Here is my painting of Athabasca Valles on Mars. A false colour image of this Martian valley inspires the artwork. The HiRISE camera took the image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. As always is not easy to resist the pull of the red planet. Therefore, Mars on Canvas 2 is here. What can I say? I love painting Mars.
I used acrylics mixed with structure gel applied to the canvas with bold strokes of my pallet knife. The shape of the valley and its false colours are beautiful. They ooze information about the heights and depths involved in the structure of the valley. The paint I used for the dominant surface of the planet is called Phthalocyanine Blue. A similar shade is often used to show off crescent-shaped barchan dunes that populate vast areas on Mars. That blue makes them look like steel structures in the Martian landscape.
Lashings of structure gel helped the paint form stiff ridges formed millions of years ago. The word lashings brings me back in time to when I used to read Enid Blyton’s books. In the stories, groups of children on bicycles go on adventures. Subsequently, stopping for picnics and then consuming lashings of boiled eggs with their sandwiches . A childhood memory revisited as my pallet knife spread its contents over the Martian surface.
In Enid’s time, one could only imagine what the surface of Mars looked like. As a teen, it was only available in my imagination. These days images of the red planet are so clear they invite themselves onto canvas. I used crushed pastels mixed in with the paint to make the painting tactile. This gives the painting an authentic look, far from the original flat canvas. The surface of Mars is strewn with rocks of all sizes, both rough and smooth. They tell the tale of their origins these days to robotic vehicles on the planet and in orbit around it. Both false colour images and naturally taken images of Mars all look gorgeous.
This feature on Mars was carved out of the planet by water from below the surface. Lava also had a hand in forming Athabasca Valles billions of years ago. We are incredibly fortunate to live at a time when Mars is being explored in such depth. Between the robot explorers like Curiosity and Perseverance on the surface. The wonderful Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Express and Odyssey in orbit. It gives us much more foresight into how a human team can, in the future, explore Mars and continue our insatiable appetite for knowledge.
I am sure that human explorers will someday sit on the edge of Athabasca and other outflow channels. They will undoubtedly wave at their Earth audience through super high-definition TVs with excellent sound. On the other hand, this is a far cry from the tiny black and white TV on which I watched the Apollo 11 moon landing. One hopes that the next generation will be even half as inspired by Mars images and landings as Apollo viewers were.