John M. Sentovic
Born: 1924 – Lead, South Dakota
That’s pretty much everything the internet has to offer on John Sentovic. He lived. And maybe he died. And that’s something of a tragedy to me, because he is/was a rather amazing artist who painted some incredible things for a company that was in the business of making incredible things.
And that’s John Sentovic, Sentovic the unknowable. Or he was, until a week or so ago when I got an email from Mike, who’d come across a piece that SPACE AGE ran about him in 1960.
So John was indeed born in 1924, in Leed South Dakota. In 1925 his family moved San Diego where he graduated as an art major from San Diego High in 1943. A month after graduating he joined the Navy and served as a gunner’s mate aboard a tanker in the Pacific. In 1945 he was transferred to the Naval Ammunition Depot at Hawthorne Nevada, where he was – amongst other things – the staff artist and sports writer for the base newspaper. After his discharge in 1946, Sentovic was playing semi-pro ball in San Diego while waiting for G.I. approval of his plans to attend art school. A scout for the Boston Braves asked him to play ball for a Brave farm team.
“I was torn between two loves – art and baseball,” John said. “Finally, after a long talk with myself, I chose the field of art.”
After attending La Jolla, John worked at an advertising agency, then spent time as a staff artist for the San Diego Union-Tribune before joining Convair in 1953. In 1954, Krafft Ehricke, who had just joined Convair to work on the Atlas, became interested in John’s art which is when their partnership began.
In 1958, just a year after Sputnik 1, Ehricke designed a four-man space station known as Outpost. The illustrations above show the arrival of the Atlas vehicle in orbit, conversion into a station and installation of a nuclear powerplant. The design inspired the Hawk Atlas Space Station kit released in 1960.
The iconic Ehricke lunar lander beautifully painted by John in the late fifties.
Solar-powered vehicle in lunar orbit by Sentovic, painted around 1959. If John had a masterpiece, I think this is it.
Illustrations depicting HELIOS, a nuclear ferry design.
Convair’s Apollo M-1 proposal is a fascinating “what-if”, expertly rendered by John in 1962.
John created these renderings of the Saturn RIFT in the early sixties.
Begun in 1962, EMPIRE was the first study of a Mars mission conducted under NASA’s auspices. Three contractors were selected: Aeronutronic, General Dynamics, and Lockheed. Ehricke led General Dynamic’s EMPIRE team, the result was an exhaustive study of Mars orbiter and landing missions.
John put his airbrush aside for some of his paintings of EMPIRE surface operations , creating amongst others this unusually lush vision of the Martian surface.
John never lost his love for sports; he liked to swim, played a round of golf once a week and played shortstop on the Convair softball team and thats’s almost where the trail runs cold. I don’t know for sure when John retired, but he passed away in 1999 and was laid to rest at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego. The San Diego Air & Space Museum has shared over one hundred of John’s pieces of their Flickr account, but for convenience sake I’ve created a gallery here if you’d like to dig a little deeper.
Image credit: Convair