Grant Louden: Bringing Us All One Step Closer To Space

grant louden
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I’m sure that my experience is not a unique one.  There I am, browsing the SF section of a bookstore, library or second-hand shop.  A title jumps out at me – an unfamiliar author, an unfamiliar book – and I pull the book from the shelf, turning it around to take in the cover and

Bam! WOW!  Will you look at that!

Just like that the cover drags me in. Envelopes me in imagination.  Transports me from this realm to another. Somewhere out in space…at the helm of an FTL ship…taking in the wonder of astronomical splendor…trying to understand the alien environment I now gaze upon…wondering what awaits my ship and crew once we have touched down….

It’s no secret that cover art – particularly fantastic cover art – helps make the sale.  But sometimes…sometimes the imagery goes beyond simply putting a face on a collection of words bound together.  Sometimes that imagery transports you all by itself, opening up the doors of imagination.

Sometimes you want that book, but you want whatever is depicted on its cover even more.  Sometimes you want to go there – where ever that may be.  Sometimes you want to dive right in, surround yourself with the artist’s vision and wallow in it, feel its texture, listen to the sounds it makes (even the utter silence of space), smell it, taste it.

Grant Louden knows that feeling since early childhood and for the past couple of years, he’s been doing something about getting himself – and the rest of us – one step closer to that feeling of total immersion we are all looking for.

Growing up in New Zealand, Grant was inspired by a series of illustrated science fiction books: The Terran Trade Authority. Written by Stewart Cowley and illustrated by some of the best artists working the field, the book series chronicled man’s expansion into interstellar space. One of those books – Space Wreck – featured an illustration that had originally appeared on Sphere’s edition of the James Blish novel The Star Dwellers.

Star-Dwellers-Bubblegum-Card (3)
A ‘bubblegum card’ display of Grant’s completed sculpture, along with a reproduction of the paperback cover featuring Colin Hay’s original illustration.

Thirty years after Grant’s first encounter, he’s relocated to the UK and has retired from his work in graphic design in order to be able to better assist his wife who has MS. Chris Foss, one of England’s greatest SF artists is publishing a retrospective and Grant is re-acquiring his Terran Trade Authority collection.  Inspiration all over again.

Grant began using photoshop to cut his favorite spaceships out of those illustrations, placing them on different backgrounds and realized that they started looking like sculptures.

Grant also realized that over the years he had acquired the skills and the tools that would allow him to realize his ambition of bringing those favorite illustrations to 3D life.  He selected 12 images from the Terran Trade Authority book series and began contacting the artists – Chris Foss who was “wildly enthusiastic”, Colin Hay, Tony Roberts and the late Peter Elson’s sister with a request to license the works. (Anyone who reads 60s, 70s and 80s British SF ought to be familiar with those artists.)

Having obtained enthusiastic permission, Grant began the process of learning how to do what he wanted to do: bring those spaceships to life.  He began with paper models and frequently shared his results and ideas with Colin Hay, who offered assistance, particularly in areas of the sculpture that were not visible in the original drawing.

A wide variety of techniques and materials were used – bits and pieces from plastic model kits, FIMO modelling clay, wire, molding resins.  Grant even made a vacuum former to create some of the plastic pieces.

You can follow along with the building process in the gallery below.

Grant thanks Colin Hay for his enthusiastic support in this project and wants everyone to know that he is already hard at work converting another cover illustration;  both this, his latest sculpt and examples of his other works can be seen on his website.

For my money, you don’t get closer to science fiction than with something like Grant’s sculptures – except maybe aboard the ISS.  And I’ve got a much better chance of picking up one of Grant’s designs than I do of visiting the ISS!

Sci-Fi-O-Rama recently featured an article about grant’s sculpture here.  He is also preparing a detailed article about the build process for Sci Fi & Fantasy Modeller magazine that will be appearing some time this year.

Grant includes links to the pages of the artists whose work he has licensed here

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