I was wondering what subject to try for my next linocuts. I had been thinking about it for a few weeks (I got on with a couple of paintings whilst I was thinking). I sat in cafés thinking, even did a couple of sketches. Maybe it was all articles and news about Tim Peake going up to the International Space Station on 15th December 2015 that reminded me of the excitement about space when I was a child. It made me think about space in my life.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know about Sputnik and Telstar satellites circling the planet. As a very small child, I watched sci fi. I remember watching Doctor Who, and being scared by a particular episode of Star Trek (one with aliens with tridents – and the adult me has no idea what about it scared me). I liked playing with the little tin robot toy at my grandparents’ house (not sure if it was bought to entertain grandchildren or had originally belonged to one of my uncles). Rockets were common motifs. Of course I was a fan of Thunderbirds from the first time it was shown on television.
A few years later, I loved David Bowie’s Space Oddity. I remember watching the first man walking on the Moon. It was incredibly exciting. I played by myself at being an astronaut in the hexagonal bit of the climbing frame in the playground or in my bedroom (I had an imaginary cat companion to accompany me as I explored the universe). I read science fiction as I grew older. Naturally, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was my favourite radio programme (I even paused my homework to listen properly – it was the highlight of the week). I read more science fiction.
Space imagery has been part of my culture throughout my life. Thinking about those early years, I am more astonished now at how incredibly brave the astronauts and cosmonauts were in the 1960s were, and how extraordinary all those working on the space programme must have been to put people into space and even as far as the Moon – and to bring them back. So I started with Sputnik, the first satellite that circled the Earth from 1957, and Yuri Gagarin who became the first man in space in 1961.
The Valentina, Ed and Gemini 7 print shows Valentina Tereshkova, who became the first woman in space in 1963, Edward H White who was the *first American to do a space walk in 1965, and the Gemini 7 which was one of the two spacecraft in the first manned space rendezvous (Gemini 6A was the other).
I realised before I’d finished these that I was working in too fine detail on too small a scale. I thought I’d wrecked both linocuts towards the end. The first prints are not perfect, but are better than I expected. I’ll try to improve them with a tiny amount of delicate cutting in a couple of places.
Next I need to think of what will go on the next print.
*Correction: I originally wrote that Ed White was “the first person to do a space walk” but Robert O Callaghan kindly pointed out that first person to do a spacewalk was the cosmonaut Alexei Leonov on 18th March 1965 because when the Russians knew the Americans were planning for one of their astronauts to do it in June 1965, they decided to send one of their cosmonauts to do it first. Leonov had problems on the space walk and was fortunate to survive.