This was one of my first and favorite experiences in my earlier years of doing stargazing ceilings, I think I had only been doing them for a few months. I had just started doing ceilings astronomically correct, on rare occasion, in practice rooms. This was exciting for me because I had always wanted to learn more about astronomy, the classes in College were always the first to fill. I grew up in the mountains in Utah and I wanted to learn how to find the constellations and be able to step outside and say “oh..there is such and such, isn’t that beautiful?”. Before starting this work I couldn’t even pick out the big dipper half of the time! So it was fun as I got to practice doing the constellations astronomically, I would find when I went outside constellations that I previously didn’t even know were there before would now just appear to JUMP out at me… like BAM! “There is Canis Major!” A constellation that previously I would never have been able to find, even with a star map and personal constellations navigator.
I was that person when someone would point up at the sky and say “oh look there’s the little dipper” I would look and look “wait.. where?.. ” and they would try to explain where it was in the sky…”well see Polaris is right there..see that?” and I’d go “uuh.. yeah.. no.. I’m not sure?” after several moments of this I would finally nod my head up and down and say “ooooh yeah..there it is.. wow! that is cool!” all the while thinking to myself “I have absolutely NO clue what he is pointing too!” (Be honest.. most of you have probably done this too at some point!) I would say that was my experience 100% of the time until I started doing these stargazing ceilings astronomically correct and started sleeping under my own night sky mural ceiling.
So, after a little practice I took a job doing an astronomical version of a sky.. This job was at this REALLY amazing place! I had to drive about an hour in the middle of the desert to Nowhere Arizona (I don’t think that was actually the name of the town.. it was a made up town, so maybe?) This man, the owner of Dolly Steamboats in Arizona, had built this full little western town! It looked like a set out of a movie. I was in awe.. it was incredible! He used to for events and weddings, mostly only for family, so it was this little secret in the middle of the desert. The room he had me do was the little “jail cell” maybe 9 feet by 9 feet, low ceilings. He wanted it down the walls and astronomically correct specifically “with Sagittarius through the milky way” (an angle I had not yet done at that time!) As I am about to start the room he mentions in passing that he is an Astronomer with a Doctorate in Astronomy and he was really excited he found me! I am not sure if the fear was apparent on my face, or if he could hear my heart stop beating for an eternal moment… no pressure right?!! I was so careful with that room, I may have held my breath the entire time, I don’t remember. I think that is when I learned to be as detailed and particular as I can… I couldn’t “mess this up”… I held my breath while I had him close his eyes for the reveal.. when he opened his eyes he let out a long “woooow, and there is Sagittarius, right there in the milky way, isn’t that beautiful” his is beautiful..and there is sagitarious, right there down the wall in the milky way”.. As he lost his breath for a second I gained my breath back (win/win I’d say).
PHEW and THAT was my first experiencing doing an astronomically correct version on a customers ceiling! I have done many many more since then, and I no longer feel panic….well.. except for the man who wanted me to do his Theater room…and later said “yeah, my brother in law was the director of Hansen Planetarium (in Utah) and I want to impress him”… no.. no pressure at all!
I am grateful to have had this experience early on, it set me off on the right track to really do the best I can with each room getting it as close to their expectations and hopes (if not exceed them) as possible.