mars rover

Graphic Artist uses GIMP to Visualize KSR's Red Mars

Space elevator cable rising from Mars in the town of Sheffield, as depicted by Kim Stanley Robinson in Red Mars. Made with GIMP by Ludovic Celle.
Space elevator cable rising from Mars in the town of Sheffield, as depicted by Kim Stanley Robinson in Red Mars. Made with GIMP by Ludovic Celle.

Graphic artist Ludovic Celle has been an open source convert for about 10 years. His first step was trading in Windows for Unbuntu. A couple years after that, transitioned from programs like Sketchup and Photoshop to an open source arsenal of Blender, Inkscape, and GIMP. His artwork is proof of the unsung creative muscle of open source software.

In 2007, Celle read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars and has been compelled to create images about the book ever since. He primarily uses images from Wikimedia Commons of deserts and mountains for these photo manipulations. Fourteen of his Red Mars images are currently on exhibit at the central library in Grenoble, France. The images are large ranging in size from 40 cm (15 in) to 140 cm (55 in) wide, with a photomosaic, made from 588 images, that is 240 cm (94 in) wide. With images so large it can be easy to miss some of the smaller details like Mars settlers walking through vast deserts, people in the windows of bamboo habitats, and the buildings that populate the domed settlements.

 

These details provide the viewer with a realistic perspective of life on the red planet, an important role as the conversation about colonizing Mars gains momentum. More often than not we see 3D renderings or unbelievable Hollywood landscapes of life on Mars. While a few of Celle’s images have 3D elements, almost all of the images are photo manipulations. As Celle says, “I love it when we can be amazed by something that is actually plausible.”

A vision from inside a bamboo greenhouse on Mars. Made with GIMP by Ludovic Celle
A vision from inside a bamboo greenhouse on Mars. Made with GIMP by Ludovic Celle

Like most creative endeavors, these photo manipulations take time. Once he has collected all of the images needed for a project, it can take from 2-8 hours, if not more, to complete. He gives GIMP quite a workout with final file sizes ranging from 100-250 MB. When asked what downsides GIMP has to Photoshop, he said little to none, especially now that GIMP no longer has the floating windows interface. Celle has become so adept at GIMP, he was asked to create a tutorial for GIMP magazine’s first issue.

Ludovic Celle’s images are captivating and important. Whether they are the landscapes you visualized while reading Red Mars, a welcomed invitation for space voyeurism, or maybe just the spark you needed to open up GIMP and poke around. To me these images represent the possibilities of three often underrated worlds: space travel, open source software, and creative commons content.

There are hundreds more landscapes from Red Mars that Celle would like to create so be sure to follow his career. You can see all of the Red Mars inspired work on his blog, Da Vinci Mars Design, and all of his other work on DeviantArt. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Tech specs: Celle’s Linux box is running Unbuntu (64 bit) with dual core 2.6 Ghz processor, 6GB of RAM, and a NVidia GeFrorce 8800 GS video card.

An illustration of the big smoke of a mohole behind the horizon as described by Kim Stanley Robinson. Illustration by Ludovic Celle.
An illustration of the big smoke of a mohole behind the horizon as described by Kim Stanley Robinson. Illustration by Ludovic Celle.

Recent interview with Ludovic Celle at his current exhibition, Mars la rouge. Click on close captions to activate the English subtitles.