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Of all things futuristic and infeasible, spaceships steal the hearts of sci-fi lovers more than just about anything else. From the stalwart flagbearers like the Millennium Falcon and the Mothership to fighter craft and faster-than-light travel, spaceships—along with their Captains, crews, and missions—have always enraptured fans.
Here we look at some of OMNI magazine’s most stunning sci-fi art spaceships and the roles those ships play in the stories they represent. Renowned artists such as Chris Foss and Vincent Di Fate are among those whose work appears here, with each piece bringing its own emotion and style to create an eclectic and beautiful range of sci-fi artwork.
Catchworld Cover Art by Chris Foss
Chris Foss has become renown for his work as a sci-fi illustrator through the 20th century. A curious and recurrent theme within Foss’s work is the notable absence of human beings or any other sentient life. This stunning piece—which was featured as the cover for Chris Boyce’s most popular sci-fi creation, Catchworld—is one of hard metal and cold space.
This magnificent scene perfectly encapsulates the emotionless, cruel artificial intelligence which is an antagonist in the story. The ship is soaring easily through space, away from what resembles our own sun. This mirrors the sentiment that the incredibly advanced technology on-board the ship is heading away from the warmth, compassion, and empathy of human command towards the cold, distant, and tyrannical rule of machine intelligence.
The poster is beautiful and unsettling; doubly so for those who have read Catchworld.
The Secret People Cover Art by Colin Hay
It might take a few glances, but eventually we realize that this scene is taking place deep underwater; so deep in fact, that the waves lapping at its surface look as soft and distant as clouds. Colin Hay is a talented artist who was inspired in his youth by the stunning work of fellow Brit Chris Foss as he took steps down the lane of sci-fi illustration.
This piece was the cover art for The Secret People, a futuristic suggestion of our world by John Wyndham. The artwork effectively foreshadows the story which takes place entirely underwater, in caverns built by a subterranean species. We can see their structures under attack, stone fighting against stone for an unknown purpose; Is someone trying to break in to their underwater city? If so, to what end? This cover poses a few questions to which the answers must lie in the story beneath…
Untitled by John Harris
John Harris is a wildly creative artist whose work has decorated sci-fi literature from some of the world’s finest authors. He famously produced the cover for the first-edition hardcover of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, featuring the yellow ship which stars in the above imagine.
Little is known about this piece but it is in keeping with Harris’s vivid style of portraying the true power of sci-fi imagery. This futuristic spaceship is either taking off, possibly after a refueling (see the cord attaching it to the wall) or perhaps landing for the same purpose. The bright yellow vehicle has returned many times to Harris’s work, including Ender’s Game along with several other prominent pieces of art.
The colors are bright and yet its story is vague and tricky to discern. Harris has often focused his work on the grand scale of space, so it’s interesting to speculate on the true size of this vessel; It could be the size of a harrier, or something a hundred times as large!
The Demu Trilogy Cover Art by Vincent Di Fate
Vincent Di Fate is an artist who is renowned in sci-fi and fantasy art circles—and even by some on the outside—as one of the world’s premiere artists for sci-fi. His work has graced the covers of novels and magazines and he has secured numerous commissions from high profile clients such as IBM, NASA, and National Geographic.
As with the image above, Di Fate was insistent on always creating his pieces with paint and by hand. The cold whites of the ship, rocket, and mountains are in stark contrast to the vibrant, burning orange of the closest planet. Di Fate leaves a small planet with strong resemblance to Earth in the background, but with space travel obviously quite advanced, this could be at the other side of the universe!
Finally there are green trees lining the bottom of the painting. In a seemingly barren, icy world such as this, a healthy thicket of trees is startling. Might this be a world thriving with life just south of that rocket?
Macroscope Cover Art by Tim White
As with most of Tim White’s work, this piece could almost be mistaken for an older, slightly out-of-focus camera shot rather than a painting. The silver spaceship is sleek and modern, each astronaut has enough detail to look realistic and the ground is cracked, cratered, and feels genuine.
White has won many commissions in the sci-fi industry—notably his first, as the cover artist for Arthur C. Clarke’s The Other Side of the Sky—and this is a piece about which very little is known. The blue-green giant in the background may be meant to resemble Earth, but seems rather to transport us across the galaxies to some distant frontier where man continues to explore and colonize.
Prolific throughout the 20th century, White has gone under the radar in the new millennium, though his work undoubtedly continues to inspire anyone who glances upon it.
The Exiles Trilogy Cover Art by Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a master of futuristic, hi-tech sci-fi illustration. His art has plastered book covers across the globe and beyond: his jacket art from 2001 was sent into orbit with a NASA space shuttle and signed by the crew.
This piece was featured as the cover of Ben Bova’s The Exiles Trilogy as well as the cover of OMNI magazine in the early 90s. The novel centers around a group of scientists who are permanently exiled to an orbital station, but who re-engineer the ship for travel and go exploring the nearest star system.
This striking image portrays the isolation the scientists were forced to endure, with the completely barren landscape void of any signs of life or change. But then there’s hope; The ship looks to be moving quickly away from that scene, towards a new life.
Untitled by John Berkey
When it comes to space travel, no one conceives and puts their ideas to paper like John Berkey. From behemoths the size of planets, to nippy little battleships and even a few marine variations, Berkey’s repertoire is entirely unmatched. Remember the poster art from the original Star Wars trilogy, or King Kong? Berkey.
The piece is untitled, but it has a raw power that begs description. Firstly, we see its size: colossal. This looks like the ship that might carry an entire civilization across the galaxy. Then there is the thundering tornado of energy projecting onto the planet. This could be from take-off or a violent planetary destruction, but either way it’s a symbol of the raw power of future technologies as Berkey views them.
The sky is black and filled with distant stars—the only question is whether this ship is made for a peace, or some darker purpose.
Untitled by Tsuneo Sanda
In 1992, renowned Japanese artist Tsuneo Sanda created this painting for OMNI magazine. Sanda began painting in his own time and became best known for his prolific work with Lucasfilm, illustrating a plethora of prints, cover art, and posters for the Star Wars franchise.
This piece is almost daunting to look at. The large spaceships 2 and 5 look lean, powerful, and way beyond our time. Their blue jet stream suggests a futuristic fuel and they can probably travel immense distances in absurdly short times. What’s hard to grasp however, is that construct above which the two aircraft are flying.
It appears to be another ship, slowly gliding over the desert planet, of phenomenal size. It could probably house the whole of the United States in its hallways. The scale of such a flying machine is incomprehensible to us, but perhaps this is the norm which awaits us in the distant future.
Untitled by Steinar Lund
A professional illustrator with as diverse a portfolio as anyone you could name, Steinar Lund has broken the mould with this piece. Lund is known for his use of real photography as the model for his painted works; In creating this UFO for OMNI magazine, Lund has made a highly realistic spaceship from the depths of his own mind.
This painting is one of exploration. For whatever reason, the pilot of that shuttle is off and away. Maybe they’re exploring a new star system to inspect it for human colonization; Perhaps this is the beginning of a journey which will finally bring extra-terrestrials to Earth; or in a distant, wildly advanced future, this could just be a daily commute to work.
Art like this has infinite backstories and possibilities even if the artist only ever had one in mind. It’s a beautiful painting which makes us itch to believe that we can all travel throughout the universe.