Frank Hettick
Up David Archer Alan Bean Richard Bizley Chris Butler Michael Carroll Lynette R. Cook Donald E. Davis Bob Eggleton Dr. Mark A. Garlick David A. Hardy William K. Hartmann Frank Hettick B.E. Johnson Julie Rodriguez Jones Walter Myers Kim Poor Pat Rawlings Joe Tucciarone Michael C. Turner


Frank Hettick
Space Artist

 Frank Hettick, was born in 1937 in Tillamook, Oregon. Like so many other space artists of his generation, his interest in space and astronomical art began at age13 when he received a copy of "The Conquest Of Space", by Willy Ley and Chesley Bonestell. Those fantastic illustrations encouraged Frank to begin drawing his own space scenes.

Soon thereafter, he enrolled in the high school art classes and began painting, first in tempera then in oils. Frank recalls that being the second-tallest boy in high school forced him onto the basketball team, but he soon gave that up to spend more time on his part-time jobs – but he remembers also working on his space art until "one or two in the morning" after which he would sleep for a few hours before arising to start the whole schedule over again.

By graduation in 1955 he had completed several dozen oil paintings. His first commercial encouragement came when he mailed two simulated "Weird Science" covers to the publisher in New York. A couple of weeks later he opened a letter from the editor, Al Feldstein, who congratulated him and stated how pleased they were with his efforts.

Despite those kinds of encouragements Frank recognized the necessity of earning a "real" living and soon became the youngest real estate appraiser in Oregon. After spending almost a dozen years with the State Department of Revenue in five different Oregon counties as a commercial-industrial appraiser he moved to a career in the private sector.

His efforts in commercial real estate development resulted in several large shopping center and retail projects. In 1971 he accepted a position with a Chicago publisher, wrote a book then traveled through North and Central America conducting seminars and lectures.

In 1976 he and his wife, Shirley, began a part-time company to design and manufacture instruments for antique show cars, street rods, movie cars, and classic boats. The small company began simply to solve the problem of finding dashboard gauges for Frank and some of his car friends for the hobby cars they were building. Just one year later they moved to full-time and within a few years the company had grown to become the leader in specialty automotive instrumentation worldwide.

In 2001 Frank and Shirley sold their instrument company and considered retirement – but soon after their former company had been moved to Michigan they began to wonder what they could do with the 4,000 square-foot like-new carpeted and air-conditioned building.

"I have always tended to be a buyer and not a seller – so I was not really inclined to sell the building as we still had a lot of stuff stored in the back room and a lot of artwork hanging on the walls! And where would we put all that stuff if we sold the building?" Frank remembers. "Standing there and looking at each other we both said ‘Now What?’"

It seemed the perfect solution – get the stuff out of storage (Frank calls it "collectibles"), put in some display fixtures, and open a gallery - now known as Sky-High Gallery and a prime source of Frank’s space art works.

And some of those ‘collectibles’ at Sky-High Gallery are just that!

How about the original prototype (made of wood) of the von Braun-designed Mars Liner that he and Walt Disney personally approved in the early 1950s’ before Tomorrow Land was built? Or how about one of the very detailed prop ‘Grail Diaries’ from ‘Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade’? Or how about a signed copy of ‘The Exploration of Mars’ by Willy Ley (illustrations by Bonestell) and Chesley Bonestell’s personal reference copy of ‘Space Travel’?

Frank even has the original ‘Weird Fantasy’ covers he did in 1951 – along with the ‘thank you’ letter he received from Al Feldstein.

When Frank and Shirley had discussed retirement years before Frank had said he wanted to restart his long-delayed art efforts. Having only done a few catalog covers and some personal art pieces during their long intensive career at raising a family (three daughters now spread worldwide) and making their former company successful – he now wanted to ‘prove, perhaps just to myself, that I could still paint’!

"And I had collected all these tools of the trade – oil paints, easels, drafting table, brushes, mediums, and canvas’s just waiting for myriad space pieces to pop out of the surface – and I had really been anxious to get started again." Frank notes, "My mind was just filled with scenes I had been storing up for some 40 years – and I wanted to get to it!

"To make my efforts a bit easier – and faster – I decided I would lay out my initial compositions in the computer, adjusting the perspective and lighting, shading, etc. Then once I had gotten all the ‘mechanical’ things correct I would print out ‘the sketch’ and paint from that!

I was fortunate to be able to attend the press-preview showing of Star Wars the same week in 1977 that it was scheduled to open nationwide! As you can see from this picture - it is over a quarter-of-a-century later but I am still hard at work saving one galaxy after another - even though I should have retired in 2002 - or was that 3002

Frank recalls that "I soon found that putting just a bit more effort into the computer ‘sketch’ I could achieve something very close to a final artwork without putting in days and weeks waiting for the oils and canvas to dry and with the side benefit of not having the chemical smells, messy cleanups, and all the health hazards that we now know always accompany traditional painting"!

"Soon I was spending more and more time at the computer ‘tweaking’ those ‘sketches’ until they looked just right! I soon accumulated several dozen that I wanted to turn into finished space art ‘paintings’. But several friends noted the ‘sketches’ were very ‘professional-appearing’ and could pass for ‘finished art pieces’. I then determined that I would take some of my sketches on to the ‘almost finished’ stage and finally complete the painting by hand.

"Printing many of my pieces on canvas was the real breakthrough! With the canvas being completed by hand painting (mostly with acrylics to hasten drying time) the finished piece is a close runner-up to a ‘totally done by hand’ piece. While some persons still abhor any piece that is accomplished partially by computer – most artists today appreciate that the computer and software is only a tool!

Frank points out that "Composition, color, matched lighting, perspective, and theme are all things that must be accomplished by the individual artist since a computer has no talent in these areas. I have always been a stickler for detail (probably brought on by exposure to those early photo-realistic scenes by Bonestell) and the computer has proven to be a very beneficial tool in my attempts to picture those scenes that perhaps no human will ever see – excepting through my efforts."

Although Frank has no driving ambition towards a commercial reputation in space art, he has had several magazine covers and TV-appearances. In the winter of 2002, Frank’s "Exploration" space art piece made the Pulsar cover. In August of 2003 his "Martian Odyssey" painting appeared on the BBC’s ‘The Sky At Night’ program, during an interview with David Hardy. Frank’s artwork of "Sunrise Over Saturn" was selected for cover of The Planetary Report, March – April 2004 issue. In August 2004 Frank's "A View Of Home" won First Place Award in an international competition for The 7th Annual Mars Society Conference in Chicago. The winning artwork was printed on the Conference directory, the event t-shirts and was auctioned off at the conference banquet. Frank hopes, through his space art, to encourage people to find the same sense of awe and wonder that he has in our universe!

Frank concludes "Being retired and without the need to bring home a paycheck every month allows me the freedom to remember the hope I had for space exploration in my formative years! I know the space ship designs and exploration methods have not always turned out the way we had envisioned in those early years but I do believe that period was a time of excitement, wonder, encouragement, challenge, and lofty goals! I want to recapture those times and views in such a way that our grandchildren may share in the excitement I had growing up in the 1950’s – and I want to do it in a way that people will look at my stuff someday and say ‘Is that the way it really is? Maybe, ‘That’s not the way it really is - but it sure looks real!’" or ‘It really doesn’t look that way – but it certainly should have!" like so many of us said about Bonestell’s moonscape treatment after viewing the Apollo photographs!"

Frank Hettick says he will be very satisfied with that!

Update: November 6th & 7th, 2004, Frank Hettick had a one-man show at the Ernst & Ernst Collectors Gallery in Seaside Oregon. He had to finish 32 pieces on canvas, sign and number and enhance with acrylics for the show. He sold four pieces during the two day event. Within the next few weeks the pieces at the gallery will be divided between two galleries - Ernst in Seaside and Ernst Gallery in Cannon Beach Oregon.

The owner plans another show with Frank this summer. He also wants to include one on Frank's originals in an "all-original-only" show. The other 15 artists includes Alan Bean.

Gallery Website:

Click for larger view.


Update: Frank Hettick received notification that his artwork for The Planetary Society's Huygens Art Contest: "Imagining Titan: Artists Peer Beneath the Veil", won first prize. You can visit at:

Click for larger view.

Go to Frank Hettick's Website