He's won the Indy 500, built and fielded Indy cars, Trans-Am cars and the Can-Am series winning Turbocharged Porsche 917s—all with Roger Penske, built two 50' state of the art racing trimarans in cold-molded wood—with rotating masts and employing race car wing technology in the rudder and daggerboard two years before the Australians, flies small aircraft, participates on Space Shuttle ground crews and has three paintings in the Smithsonian collection. BJ builds his own computers, illustrates book and magazine covers, served as production designer for the National Air and Space Museum and Strasenburgh planetaria, does wildlife photography, paints landscapes, blows glass, collects and restores large antique music boxes, writes articles, is working on two children's books and has recently taken up the cello. ...So far, the cello is winning.
Not the normal background of a Space Artist... or any artist, for that matter—and it's made all the difference.
One of his passions is doing mission art for aerospace corporations and the world's space agencies. Bringing his accomplished engineering background to bear, he can discuss on equal terms with the scientists and engineers designing and flying the spacecraft and apply the knowledge gained to paint the craft with an accuracy and realism that is striking in its presentation; not just a mere CAD dump. Indeed, he often asks questions of them that they least expect to be coming from an artist.
That's because he is a rocket scientist.
More than one of his "out of the box" observations have influenced mission planning, due to his unique view of the Universe and the mission within it.
Things come to light when you look at them from a different perspective. Sharing that light is what engineering and science are all about.
The fusion of science with an artistic eye and balance to convey the space environment so few have seen creates imagination–firing images. Being able to actually paint Photographs That Haven't Been Taken™ is an art unto itself. His doing this in 3D elevates this to another level entirely—because now it can move.
Being accomplisned in these techiques is one thing; being able to feel the engineering behind the mission is what makes it real.
"I have been very fortunate to have experience in a wide range of amazing endeavors but there is only so far that one may think into the concept of spaceflight. You have to go there at some point and do the work. Having a person who is comfortable around dangerous, complex technical systems, is sensitive to physics, geology, meteorology, photography, writing and art experience the space environment and pull that experience together with these many disciplines will mean so much in the communication of why it is important for us to be there. "If I can instill even the slightest sense of wonder and appreciation for the Universe in the viewers of these works, and ignite a spark in just one kid that propels them to go on to become a scientist, engineer, teacher ...or artist, I feel I will have succeeded."
BJ is gratified to have seen this happen many times since that quote was first expressed and lives to see it a number of times more.
A New Ocean, one of his Signature Images for the National Space Symposium, was selected more than a year prior but was painted during the first flights of Columbia, 18 years before. It depicts a new ship sailing "under" the more limited but still beautiful oceans of our ancestors. The painting was chosen for its tranquil and confident vision of our future in spaceflight. Following the Columbia tragedy, and Challenger before that, it now has taken on the mantle of a wistful tribute to our space explorers, and the crafts themsleves, who have given their lives in the noble pursuit of knowledge.
"Living our dreams is something that very few of us get to do before we die. Yet, there are those who would use this incident to cause the cessation of human spaceflight altogether. To do so would mean that these individuals will have died in vain, for the goal that they were contributing to will never be reached. Explorers everywhere, throughout history, have given their lives in pursuit of the goal. The High Frontier is no different."
For three and one half decades B.E.Johnson has championed the space effort in a singular, cut to the bone thought:
"Space—To Go and Learn is Reason Enough!"™It is all that needs to be said, for this is what it is all about.