“It’s not safe out here! It’s wondrous… with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross; but it’s not for the timid.” – Q
As a young boy, Nathan was first transported to the stars through the voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise – on television aboard the Enterprise D, captained by Jean Luc Picard, and in the movies aboard the Refit, captained by James T. Kirk. More than any other story, Star Trek fired Nathan’s imagination and for years, he kept those visions to himself, but in 2007, he brought them into reality by translating the techniques of the visual effects that brought Star Trek to the screen through his own art process. “All my art is an homage to traditional special effects,” he explains. “They are photographic composite paintings, painstakingly created with love and care.” He begins with physical models, which he photographs under careful lighting conditions, then painstakingly masks them out and integrates into his own photography or recreations of NASA images, which he lights, blends, and processes to produce the final creation.
Nathan’s journey to art has been labyrinthine. “We were home-schooled and my brother and I used to do a lot of “extra-credit” stuff – including our passion for special effects photography and videography as kids,” he explains. “I once taped a model of aMesserschmitt BF 109 to my window, photographed it, and had all my friends convinced a real WW2 airplane had been flying low in my backyard. My brother and I did a similar thing with a Romulan Bird of Prey model taped to a glass sheet in a dark closet with a flashlight illuminating it from below – we moved the camera and it looked glorious on film!”
But the Lord of The Rings films postponed his artistic passions,and for many years Nathan would be working on writing in place of visual art. Then University intervened on that and after 5 years he graduated with degrees in Geology and Geophysics before working in Engineering support (a field he still consults in). The 2008 recession interrupted his career and he found a job as a reporter to stay close to his parents who were having health challenges. He began working for a church ministry, got married to his lovely sweetheart, and slowly felt the itch of art begin to burn again through his brain.
“It started one day when I was getting back into my childhood obsession with Star Trek. I had purchased some micro-machine Star Trek ships from my childhood, and I suddenly had the urge to photograph the Bird of Prey with my phone while I was waiting for my wife to get ready for a night out. I played around with the filters on my phone and the results blew me away – The little micromachine toy was suddenly transformed into something that felt real!” He started photographing the models in front of NASA images, but the effects were lacking, so he developed a technique in PowerPoint to mask out the models by hand – carefully tracing the ship out and covering up the background. Once the ship was isolated in the image, he now had the freedom to drop it into any image he wanted.
From that moment on, it was a free-fall into a creative singularity. “When some people hear my process, they’ve told, me, ‘I’d shoot myself first – why not use photoshop instead?’ But having an algorithm isolate something out of a photo robs me of the intimate, artistic process of getting to know every curve and shape of a ship as I painfully bring it to life. Pain is part of the process of creation.”
“And for me, inspired creation has to be more than a simple glamour picture of a ship,” he adds. “The entire work must speak to the character, mood, or emotion that the ship conveys. I treat them like living creatures and I’m trying to get at their essence, their souls.” Each piece of art comes from a “conversation” with the ship, where Nathan spends days with it off to the side of his computer while he works, looking for its most alluring angles that speak to its character and nature. “My wife has been a huge support and certainly indulges me,” he smiles. “In fact, many of the ships I feature come from her going out and finding me model ships – so she deserves a lot of credit!”
Nathan also found a writing outlet through his love of Star Trek and his visual endeavors – he writes short stories inspired by meditations on his artwork, which are numbered in the dozens as of this interview. Ranging from a dramatic visit to a Dyson Sphere harboring a dark secret to a horrific discovery of a zombified crew on a sunken starship, Nathan explains that he tries to maintain a philosophical edge in all his writings in keeping with Trek. Describing his writing process, he says, “I get a creative thrill from contemplating a piece of art and asking, ‘what brought this ship to this moment, and what comes after this moment. The stories just flow from that creative challengeand the limits of the art as a gateway that I must pass through actually heightens my creativity.”
Inspired by his love of aviation art, concept art, and fantasy art, Nathan’s Star Trek artwork subconsciously incorporates cues from all these styles in his work. “I love aviation art, for example,” he explains. “I love its sense of motion, perspective, depth, energy, color – and the glorious celebration of manned machines. I wanted to try to capture that feeling in my work but with ships and vehicles that are yet to be invented – as an inspiration to reach towards a better future.”
One thing is for sure – he is just getting started.
To follow Nathan on Facebook or to see more of Nathan’s artwork, read his Star Trek fanfiction, or enjoy his YouTube ambiance videos, visit his website at: www.blabberdock.com
Check out his full gallery: https://www.artpal.com/nathandwarner