After his Apollo 12 and Skylab 3 space flights, he worked on the Space Shuttle program and was named acting Chief Astronaut, overseeing the training of new astronauts. For the first time since he was assigned to Apollo 12, he was no longer preparing for an upcoming flight of his own and, all of sudden, there was spare time for an old love: painting.

In an interview for the Texas Alcalde magazine, Bean described how he decided to start a new career as an artist:

"A friend of mine from the University of Texas, Pat Brill, and I were out having dinner one night when I'd come back from Skylab, and she said to me, 'What are you going to do when you leave NASA and you quit being an astronaut?'

"I said, 'Well, I'm not planning on doing that any time soon, but I'll probably go to work for Rockwell or McDonnell-Douglas or something like that.' And she said, 'Well you ought to be an artist.' I said, 'You're crazy.' I hadn't painted any space paintings, only other traditional kinds of paintings.

"She said, 'No, I think you could make a living being an artist.' I had never thought of that as a profession, even though it was my hobby.

"After she said that, then I couldn't get it out of my mind. I began to say things like, 'You know, it's true. I paint on the

  weekend. I don't go designing airplanes on the weekend. Maybe I would really like being an artist.'

"So I took some time off and painted full-time to see if I'd like it. I simulated it, which is always good. I learned that at NASA; and the more I simulated being an artist, the more I realized it's much more difficult than I'd thought. But at the same time I liked it. I cared about it! I had many nice job offers for a lot of money, but I didn't care about them. I care about these paintings. I care about them every day."

In 1984, only 3 years after Alan Bean left NASA to start his new career as an artist, two exhibitions of his Apollo paintings took place at the Meredith Long Art Gallery in Houston. They were great successes and suddenly people started to realize that Bean's works are really masterpieces of fine art.

The cover of Air and Space magazine

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