For all of our scientific advances, there are still many questions that remain unanswered. In the new book The Where, the Why, and the How, artists take a stab at explaining those mysteries. For this challenge, we asked you to create an illustration to answer the following question:
Are we alone in the universe?
I've been putting off finishing this drawing. I ended up spending the entire last day before the deadline putting it together. I thought I'd go off the notion that we don't always look in the right places. Sometimes in fact, we are looking in the completely wrong places. So are we alone? Probably not.
A long time ago I took an astronomy course for fun, well before the Hubble space telescope so extended our vision. The course presented the Drake equation, which factors the chances of extra-terrestrial life, but lacking quantifiable values, could conclude only that either way, it'd be extraordinary. This compilation of Hubble images explores just a few factors that make our solar system's anatomy unique, so as we individually ponder this immensity we find ourselves in the sole eye of our collective unconsciousness now can peer out to experience the creation of itself.
On this alien planet, insects became the more advanced species due to higher oxygen content, and weaker gravity. Like terrestrial spiders, these insectoids have brain filling their body cavities. Unfortunately they are ferocious carnivores.
Any water-rich planet would be bound to have some kind of bizarre life forms. I like the idea of alien life forms on water planets, and I used what I know about ocean creatures to come up with this design. This creature is related to cephalopods, only it's got an almost primitive hard shell and a tentacled underbody which can retract inside the shell. It has five pairs of eyes on top of its shell, and a cruel toothed mouth underneath it's belly, which is ideally suited to grind through the shells of other creatures and suck out the contents. The tentacles are a perfect accompaniment because they can grab and squeeze their prey and hold it while its being eaten. I'm still working on this one, I think it needs tiger stripes and spots, for better camouflage. All the better to sneak up and eat you, my dears.
I'd say if we ever found life, it would be like a strange dream, somehow familiar and yet completely alien. I did a series awhile back that contained fantastical landscapes and this was one of my favorites. It has a giant creature living inside a mountain, possibly a limestone cliff riddled with tunnels from the sea. Its body rests somewhere inside, but it has giant catlike eyes that peer out through cave openings, and multiple mouths like a fanged lamprey eel that are ready to receive anything that tries to take refuge. When the tide rises, it eats fish and other things that come into the caves. I like to think about not only the biology of a new habitable planet, but I wonder about the landscapes and possible sentient beings. This scene shows a traveler going over the mountain, having climbed up and around the hill monster, to reach a fruit tree.
"Seaweed Eater" is a kind of inverted evolution were birds reign supreme and humans are like insects clinging for dear life to their host. Maybe somewhere out there birds have won; grown bigger brains and ambition and taken over their planet. IF there is extraterrestial life out there, What does it look like? I constantly wonder....
"Seaweed Eater" Copyright 2012, Sarah Olson
This is another strong "maybe" to the question since genetic combinations as well as environmental conditions can vary wildly. This creature is like a modified sea slug. It would be very large and enormously strong, and behave like a caddis fly in that it collects and bonds rock and coral to itself and encourages live coral growth on it's massive back. If it's threatened, it can retreat into its "mountain", and it generally subsists in a symbiotic way with the fish that shelter in it's coral forest. If the slug itself or it's living coral is threatened by other more predatory creatures, it can simply glide away to a more secure environment.
There is an underwater lake deep in the gulf of Mexico (Thank you David Attenborough for your nature specials that make me want to paint all of the seemingly extraterrestial life ON this planet)...
In this painting, "Underwater Lake", my imagined creature grows up from the sea bed. She is plant, animal and alien. But she is also like an underwater Woman of Willendorf.
"Underwater Lake" Copyright 2012 Sarah Olson
If the real question is whether there are other life forms in the universe, then yes, that probability is reasonable. If the question is more about whether there is other "sentient" life or even bipedal life that is like us, then that's a more complicated maybe. As far as life forms (and even alien life forms) are concerned, there are infinite dna combinations, and infinite combinations of environments to foster their evolution, so I think that their shapes and biological systems are limited only by the imagination. I hadn't given it that much thought, but certain rational assumptions could be made. Form follows function from an artistic and scientific standpoint, and following what we know about the kinds of creatures that live in known environments here on Earth, we can deduce and imagine what kinds of creatures may live on various planets. The bigger question then becomes not "Is there other life in the universe?", but "As we are thinking about them, are they dreaming of us?"
I've always thought the jokes about Sirius, the Dog Star, were pretty funny. But suppose the inhabitants of some world in that system actually WERE doglike people. This is a dog girl from an illustration series I did recently.
In my piece I tried to answer the question with "maybe." It depicts exploration and searching with the ladders connecting each planet. We have yet to discover what else is out there and if it is all interconnected.
We're not alone in the universe. The question is what do we have in common with other beings? Creatures in our own world are just as alien to us. Perhaps we're being watched by aliens in Earth garb.
"Seeds" - acrylic
Who or what plants the seed?
I cut up rough drafts of my novel and use the pieces in my art. And I have a great love for the universe and its possibilities. Until we know better, what else it out there but our imagination?
"Formation of a Star" - abstract acrylic
Does it take life to make life?
Abstract acrylic painting titled "Always Watching"...
I painted this around the time I began participating in paranormal investigations. If you look closely, there are eyes watching everything. That's how I felt during these investigations.
I think that we are not alone in the universe. I portrayed the stars as eyes to illustrate how there might be some larger being out there watching down on us. The stars in the sky are actually other beings watching us on Earth.
Why do we want to find someone else in the first place?
Bright light poured out of her head, perhaps she is from another place. ULTRA, mixed media, Angus Macpherson
I have been an artist full time for 30 years and in the last couple of years I decided to paint beings with light pouring out of them. This painting is INSIDE OUT and is mixed media.