David A. Hardy has been creating other-worldly images used by Hollywood studios and major book publishers for over 50 years. We catch up with the Birmingham visionary to discuss his work, collaborations and why he feels ‘Space Art’ should have a capital ‘A’
From the outside, David Hardy’s home in suburban Hall Green doesn’t look like the most likely destination for the HQ of global space art. But inside this unassuming property is a near endless display of paintings and pictures depicting outer space and other planets. Many of Hardy’s creations have graced the front covers of science fiction books and have been used as inspiration for Hollywood blockbusters. But Hardy says his work isn’t about “sci-fi”, a term he refrains from using to describe his work. “You need space art because it shows us places where we haven’t been, and things that don’t exist yet,” says the 77-year-old artist. “Even today we can still produce images of things that are impossible, except through art.”
Born and raised in Bournville, Birmingham, Hardy quickly found he had an aptitude for art when copying the pictures of books and comics of Rupert the Bear. His love of space was inspired by the work of HG Wells, and the invading forces from ‘War of the Worlds’ are still a favourite of his today. As a boy, he saw pictures of photo-quality pictures of space and asked a teacher how they were made. “The teacher said ‘oh they must be photographs’ and I replied ‘they can’t be as we haven’t been there yet, they must be paintings’ and he just replied ‘well you’ll have to work at it then.”
In the mid-1950s, following his National Service, Hardy joined Cadbury’s and worked as an artist creating chocolate boxes and catalogues until a call came, which set him on a different track. “I was always working on my own art sometimes staying up until 3am and the getting up at 7am to go to work,” Hardy says. “Then I got this call to go to America and work on a film set for six months with Stanley Kubrick. He was working on what would be Space Odyssey.
Hardy accepted the role but was unable to move to the States fast enough to join the movie and missed the chance. However, the idea of being a full-time space artist was now too exciting and so he left Cadbury’s anyway and pursued his dream. “By then I was so enthused by the idea of doing this for a living I just had to go ahead anyway. I had a good, steady job at Cadbury’s. It was the biggest decision of my life.”
A close friendship with the late Sir Patrick Moore, which began in the 1950s, helped cement Hardy’s place in the space community and he illustrated a number of the acclaimed astronomer’s books. Hardy client list is a long and impressive one. It ranges from Hollywood studios, he provided illustrations for the film the ‘Never Ending Story’, numerous science-fiction authors, including Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, and the space agency NASA. However, Hardy also sells his work to private collectors and his prints are available online. “I try to inspire people with the beauty of space and show them how wonderful it is and that so much more can be done with art than with photographs. I believe space art is as important as surrealism, impressionism or any other school of art. I want space art to be known as ‘Art’, with a capital ‘A’.”