Hello MO, and on behalf of all the artists, thank you very much.
Nothing magic about standard art. A long time ago Matrix wanted some updated art work for the stock and CHS games. I think it was in anticipation of the AE system soon to come.
All that standard means is that the ships and the backgrounds have a consistent scale factor and that both of these have consistent color vectors; things must not only fit against the backgrounds, they must also fit against combat screens, and everything must be consistent as a package, for a commercial product.
It does not mean everything must be a uniform ugly gray (without hue). In fact, there is so much color in the art that it must be in 24k bitmaps. This “gray” business is quite irrelevant, and only came about because the game designers did want the art details obscured by high contrast dazzle paint jobs. So the nominal art was described as “gray”. Unfortunate and misdescriptive, but understandable. There’s gray, and blue, and greenish, and azulish, and rusty hulls, and every combination in between.
Standard is just scale, color vector, and background; everything unified and playing together.