Explore an Artist's Universe
COSMOGRAPHICA: The Astronomical Art of Don Dixon

Gallery

The Searchable Image Library contains nearly 500 illustrations. The paintings show not only the evolution of the artist's technique from the 1970s to the present, but also our growing understanding of the universe. The albums include traditional astronomical paintings, science fiction book covers, and scientific diagrams.

painting of Rings of Saturn

Beneath the Rings of Saturn—Viewed from clouds deep within Saturn's atmosphere, the distant sun blazes through the relatively clear region of Saturn's Rings known as the Cassini Division. (acrylic and gouache on illustration board;1980).

painting of galactic black hole

Heart of the Quasar—Shredded stars are ejected by the maelstrom of a million solar mass black hole at the core of a distant galaxy (acrylic and gouache on illustration board;1990).

painting of moon rising over the young earth

Moonrise, 4 Billion BCE—Mountainous tides drawn by a much closer moon erode the newborn continents of the young Earth (acrylic and gouache on illustration board;1979).

molten surface of the forming earth

Hadean Earth—Asteroid impacts continually shatter the thin crust of the young Earth; interior piece for Scientific American (digital;2009).

giant earthlike exoplanet orbiting red dwarf star

Super Earth Exoplanet—An inner planet transits a red dwarf star as viewed from a planet twice Earth's mass orbiting in the "Goldilocks Zone" where water is liquid; cover for Sky and Telescope Magazine (digital;2007).

starship staging over planet of alpha centauri

Starship Arrives at Alpha Centauri—A mile-long starship discards its braking stage above an earthlike world of Alpha Centauri after its 50-year voyage; for Astronomy Magazine(digital; 2012).

Space Art Prints

Prints and Cards in a wide range of sizes may be purchased from  Fine Art America. This is a convenient and affordable way to obtain a print tailored to your needs. Images may be printed on canvas, archival paper, or even metal, and prints can be shipped internationally. Should you wish to custom frame your print, Fine Art America features a sophisticated framing wizard.

print frame montage


Original Paintings

Dixon originals have been collected by science fiction luminaries Larry Niven and Ray Bradbury. A selection of available pieces may be viewed via the links below. Please email to request a high resolution file for inspection.

Astronomy and Technology
A selection of traditional astronomical paintings.
Science Fiction Book Covers
Covers created for books ranging from Isaac Asimov's classic I, Robot to Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars.
Sketches
Preliminary designs for covers. Many are exquisitely detailed miniatures. An economical way to begin a collection.

link to HST painting

Featured Original Painting—Hubble Space Telescope by Rick Sternbach and Don Dixon

About Space Art

Space Art banner A student dressed as an astronaut explores art show at University of Oslo

When the crew of Apollo 8 turned a camera toward Earth in 1968, many people were surprised to discover our world was such a pretty planet, but scenes such as the famous "earthrise" had been rendered decades before by artists whose imaginations were informed by science. Astronomical illustrators play a role similar to that of medical illustrators, in that they attempt to portray realistically aspects of nature beyond ordinary experience. The astronomical artist can take us to the dawn of creation to witness the cataclysm that formed the Moon and can transport us billions of years into the future to watch the sun swell into a red giant star.

Part of the fun in this field is trying to stay one jump ahead of the scientists. I've often guessed wrong (Mars' sky is brown, not blue, for instance) and have been lucky once or twice (depicting Titan's surface quite accurately in 1973), but nature, when finally revealed, always surprises. As you explore the images on this site please bear in mind that they represent informed speculation. The reality will not only be stranger, but much more beautiful.
— Don Dixon

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Learn more about space art from the International Association of Astronomical Artists

 Watch a panel discussion featuring five space artists 

Bio

Portrait of Space Artist Don Dixon in oslo sculpture gardenDon Dixon is a Fellow and founding member of the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA). Honored by NASA and the New York Society of Illustrators, his artwork has been featured on the covers of Scientific American, Astronomy, Sky and Telescope, Bild der Wissenschaft, and dozens of books, ranging from physics compendiums to science fiction novels.His painting Red Mars, cover art for the first book in Kim Stanley Robinson's award winning trilogy, rode the Phoenix spacecraft to a successful landing in the arctic region of the Red Planet in 2008 as part of the Planetary Society's digital 'Martian Library.' Since 1991 he has served as Art Director at Griffith Observatory,  atop Mount Hollywood, where he directed and co-authored the acclaimed full-dome animated film Centered in the Universe. He has been Artist Guest of Honor at several science fiction conventions and has exhibited in Oslo, Berlin, and New York.

Don Dixon began his artistic career in the 1970's, creating animation to illustrate NASA's early missions to the planets. He has been a guest of NASA at several space exploration "firsts", such as the Viking 1 landing on Mars and the Pioneer 11 flyby of Saturn, for which he designed the mission logo. Like all in the field, Dixon was influenced by the work of Chesley Bonestell, who believed that scientific accuracy was essential in the astronomical art genre. He stays abreast of developments in physics and astronomy by consulting with prominent scientists as he illustrates their latest discoveries for popular publications.

Most of Dixon's early work was created in oil or acrylic paints.  Since the late 1990's, his scientific illustrations have been created digitally on a Mac computer. Private commissions and murals are executed with oil paints on canvas or Masonite panel.

Van Gogh, Vermeer, Albert Bierstadt, and Edmund Dulac are among his favorite artists. He enjoys classical music, telephoto nature photography, reading history and the occasional thriller novel, and following developments in science and technology. He is a citizen of the United States and Italy.

(see also interviews at "Planetary Radio" , "SFsite" ) Bibliography at ISFDB


Contact

Picture editors: please include the image title and URL, the proposed use, and print run in your inquiry.


Send email to Don Dixon