My wife Yukari Watanabe Scott and I commissioned this fantastic painting from Apollo 12 astronaut and artist Alan Bean.
"Boy, you can sure move on this surface"
Here is the story that Alan wrote describing the painting:
Prior to our Apollo 12 mission in November 1969, Pete Conrad and I talked with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin about moving on the lunar surface. We knew that moving rapidly between exploration sites on the dusty surface would take significant energy, but we wanted to maximize the scientific return from our two moonwalks. The engineers were worried the water supply in our PLSS backpacks might run out as we worked in the 250-degree heat, making us too hot to move to the LM and get safely inside, so they limited our moonwalks to three and one half hours each.
With the challenge of so much science to accomplish in such little time, speed of movement on the surface was critical. Just like training, I learned my bulky pressurized spacesuit did not bend easily at the leg joints. However, the one-sixth earth’s gravity of the moon made me lighter and feel stronger than any training day on earth. I found I could run on my tiptoes using mostly my smaller ankle joint. With a sort of loping motion, minimizing bending my hip and knee joints, I learned to skim across the lunar surface. I shared my enthusiasm with Pete and mission control, “boy, you can sure move on this surface.”
In my painting, I am carefully photographing the Plus Y footpad of the LM to document that, like us, the LM also moves easily on the surface. The footpad bounced upon landing and moved slightly forward. Engineers back on planet earth used this information to insure the LM landing system for future missions was as light as possible but would still perform safely.
As I began photographing, Pete quickly moved to the rear of the LM to take a series of a dozen photographs, turning 30 degrees between each, recording a panorama of the immediate landing area. I have painted his bootprints as he moved behind the LM. Scientists think these bootprints will remain on the lunar surface just as distinctly as I have painted them for 30 million years.
Moving fast on the moon was hard work, but it was fun too. Someday adventurous humans from planet earth will return to the moon to run and jump and do things in the light gravity they could never do back home. Perhaps they will visit our landing site and see our bootprints and leave some bootprints of their own.
The story of our commission
Like many people who grew up in the 1960s, we were fascinated with the out-of-this-world adventures of the Apollo astronauts. As primary school students we distinctly remember being herded into the school auditorium to witness for ourselves the television coverage of the latest Apollo mission.
That sense of wonder never left us. We’ve both read a great deal about the lunar missions and have collected artifacts associated with the Apollo program. But it wasn’t until we started discussion the possibility of commissioning a painting from Alan Bean that we really felt close to the moon.
Now that we have our framed Alan Bean original Boy, You Sure Can Move on this Surface hanging in our home, we can say with a great deal of enthusiasm that commissioning a painting from Alan has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of our lives.
The adventure began in 2009 when we met Alan at an astronaut event at Kennedy Space Center. We discussed how much we liked the paintings we had seen in his books and on his website. Having voraciously consumed dozens of books about the Apollo program including histories, biographies and photography volumes and visited museums including the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, KSC, Space Center Houston and many more, we kept turning again and again to Alan’s artistic interpretations of what it was like to actually live and work on the lunar surface.
To us, an artist’s sense of awe and wonder translated into a beautiful work that we could help create and then actually own became an important part of our lives so we decided on a commission of our own.
In mid-2011 our names finally made it to the top of the waiting list and we began a series of enjoyable interactions with Alan. First we looked through his site and books to get a sense of his previous works so we could choose what we might be interested in having in our own home. We also spent hours examining hundreds of photos from the lunar surface and even read transcripts of discussions between Apollo astronauts working on the lunar surface with ground controllers at mission control, all to get a sense of what sort of image we might want painted for us.
What Alan helped us to understand is that commissioning a painting is very much a collaborative experience. While we had a great deal of input into the decisions that for into the painting, we needed to build rapport and trust between us and Alan to make the experience enjoyable and to work together to create the absolute best final result. We entered into the process with an understanding that the best commission possible is a collaborative process built on mutual trust and respect.
While researching on the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal, we found fascinating photos from Alan and Pete Conrad’s first Apollo 12 EVA (moonwalk). There was a point where Alan photographed the plus-Y LM pad and during that time he was talking to mission control (which we found in the transcripts). At the same time, Pete had been in the distance and was shooting a series of photograph pans of the landing site. This became the basis of our painting.
We love photographic images that show the lunar surface with its craters and some larger rocks and the interesting lighting and shadows created on the surface and hoped to capture that in a painting so we wanted a painting where the lunar surface is the primary focal point. We also told Alan that we like his paintings when an astronaut is at work on the surface and his attention is focused on the work, not at the viewer of the painting.
During a period of several months while we were discussing the painting, we traded email and telephone calls with Alan about important choices like composition, size, orientation (portrait or landscape), colors, and, importantly, what “story” the painting would tell. Later, as the work was nearing completion, we worked with Alan to refine the story and to name the finished work.
When the painting was complete, we visited Alan in his studio so we could see our new painting where it was created. The sense of accomplishment we all felt having worked together to achieve such a stunningly beautiful end result was a moment we will never forget. And the fact that an Alan Bean original Boy, You Sure Can Move on this Surface actually hangs in our home is truly out of this world.