In late 2010, I happened to quickly see a theme for an online contest while browsing the internet. The theme was on loneliness. I started thinking of how I could portray loneliness in an illustration and instantly thought of life as we know it. That seemed about as lonely as loneliness could get. I quickly scribbled the idea in a thumbnail in my sketchbook and put it away thinking I would return to it when I found out more about the contest, which never happened.

I liked the idea though. I started thinking about how many of us there are on this planet yet we still feel so lonely when we look to the sky. We all belong to one star and there are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone. Do the stars feel lonely? We have more than eight planets and dwarf planets in our solar system and it's only logical to assume that other stars have planets as well, which we are just now starting to confirm. What abut the planets? Are they lonely? This question nagged me for weeks.

I began to take on the view that maybe humans aren't what the galaxy, or even universe, is all about. What if the stars and planets were the main characters on the stage and not humans?. After all, stars and planets have life cycles just like we do. Obviously, they don't speak but what if they did? What would they tell us? As an artist I thought I could make that happen.

The more I read the more ideas came to me. The planets turned into characters in my head and I tried to imagine how they would talk and interact, how they know each other. This lead me back to the amount of stuff that humans have created and sent out into orbit. Thus, the illustration Galactic Pests was born. I imagined the planets looking back at Earth wondering what was going on with all the unnatural junk forming around her and why it was coming to them as well? They would have never seen this before so should they be worried?

When I started to add the debris around Earth, I thought " Wouldn't it be cool to actually put real things in my illustration?". I knew there were some things left in space but when I started to read up on it I was amazed to see that there are well over 22,000 things being tracked in orbit, every one being extremely dangerous to astronauts. This didn't include things we've sent to the moon or beyond so I had a large variety of things to work with and it came down to what I knew and what I thought everyone else could relate to as well. I also had to stop somewhere. I had been working on it for a month and everytime I would just about feel like I was finished, I would read an article about a new mission or new satellite sent off into space. This happened twice to me with the Mercury Messenger finding its orbit around Mercury and the New Horizons being sent out to study Pluto. I thought these were fairly important and had to go back and create the artwork to fit it into the illustration.

After Galactic Pests was considered done I didn't feel fulfilled as I had some left over ideas that didn't make it in. Illustrator felt it had enough filters and effects to render already so it gave up trying any more. I carried these extra ideas over to Kuiper Belt Conundrum to explain the members of our outer solar system. By this time, my idea had taken a new course and found a new purpose, educational. I had learned so much by reading over the few months that anytime I would show someone the illustrations I would ramble on with astonishing facts and stories about what I read. Everyone that saw it loved it and kids were fascinated by it.

The line of t-shirts came to me when I thought of a funny scenario where Sol and the eight planets have to report to the black hole in the middle of the galaxy to explain what Earth had created and why it was leaving behind a trail of junk everywhere it went. Eventually, they get put on probation and get their mug shots taken which would explain the height charts behind them. This being an educational theme now, I thought that worked out well with informing people how big the planets are compared to each other.

There is more to come! I would like to eventually get an idea worked out for a small book along with the posters and t-shirts. We have a lot of exciting things going on in space right now and the near future so I should never run out of ideas.

- Mike

All content © Mike Leckrone unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved