Design a site like this with
Get started

Artist Profile: Roy Gjertson

Born in Minnesota in 1925, Roy served as a crewman on Army Air Corps Liberators during World War II. Returning to civilian life, Roy and his wife Elnar Fay settled in San Pedro. After taking art lessons, Roy worked for several aviation companies in the Los Angeles area in the fifties and sixties. Accepting  a position at Convair, Roy and his family moved to San Diego in 1967.

Roy’s candy-colored art of past, present and future projects enlivened General Dynamics reports, brochures and proposals for over two decades. Roy’s paintings are loose, almost cartoony but beautifully composed.

The artist at work in the studio.

Roy’s incredible paintings of fly-back boosters Convair developed for the Shuttle Program were part of the inspiration for this blog. 

Demonstrative of his range, Roy’s more technical illustrations are sombre and atmospheric. The pop art colours give way to a muted palette and his lighting shifts towards a chiaroscuro look.

Roy retired in 1992. A large number of Roy’s works were donated to the San Diego Air & Space Museum when General Dynamics shuttered the San Diego division in 1993, including these two particularly ominous paintings of the Rockwell B-1 Lancer. 

Roy passed away in 2018, survived by children Erica and Dennis and Dennis’ wife Kathy. Elnar Fay died in 2006. They’re interred together at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.

Image source: SDASM Archives

Artist Profile: John Gorsuch

For this – the seven hundredth post – I thought it would be fun to do something I’ve been planning for while, and take an in depth look at one artist: John Gorsuch. Gorsuch worked as an illustrator for the Glenn L. Martin company for at least two decades. He began his career there when Martin was still in the propliner business and continued to create illustrations for them into the late sixties, when Martin had become Martin Marietta and shifted their focus to missile and space products. Beyond that there isn’t a lot to tell, we know next to nothing about the man. Some of his art survived and that and the fact it’s here, is in no small part due to efforts of people like Mike and Ed. Do enjoy!

Left: John’s kinetic 1959 illustration shows a Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw (S-55) recovering a film canister dropped from an orbiting satellite. Right: From same year, a concept of radar-guided spaceship heading for Mars.

Painted sometime between 1959 and 1961, Gorsuch’s illustration of a more modern looking pair of manned satellites in orbit around Saturn.

John created these beautiful paintings of Ranger probes in 1960.

Dated December 4, 1960, a B-70-type aircraft carrying something nefarious looking.

Gorsuch created this painting of a primordial Earth in 1961, for an article by Dr. Israel Monroe Levitt.

If you’re going to build a moon base in 1962, you’re going to need tanks. Space tanks and lots of them!

From 1963, “mobile fighter satellites ‘ride herd’ on their flock of offensive satellites to protect them from possible destruction by the enemy.” If you don’t love this image you may not have a soul.

Taut, dramatic depictions of Project Gemini spacecraft. The bottom piece was used by NASA as an official press release, S-66-50809 and can be found in that form here, on the New Mexico Museum of Space History’s Flickr page.

Top Left and Right: Art from 1964 and 1967 illustrating articles by Dr. I.M. Levitt. I’m especially amused by the driver of the vehicle on the right. Is it even remotely possibly that that is The Invisible Man? Bottom: Beautifully composed and impeccably lit painting from 1969, depicting astronauts discovering a lunar ice deposit.

John’s high contrast sensibility lent perfectly to reproduction in black and white – but like most agency art – the originals were likely all created in color.

Glenn L. Martin Company Christmas card for 1948 highlighting their newest product, the 2-0-2 airliner.

Top Left: An FDL-8 in orbit graced the cover of Irwin Stambler’s 1965 book Orbiting Stations. Top Right: From the official souvenir book of The New York World’s Fair 1964-65 – I’m pretty sure this is Gorusch – Martin Company art depicting their Space Taxi about to dock with a space station. I might be wrong about the attribution, so don’t be afraid to drop me a line if you know otherwise. Incidentally, Rendezvous in Space, the short film that accompanied the exhibit survived and is on YouTube: Rendezvous in Space – Part A, Rendezvous In Space – Part B. This 1964 clip from CBS is a fun watch too. Bottom: Beautiful image of the X-24A flying under rocket power, with Gorsuch’s signature in the lower right corner.

Image source(s):

Mike Acs

Ed Dempsey

Drew Granston

Numbers Station