A Newsletter chronicling the development of Art Media appropriate for a Lunar Settlement. Published by the Lunar Reclamation Society, Inc., P.O. Box 2102, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53201-2102. Subscription: $10 a year, payable to LRS (memo line on check or M.O. "Moonbow") sent to address above Published for L.A.A.M.P. (Lunar Appropriate Art Media Pioneers - currently organizing) address below: Editor: Peter Kokh, 1630 N. 32nd Street, Milwaukee WI 53208-2040, (414) 342-0705

About the Latin motto in our masthead

"per artes Luna domus" translates as

"through the arts, the Moon [becomes] home"


Palette Development Update - by Peter Kokh

"We have Blue!"

As we reported in Moonbow #1, purchasing various candidate chemicals can be very expensive. Nothing illustrates this better than the ransom I had to pay to get a mere 25 gram bottle (that's less than an ounce!) of Cobaltous Aluminate, better known as "Cobalt Blue" &emdash; $120.80 with the sales tax or three and a half times as expensive as gold used to be. You'd think it was something special to smoke. But what a glorious rich full blue it turns out to be.

I couldn't be sure that the stuff would be compatible with sodium silicate (waterglass) and so this was a high risk investment. After hesitating a long time, this April I decided to continue making do with my 12" B&W TV for a few more months and took the plunge. So when I finally sat down to try out my new toy substance on May 13th, suspense ran high. It worked great! Further the blue color was very deep, which meant that I could "cut it" with much cheaper titanium dioxide white to create medium and pastel blue tones at much less cost. We also tried cutting it with ferric oxide rust and titanium dioxide and got a nice lavender, and with chromium oxide and titanium oxide and got some grayish blue-greens.

To celebrate, we produced a 4th painting, completing it in a demonstration at the May meeting of the Lunar Reclamation Society, and to be premiered at the International Space Development Conference in Cleveland the following weekend. It is entitled "Reclamation Dream".

Money has restricted palette expansion purchases since last fall to this one selection. L.A.A.M.P. memberships and donations have been few, but we are grateful for them.

Where do we go from here? While the addition of a range of blues, the palette is much more satisfying. However we have no true red, only a range of rust, dull orange, and pink. The pale yellow of sulfur also leaves much to be desired. The only browns in hand come from mixing rust with green.

There are many potential regolith-derivable inorganic colored powders we want to experiment with. BLACK: Ferrous Oxide.WHITE: Calcium Oxide (lime). SILVER: Aluminum machining fines. GOLD: Iron Pyrite (fool's gold). BLUE: Cobalt Oxides, Cobalt Silicates, Titania-Alumina TiO2-Al2O3, Vanadium-Zirconia. BLUE-BLACK: Vanadium Oxide Va204. RED-YELLOW: Vanadium Oxide Va2O5. YELLOW: Titanium Iron Oxide yellows, Vanadium/Zirconium yellows. RED: 4:1 Aluminum Oxide: Ferric Oxide, Ferrous/Ferric Spinel (Dark Red), Chromium Alumina (Reddish Pink). PINK: Chromium/ Zirconium, Cobalt/Magnesium. BROWN: Ferrous Chromate, Magnesia-Ferric Oxide, Manganese Titanate.

The above list is not presented as all-inclusive. We continue to look for more possibilities, and for commercial sources of them. With the addition of Cobalt Blue (Cobaltous Aluminate), our top priorities are a truer red and a brighter yellow. We want a better brown than provided by mixing ferric oxide rust and chromium oxide green. We intend to try ferrous oxide black, aluminum silver, and fool's gold soon.

The Dawn Palette: the "Moontone" Hues of Raw Regolith

by Peter Kokh

In the lunar outpost or settlement, what colors will be available first? As soon as the sodium silicate (waterglass) medium can be processed locally and made available to would be Lunan artists, "Moonscape" painting can begin in earnest using regolith itself, carefully gathered in lighter (highland) and darker (mare) shades.

Ferrous iron fines can be separated out of the regolith with a simple magnet. Oxidizing them will provide the first black (we have been using manganese dioxide, a legitimate lunar possibility, because our supplier had it on hand, and did not have any ferrous oxide!). With this addition the early artist can depict space, though in the meantime some dark regolith like ilmenite-rich soil can render the black of space well enough.

Tiny glass spherules formed by the heat of micro-meteorite impacts can also be carefully sifted out of the soil and sorted for color. While the color range may not be great, it will be a start away from shades of gray. The orange soil noticed by one Apollo crew involved glass of volcanic origin.

Other colors will have to wait. ferric oxide rust and titanium oxide white should be available fairly early as may be calcium oxide white. The Lunan artist may have to wait awhile before chromium oxide green, sulfur pale yellow, or cobalt blue are available. All these elements will be produced soon enough as desirable alloying ingredients for making lunar steel. The same goes for Vanadium whose oxides and other compounds promise yellows, reds, and additional blues.

Because all the possible regolith-derived waterglass-compatible inorganic pigments will not be available at once, Lunan waterglass art will fall naturally into periods marked by color availability and restriction. The dawn period of Lunan waterglass painting will appropriately be dominated by the "moontones" of raw regolith itself.

On Mars, early settlers will also want painting media. And Martian regolith-derived pigments in waterglass may allow them to do Marscapes long before organic pigments can be produced in their settlement biosphere. (On Mars, with the planet's abundant nitrogen and carbon reserves, withdrawing organic materials from the biosphere will not be a problem).

So it seems the earliest paintings will be landscapes, done with the very raw materials making up the landscape!

"Regolith Impressionism"

by Peter Kokh

Those who have seen any of the first waterglass pieces produced will suspect, correctly, that "high resolution" and fine detail work is difficult in this new medium. One has to be very careful in combining waterglass liquid and pigment powders. Too much waterglass and the preparation is runny, producing skips on the glass or tile substrate; too little and it is totally unworkable; just right and it is still too stiff to do fine work with however small a brush.

Further, the paste sets up quickly, the "paint" drying within moments of application. Perhaps it is just a question of finding the right brush? But perhaps not! For the brushes used so far all had organic fibers. Ideally, we should be using brushes with glass or metal bristles. These are probably not available and will have to be "invented".

I have tried using swabs of steel wool, then blotting off the excess paint on a piece of paper which allows one to "sponge" a cluster of tiny dabs of color at once. (But unlike a real sponge, you cannot load up the steel wool.) I intend to try swabs of fiberglass as well.

The sponging technique as well as the way the stuff brushes on, all lead this amateur Lunan artist to the same conclusion. This is a medium tailor made for impressionist painting styles. That is not to say it won't prove ideal for abstract painting as well.

Some pretty good art has been produced in the impres-sionist style, making a number of artists justly world-famous: Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin to name a few. That does not mean it will be easy. Given the way the paint sets up very quickly, and the need to prepare only small amounts at a time, and the difficulty in matching previously mixed shades and hues, a piece has to be planned very carefully. We have tried pre-mixing small vials of pigment shades and hues but the dry paint is often darker or lighter than the dry powder as some pigments tend to dominate and surface in waterglass suspensions.

When painting on the reverse side of a glass pane, it is necessary to paint carefully from foreground to background. This is no medium for after-thought revision! But all this presents but a unique new set of challenges present in any new medium. These challenges can and will be met by the Lunan artist with real talent and inspira-tion. When there is no other medium available, necessity will mother invention.

The new medium seems to work well for small pieces and we have been painting on 8"x10" glass panes. That is large enough to demonstrate the medium's potential. Large size works like murals and sponge-decorated walls will have to await the identification of cheaper sources of supply and the perfecting of techniques that make an end run around the short set up time. However, a mosaic of 6"x6" tiles is something we might try.


Other ways of introducing color into lunar settlement habitats

by Peter Kokh

Not all terrestrial homes give witness to the glory of the rainbow. Many homemakers lack confidence in using color because they have no instinct for visual symphony, for juxta-posing hues. They play it safe with neutral colors as bland as English cuisine. But it is fair to say they feel no need. There is plenty of color outdoors, in their cars, in their clothing.

In contrast, the lunar horizons are a monotonous blend of soporific grays. The Lunan homesteader will feel a much greater need to deliberately decorate with color.

Original works of Lunan waterglass painters (there won't be any lunar-appropriate way to make copies) won't be the sole source of color in a lunar homestead. Surfaces made of cast regolith, lunacrete, or glass composite will probably be of variegated gray tones. Hopefully a lime (CaO) or titania white-wash in water or waterglass can be prepared to serve as a lighter backdrop not only for waterglass paintings but for stained glass creations, colored fiberglass works, colored beadwork mosaics, and glazed tile accents. Light filtered by stained glass lamp shades or from neon lights can "over wash" whitewashed walls with broad swashes of color. All these will debut in due time.

Meanwhile, there will always be the lush greenery of houseplants. And there will be flowers, lots of them.


Tom Heidel interviews Peter Kokh

Contributed by Tom Heidel, LRS

Heidel: You have been painting on glass. I understand the reason, but doesn't it make for a fragile piece of art?

Kokh: Yes, and it worries me, especially for paintings that may acquire some value. In a lunar settlement one option will be glass-glass composite panes. Virtually unbreakable, they may be the canvas of choice. Meanwhile, accidents will happen.

Heidel: Your paints have the much-appreciated virtue of water clean-up. Is there any danger that any of these chemicals could pollute the settlement water supply?

Kokh: Probably, especially if the art form becomes popular and widely practiced. However there are ways around this. In an article in Moon Miners' Manifesto #39 four and a half years ago, I proposed that there would be considerably less strain on the settlement water recycling system if we abandoned our "monotreme" drain system in vogue since the invention of plumbing in Mohenjo Daro 4,500 years ago. A tritreme drain system could handle separately agricultural run off and kitchen sink drainage, laundry and bath water, and industrial processing drainage. Here we are dealing here with inorganic chemicals, falling into the last category. Waterglass painting could be done where such drain hookups are available. That is one solution. But so far, none of the chemicals I've been using are all that dangerous and I've been using them without taking personal precautions of any kind except washing my hands afterwards.

Heidel: I hear that you have expressed some concern that waterglass painting may not hold up over time and be useful only as an art du jour or temporary art medium?

Kokh: A couple of months after I did the first two paintings, I noticed a blotchiness that seemed to me to be a hit and miss delamination of the paint from the back of the glass. And so yes, this was my first reaction, that the adhesive quality of the waterglass declines with time. Then I began to suspect that there might be some other cause. I had cleaned both panes with Windex prior to painting, and perhaps there was some film or residue on the glass causing the problem. Next the thought occurred to me that this was a byproduct of the very dry unhumidified winter air in my home. We'll see. The latest glass painting was done at the start of the normal-to-high humidity season. If it fares better, dry air will be the culprit. On the Moon, where high humidity is likelier to be the common complaint, there should be no problem. As a precaution, I baked this last pane after cleaning it, and before painting. I'll be watching to see if the condition reoccurs.

Heidel: What is your previous experience as an artist?

Kokh: I began working with charcoal, then colored chalk as a boy of eight. But I stopped painting shortly after switching to oils, say when I was 10 or so. During a hospital stay when I was 28, I took up oil painting to pass the time and produced two pieces, one of them a pre-Apollo era (1966) vision of the full Earth in space. The hospital staff asked to keep both pieces and I obliged. While I have not done much art work in the traditional sense outside of these occasions, I am in the home remodeling and redecorating business and have developed my own methods and styles of sponge painting walls in latex semi-gloss in wallpaper like patterns, borders and all. So it is with rusty and unpracticed talent that I've undertaken the waterglass paint project. That's why I so badly want to encourage others to try their talent in this new medium - to see how far it can be pushed.

Heidel: Has there been a lot of interest in this project?

Kokh: In space-interested circles, yes. I've received a fair amount of mail and email after the article appeared in Ad Astra. But I would say that the bulk of it comes from those who appreciate the role art can play on the space frontier, rather than from practicing artists who might want to help develop the new medium. And that has been rather disappointing to me.

Heidel: How is the fund raising going?

Kokh: Slowly. While many find this project interesting, it perhaps does not rank very high in personal priorities. Being of limited income, I have to "steal" money for the project from other items in a belt-tightened budget. That slows me down especially when it comes to experimenting with promising new chemicals. But the project will continue at whatever pace. I use the Midwest and International Space Development Conferences, in October and May respectively, as deadline whips to find a way to introduce at least some new achievement each time. But I would like to get this new art form to a level of maturity where I could turn it over to others, so I can get on to some-thing else. My "want-to-achieve" list is hopelessly long.

Heidel: Does this art effort tie in with your Lunar Homestead Show plans?

Kokh: Definitely. The Lunar Homestead Show will be an exhibit at ISDC '98 at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee. It will attempt to demonstrate various ways lunar settlers might make themselves at home, "living off the land", and becoming Lunans, so to speak. There are a lot of detailed ambitious plans for this exhibit complex, and the waterglass painting project is a humble downpayment. I see the Lunar Homestead Show, if we can pull it off, as an ever-growing permanent collection that can travel around the country with successor ISDCs - a unique educational attraction for the space-interested and general public alike. It will take a lot of people to make this Show a reality, however. So as yet it is still a dream.  


Bryce Walden, Oregon Moonbase:

"It's one thing to get ideas, but to actually do the research! How radical! Keep me posted."

[Bryce also writes about another kind of painting-like artwork he came across which should be transferable to the lunar scene: vitreous glazes on a metal substrate.]


Eldon Winston, L.A.A.M.P. member, Moorestown, NJ:

[Eldon sends a long list of pigments used in vitreous (glassy) pottery glazes, all presumably inorganic or they wouldn't stand up under the heat of the glazing process. He circled several that he thought we might look into.]

Editor's tardy reply:

Thanks Eldon, for your input. I have been incredibly busy and haven't been able to respond personally. I had earlier made a few local calls following this same line of reasoning and was told, rightly or wrongly, that almost all glazing pigments were imported from Italy, and that I might have a hard time pining down their exact chemical composition.

I will take a look at your suggested pigments one at a time. Unfortunately, as you may realize, the fact that a given pigment is inorganic and also compatible with sodium silicate does not mean we can use it on the Moon. For example copper- based blues and blue-greens will work in Earth style waterglass painting, but we won't easily be able to economically produce copper on the Moon as it is present only in parts per billion concentrations. The same can be said of pigments incorporating lead or cadmium. There are other "lunar deficients" that crimp our artistic style as well.

The problem with many other pigments in the list is determining just what they are chemically. If we don't know that, we won't be able to reproduce them on the Moon. All the same, the list is useful in that it may lead to cheaper sources of supply for some pigments that do pass the lunar test.

Many thanks!


Glen Fordyce of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia:

[Glen outlined in some detail a bold proposal that I might make to commercial paint companies to produce an inorganic line of waterglass-based paints that would be environmentally friendlier than the solvent-laden stuff we now use.]

Editor's reply:

Glen, thanks for your suggestion. It is the kind of thinking we need much more of. However my experience to date in working with waterglass-based paints is that they would not lend themselves to large scale application (painting walls, for example). The waterglass-oxide paste sets up very fast and I have been making up only tiny amounts at a time as I go along. I don't see it ever being sold premixed by the gallon for use with large brush, roller, or air compressor. However, further experiment may prove me wrong!

Publicity & Promotion

An article on the waterglass painting project appeared in the January/February issue, pages 46-7, of Ad Astra, the magazine of the National Space Society. A color photo of Moon Garden #1, the first ever waterglass painting as printed with the article. Our thanks to Editor Pat Dasch!

Additional submissions each with an appropriately different slant were sent to Final Frontier, to The Planetary Report (developing the applicability to Mars as well as to the Moon), and The Mother Earth News (keying in on the self-reliant "living off the land" theme dear to TMEN). While the submission to The Planetary Report was not sent cold - we had talked to the editor on the phone and she seemed interested - neather TPS nor FF ran the article submitted. Only TMEN bothered to send a rejection, a form letter which said the piece "did not fit their current editorial posture".

There has been some limited news of the project on the Internet. We intend to include information about it on the planned LRS WWW homepage.

Lack of funds has delayed indefinitely the plan to send special mailings to well known space artists. Meanwhile, a L.A.A.M.P. table top display has been prepared for this year's ISDC '95 in Cleveland. (See next column)

We have a limited number of color slides of Moon Garden #1. If this slide would fit into your presentation on the Moon or other space frontier topic, please call, write, or email the editor. You may borrow a slide for a one-time talk, or keep it for a talk in your regular repertoire.

Return to Lunar Painting Experiment

Go to Moonbow # 1


Lunar Arts & Crafts - Related Articles from Moon Miners' Manifesto

MMM # 2 Moon Mall

MMM # 65 Moonwood: glass-sulfur composites

MMM # 13 Apparel

MMM # 76 Inside Mare Manor: walls and trimwork

MMM # 15 Threads

MMM # 76 Inside Mare Manor: wall hangings

MMM # 16 Jewelry; Glass Glass Composites

MMM # 77 Inside Mare Manor: Upholstery Fabrics

MMM # 22 First Souveniers

MMM # 77 Arts & Crafts - Cottage Industries

MMM # 22 Hair

MMM # 77 Inside Mare Manor: furniture

MMM # 27 Footwear

MMM # 77 Inside Mare Manor: art du jour

MMM # 48 Color the Moon

MMM # 77 Inside Mare Manor: Sculpture

MMM # 63 Color the Moon - anything but gray

MMM # 112 The Out-Vac Sculptor

* Unlinked articles are not yet published online.