Rocket Paintings by Peter Thorpe


Peter Thorpe in his studio in Asheville, North Caroina. Photo by Susan Duhl.

Peter Thorpe has worked as a commercial artist since 1976. Specializing in illustration and design, he has created book covers for many publishers, including HarperCollins, Warner Books, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Simon and Schuster and St. Marten's Press. In 1988 he became the Design Director of the Space Fronteir Foundation. A space exploration fan since childhood, Thorpe started a series of Rocket Paintings for members and friends of the Foundation. In the ensuing years the series has grown to include fans from around the world.

"I started the rocket paintings in the late 1980s as a way to use paint that I would have otherwise thrown away. After each commercial job I did, there would be a pallet half full of left over paint. It pained me to throw it away, but the next painting required a new pallet. It finally occurred to me that I could easily use the left over paint to do an abstract background on a blank board or canvas, thereby recycling the paint. But, what should I do with these abstracts?

At the same time I was doing graphic design for the Space Frontier Foundation in New York City. We held meetings on the aircraft carrier Intrepid, docked on the west side, a fledgling museum at the time. Inspired by the energy there, I decided to paint rockets and planets on top of my abstract backgrounds. The original idea was to do 100 rockets.

I have a life long love of space exploration and space science. I believe that we need to take the next step into space, out into our solar system. The rocket paintings are my attempts to inspire people to explore space. The retro look reflects my experiences as a child in the 1960s, becoming interested in space exploration. The abstract backgrounds come from my experience in art school, and a desire to do fine art. I put the two together for this series. But the rockets are really not that different from my commercial work. They are icons for the coming age.

Many people have supported the rocket paintings, so I continue to do them. Thank you to everyone. Ad Astra!"

- Peter Thorpe