From Fan to Concept Artist

Klingon Astrogator Panel small
It sounds like a typical story. Boy watches Trek, boy loves Trek, boy grows up to be a designer for Trek…wait, err.  C’mon, It can happen. It’s the American Dream right?

Star Trek has been a part of my life since I can remember. Back in the early 80’s when I was a wee babe I fondly recall watching the reruns of the 70’s Star Trek cartoon on Saturday mornings and then reruns of TOS in the evening. My mom was a Trekkie from the 60’s so she explained all the characters and the whole back story.  She told me about the planets they visited and the mission of the Federation and how Star Trek was a positive, peaceful view of the future. I mean let’s be real, when I grew up in the 80’s Sci-fi was a pretty dark place: Aliens, Predator, Terminator, Robocop, and so on. Star Trek’s positive view of the future was unusual, enthralling, and very inspiring to my young, malleable mind.

I was wide eyed with my head in the stars dreaming of traveling at warp 9 across the galaxy. Having epic adventures, falling into time loops, talking to aliens that were floating orbs of light- I mean how many Trek aliens were floating orbs of light? Then The Next Generation came out and my mind was blown! It was so slick, so advanced. The ships, the bridge, engineering, the holodeck; I couldn’t even imagine all the possibilities for episodes when it first  aired. I loved the redesigned look and how it moved a 60’s concept into the future making it more believable. I remember making borg arms from those large cardboard poster shipping tubes and phasers from lego pieces.

I remember being particularly fascinated by all the slick plexi-glass touch screen interfaces. The mere concept of a touch screen back in 1987 was so advanced. Now in 2015 it seems expected on any sci-fi set. When the Star Trek The Next Generation Technical Manual came out it was filled with Mike Okuda’s wonderful black and white illustrations of all the lcars panels and I could see clearly how they were intended to be used. I recall taking large sheets of poster paper and a bucket full of magic markers, the good kind that stunk, and making my own Lcars panels. I’d hang them up on my bedroom wall and pretend to tap buttons and look at data feeds or I’d put one next to a door and pretend I was loading up a holodeck program. So many adventures to be had.

I loved Trek all the way through my teens and early adulthood. Deep Space nine was an amazing show, Voyager had some great moments and some not so great moments, and I remember being disappointed that Enterprise didn’t get renewed right when it started getting it’s sea legs. Throughout this whole time I was building Star Trek models- those that were commercially available as well as whatever garage kits I could get my hands on. A few years after the end of Enterprise I decided to take a hiatus from Star Trek modeling. There just wasn’t anything new or exciting to build. I needed time away, time to rest from the subject matter- and then it happened. Star Trek 09 showed up and my love of Star Trek modeling was renewed again. It stayed that way for about 2 years then it got stale again. Star Trek Into Darkness was a let down on so many levels and I felt this longing for something more. I started re-watching TNG on Blu-ray and I wanted more. I re-watched DS9, TOS, most of Enterprise and I still wanted more.

One night I was scouring the internet for any newly released resin Trek models and I stumbled upon mock ups for the Ares resin kit from Dennis St. Pierre of Starcraft Models. I was intrigued by the upgraded TOS design and had to see more.  I found Prelude To Axanar on Youtube and immediately recognized Alec Peters’ name from his wargaming blog/ forum Apocalypse 30K. This was exactly the type of Trek I was looking for! Something retro yet still fresh. A solid thoughtful drama and not just a Summer blockbuster with a typical good guy vs. bad guy plot. I immediately became a donor and joined the donors Facebook page where I found so many great like-minded Trek fans, all of whom are anxiously awaiting the final film and chomping at the bit for each behind the scenes update we get.

Flash forward about 4 weeks and Robert Meyer Burnett announces that there’s a contest to design the Blu-ray box art for Prelude to Axanar. I had to jump on that opportunity. I wanted to be a part of Axanar since I discovered it but didn’t know how involved I could be considering I’m all the way on the East Coast. This was my chance! I furiously designed about 14 concepts over 10 days and ultimately won the contest by achieving Robert’s vision for a Saul Bass style poster instead of traditional movie style key art. This is what opened the door for me.

Now in my mid 30’s I am one of the concept artists for Axanar, specifically working on packaging for the various CD/DVD/ Blu-Ray releases. Most recently I’ve headed up design of all the Klingon Lcars displays for the D6 Bridge set. Can you guess what kind of head trip I had when I found out I was in charge of all the Klingon Lcars? I swear I could smell those old magic markers somehow in the air.

Being part of the Axanar Art Department is being part of something bigger. It’s being part of an underground Trek movement to bring us, the fans, what we really want. To continue the story and fill in the void that Trek has left since it went off the air. And it’s a new machine altogether where the average donor/fan can actually become a part of the final movie and hopefully the future sequels. It is a childhood dream come true and so far this has been one of the most entertaining design jobs I have done in my professional career as an artist.

Ron Gamble