a green color to part of the case, and changed it to Rocket Gas. At this point, I can't continue with the painting until I have my models drawn in. We have their photo session tomorrow and I should get them on the canvas this week.

Today was our photoshoot. The weather was perfect and so were the models! The young lady driver posed holding an old school map. Notice the upside down bucket under the gave her something to rest her foot on since we didn't have a large enough toy car!

The young gentleman gas station attendant made pretend with my garden hose. The crisp sunlight today really showed off the highlights. Take note of his gas station hat. That's one of my Marine Corps covers (hats) from 1970. 

I decided to start with the young woman in the painting, sculpting her upper torso with a wide range of warm and cool hues. The map she is holding will be casting a bright glow back on her.

I've moved down the figure to both arms and her blouse. As with all people in my paintings, I strive to capture the lighting, with hopes that some of the likeness shows through. In my technique, since I paint everything with two layers of paint, I'll have a second chance to make any corrections that I feel are necessary to enhance the image.

I wasn't sure what color to paint her pants, so I painted the car, hoping that it would help me make a decision...

...and it did! I went with the original dark blue color.

I've begun the background mountains.

I developed the cast shadows today to help me determine how dark to make the the background area that I hadn't finished. The gas station attendant and the bottom of the background is all that is left to get to the halfway point in the painting.

This photo shows the background completed, that is, the first layer of paint finished. Although it looks fairly dark, I can already tell that it will have to darken further in order to make the light that lands on the foreground objects (the car, woman, gas pump, attendant and space capsule) appear much brighter.

The gas station man is beginning to take shape. As I mentioned with the woman model, painting a portrait when the head is less than an inch in height is very difficult to achieve. Every flick of the brush can change the features of a face at this scale.

I've put my thumb next to the man's head to give an idea of the scale.

Here's a look at the attendant, head to toe.

With the man painted, this covers every inch of the canvas with one coat of turpentine-thinned oil pigment. The basic image is in place and it's now time to look at the overall lighting and color, and make some decisions for the second and final layer of paint. I call this the half-way point.

This photo shows me putting the final layer of paint in the sky. I've chosen to paint the sky first in this final phase because its dark value will dictate the values of the entire background. I've mixed Thalo blue with burnt umber to make the color for outer space. I'll paint around all the stars and planets and go back later to give them their light and shadows.

You can see just how much of a game changer this passage of paint is. Look at the difference in value between the first thin layer of paint and this final heavier layer. The final layer is straight out of the tube without any thinners or additives.

The sky is completely painted. It makes the rest of the painting look pale in comparison, which is a good thing. It tells me that not only do I need to darken everything in the painting, but that the drama of the lighting is going to be spectacular!

The next area that I need to increase the value is in the mountains. If you look closely, you can see how I've begun on the left side of the painting, darkening all the sloping areas of the mountains. I've reached the middle of the canvas, just short of the rocket ship.

This photo gives you an idea how much darker I am making the mountains. Look how bright it makes the tops of the mountains, the areas where the light is hitting. Also, remember that the background is not real, so it has its own light source, coming from the right, where the painting's light source is coming from the left.

I've completed the mountain, both its shadows and highlights. Now you can see that this change makes the planets and stars too bright. They compete with the light that is hitting my figures and objects in the foreground.

This detail photo shows how the planets are almost as bright as the gas pump.

I've darkened Saturn to halt the competition it is having with the light struck objects in the foreground.

With the mountain and all the stars and planets darkened, I can now determine how dark to make the other background imagery.

The warmer, smaller rock formation in the background and the ground is painted, showing how it has made the light really shine on the foreground objects.

Here's another look at the way that the darkened background makes the foreground 'pop'.

In order to help show that the background is a 2-dimentional wall and not outer space, I've applied darker values behind the tire and to the edge of the gas price sign. The tire and sign will need some real substantial changes in their values (much darker).

Here's a look at the rocketship in its completed state.

The Rocket Motor Oil sign is one of the objects that requires a lot of time, making sure all the lettering is rendered properly. I love the graphics on this old design.

Moving on to the space capsule, I started by painting the inside area of the window.

It's taken me over a week to render the space capsule, with all its lithographed tin exterior. It's such a main ingredient of the painting that it deserves a great deal of attention to its detail.

This photo shows the gas pump with its final layer of oil paint. Its unique combination of red and green lends to the overall balance of color in the painting. Look closely at the gas pump dials and you can see that they are all on '0', meaning that the attendant hasn't begun to pump any gas. The arrival of the space capsule has halted a moment in time.

The tire and sign are finished. They will 'sit down' in the painting much better when the ground beneath them is painted much darker.

All the final hues and values have been increased on the car. Their newer darker values start to make the woman's legs and shoes start to glow.

And now, with the shadows being darkened to their final value, her shoes look like they are floating in space. This tells me that I will have to darken her feet so that they 'melt' into the shadow of the car.

This photo of the complete canvas begins to show the final dramatic lighting, as the cast shadows have been completed. The light struck area of the ground and the final layer of paint on the two figures will complete the painting.

Over a week's work, detailing the woman and it turned out great! See how her legs and feet blend into the shadow of the car. Also, look at the detailing in the road map, with the light shining through the paper. Very happy with the dramatic lighting!

The gas station attendant is now finished. Notice the warm light that shines through his shirt. Another layer on the light struck areas of the ground and this painting will be complete.

I'll get a better photo of "Spaced Cadets" when it is completely dry and I can coat it with a little varnish. For now, this studio photo will have to do. It turned out great! Thanks for watching!