Donald Davis is an American painter and animator. He exhibits exceptional talent in a variety of other creative outlets, too, including illustration and photography, and the majority of his work follows galactic themes.
While he was still in high school, in 1968, Davis landed a job as an illustrator for the U.S. Geological Survey’s branch of Astrogeologic Studies, thus leading him further into a career specialising in space artwork. Some of his earliest projects included a series of images of the moon in the early stages of it’s history. Due to the experience Davis has working to this kind of specialist brief, his artwork often incorporates geological knowledge of the planets and stars that he paints.
Until the late 1970s, Davis worked exclusively with oil painting, before he introduced airbrushing to his art, after using the technique when working on Carl Sagan’s television series, and book of the same title, Cosmos. Aside from Cosmos, Davis has been published in a number of publications and books, including on the cover of Saturday Review in 1975.
In the early ‘70s, NASA commissioned Davis to paint a series of space colonies for public domain: the images accompanying this article. The muted colours and skewed shapes create a paradoxical nostalgic future that, combined with the suburban houses and grassy knolls, is a far throw from the metal and concrete landscapes typically envisaged when the future is considered. On his website, Davis refers to this himself, claiming, “I deliberately wanted to imply the challenge of trying to transplant a workable ecosystem to a giant terrarium in Space. Most other depictions are dreary mega-shopping mall like structures.”
The earthy landscapes contained within glassy cylindrical and toroidal habitats depict a far more vibrant and familiar prospect of colonisation in space than the steely structures that fill the future detailed in popular culture.
Regardless of which vision is preferable, we’ll simply have to wait to see which will most closely align with reality.