He's won the Indy 500, built and
fielded Indy cars, Trans-Am cars and the Can-Am series winning
Turbocharged Porsche 917s—all with Roger Penske, built two 50'
state of the art racing Trimarans in cold-molded wood—with
rotating masts and employing race car wing technology to the
rudder and dagger-board two years before the Australians, flies
small aircraft, participates on Space Shuttle ground crews and
has three paintings in the Smithsonian collection. BJ builds his
own computers, illustrates book and magazine covers, served as
production designer for the National Air and Space Museum and
Strasenburgh planetaria, does wildlife photography, paints
collects and restores large antique music boxes, writes
articles, is working on two children's books and has recently
taken up the cello. ...So far, the cello is winning. Not the
normal background of a Space Artist... or any artist, for that
matter—and it's made all the difference.
One of his passions is doing mission
art for aerospace corporations and the world's space agencies.
Bringing his accomplished engineering background to bear, he can
discuss on equal terms with the scientists and engineers
designing and flying the spacecraft and apply the knowledge
gained to paint the craft with an accuracy and realism that is
striking in its presentation; not just a mere CAD dump. Indeed,
he often asks questions of them that they least expect to be
coming from an artist.
That's because he is a rocket
More than one of his "out of the
box" observations has influenced mission planning, due to his
unique view of the Universe and the mission within it. Things
come to light when you look at them from a different
perspective. Sharing that light is what engineering and science
are all about.
The fusion of science with an artistic eye and balance to
convey the space environment so few have seen creates
imagination–firing images. Being able to actually paint
Photographs That Haven't Been Taken™ is an art unto itself.
Relatively recently his
doing this in 3D
elevates this to another level entirely—because now it can
Being accomplished in these techniques
is one thing; being able to feel the engineering behind the
mission is what makes it real.
"I have been very fortunate to have
experience in a wide range of amazing endeavors but there is
only so far that one may think into the concept of spaceflight.
You have to go there at some point and do the work. Having a
person who is comfortable around dangerous, complex technical
systems, is sensitive to physics, geology, meteorology,
photography, writing and art experience the space environment
and pull that experience together with these many disciplines
will mean so much in the communication of why it is important
for us to be there.
"If I can instill even the slightest
sense of wonder and appreciation for the Universe in the viewers
of these works, and ignite a spark in just one kid that propels
them to go on to become a scientist, engineer, teacher ...or
artist, I feel I will have succeeded."
BJ is gratified to have seen this
happen many times since that quote was first expressed and lives
to see it a number of times more.
A New Ocean, the Signature Image for the National
Space Symposium, was selected more than a year prior but was
painted during the first flights of Columbia, 18 years
before. It depicts a new ship sailing 'under' the more limited
but still beautiful oceans of our ancestors. The painting was
chosen for its tranquil and confident vision of our future in
spaceflight. Following the Columbia tragedy, and
Challenger before that, it now has taken on the mantle of a
wistful tribute to our space explorers, and the crafts
themselves, who have given their lives in the noble pursuit of
"Living our dreams is something that
very few of us get to do before we die. Yet, there are those who
would use this incident to cause the cessation of human
spaceflight altogether. To do so would mean that these
individuals will have died in vain, for the goal that they were
contributing to will never be reached. Explorers everywhere,
throughout history, have given their lives in pursuit of the
The High Frontier is no different."
For three and one half decades "BJ"
Johnson has championed the space effort in a single, cut to the
"Space—To Go and Learn is Reason
It is all that needs to be said, for
this is what it is all about.
B.E. Johnson can be found at the following website: