Guest Blogger Steampunk Week

Steampunk Week – Guest Post: Steampunk Art – It’s in the Details

Today, we give the floor to our friend Kenda, from the awesome blog Lurv a La Mode. Kenda is not only a kick-ass reviewer of all things romance and SF but also an amazingly talented Graphic Designer (*points to our beautiful Steampunk poster* She made it) who loves Steampunk art. So, we had to invite her to talk about it.

Please folks, give it up for Kenda!!!

Steampunk: It’s in the Details

Steampunk Song by Aubrace

Thanks to The Book Smugglers, we’ve been treated this week to all sorts of varied opinions on what steampunk is thought to be, as well as a great introduction to the fictional side of things. What’s become clear is that those opinions are as widely varied as any other genre discussed on various blogs, forums and communities. Fictionally speaking, we’re set. Go forth with confidence now as you seek out your own fictional steampunk adventures. Spread your mechanically enhanced wings, dudes. Go – shoo!

When you think you’ve had enough of that, and it’s time to rest your reading wings, what’s next on the whole list of steampunk immersion musts? What about the culture of steampunk that is very much alive in the form of art? Art that extends from the traditional – sculpture, painting, photography – to fashion and other means, all of which are celebrated today at shows and conventions dedicated to steampunk. The fictional realms of steampunk are once again catching up to the new demand for the genre, but art has been able to take advantage of wonders of steampunk for a while now, doing an immense job of creating excitement for it.

Before we go any further, I might need to list out some general qualifications. While I by no means consider myself an art expert, I do have an art background and a graphic design degree, though the traditional has sadly fallen by the wayside due to the Need to Make Money (which I went the digital route with). The best art scenarios actually combine both traditional and digital, in my opinion, though one or the other can certainly do well on its own.

Steampunk Octopus by Alex Broeckel

I’m also not the type of artist to get hung up on the messages in art. Yes, I see the messages, but what I’m usually after is the pure aesthetic of a piece. I want to feel so amazed by what I’m looking at that I could gaze at it for hours and never get bored. I want it to punch me in the gut, make me breathless and push the rest of the world into my periphery – like the artwork above by Alex Broeckel, whose website, by the way, has many more fantastically jaw-dropping works to appreciate.

Once I’ve had my soul-drenching steam bath of OMG, this is amazingly beautiful, I usually can appreciate any imbedded messages better. Plus, it’s always been cool to read the history behind a piece of art, to learn what the intentions were and so forth. There isn’t anything quite like a cleverly hidden message in a piece of art.

What’s been great about discovering steampunk art is, it’s been a great companion to visualizing what authors are trying to do in fiction. Steampunk is so new to a lot of readers that I imagine it’s not necessarily easy to visualize an author’s descriptions, no matter how beautifully they render their words.

Leviathan Approaches and Clankers by Keith Thompson

Illustrator Keith Thompson, of Leviathan (Scott Westerfeld) sketching fame, has perhaps the best opportunity to enable readers to truly understand what the author has written. His sketches throughout the book brought Westerfeld’s words to crystal clear life. I know it made my experience reading the book doubly fun, discovering that much more easily what steampunk is in this particular case. Enormous metal Clanker machines and fantastical Darwinist animal/machine hybrids – Thompson’s and Westerfeld’s combined imaginations produced a phenomenal playground for the reader to discover steampunk with. And that’s what I loved about it – it was fun.

Myke Amend Airship

Artist Myke Amend, illustrator for Cherie Priest’s next Clockwork Century novel, Clementine, boasts some seriously amazing airships, a staple visual in the steampunk handbag of must-have. (Jon Foster did the cover for Bonseshaker, in case anyone’s wondering) Click here to see the full wrap-around art for Clementine, still pending final approval, and then feast your eyes on his work here and at his site. While the general opinion seems to be that a single airship doesn’t necessarily make a steampunk novel steampunk, they certainly can be breathtaking.

Steampunk, like any other kind of art, covers just about any medium a person can think of. The only limitations are what are found within the artist and their particular needs for any given project. From sculpture to oil painting to 100% Photoshop manipulation or original creation, steampunk is a well-represented art form.

Steampunk Fairytale by AkaiSoul

To show just how fun it can be, how about a steampunk variation on some classic children’s stories? Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf take on an intricate new twist, and Thumbelina and her faithful avian rescuer get a brave new façade. Or how about the Headless Horseman revamped steampunk style?

Mechanical Spider by Charlotte Rings Steampunk

Who doesn’t love a mechanical spider sculpture? These little metal critters are a common and curious art form in steampunk.

Steampunk Villain by BonnySaintANdrew

I love this steampunk villain, both quirky and strangely intoxicating with his mismatched parts and deadly intent. Considering how I strongly believe in fleshed out fictional villains, this one gets my seal of approval.

Steampunk Ship: Brassheart by Industrial-Forest

This steampunk ship cuts a fine figure in port, putting me in mind at first of Captain Nemo’s ship. Look carefully at the finer details. Are you as enthralled by the architecture both close up and in the distance and warm glow from within the ship as I am? Thought so!

Steampunk Train by Tarrzan

And what steampunk commentary would be complete without mentioning the steam-powered train, another staple in the genre. The image above takes it a step further, though, stretching the imagination with clockwork additives and a crisp, almost more science fiction aesthetic.

Steampunk pilot by yuffiebunny, outfit by Berit New York

Steampunk Watch by Aranwen

Costume creation and the photographing of it is an exquisite opportunity to feature the fashionable aspect of steampunk. While steampunk adapts the time period it’s using and expands on it with metal, gears, goggles and other detail, history buffs are still going to enjoy seeing what is strictly Victorian, etc., used correctly too. At least a little bit – the whole point really is to mix it up and use steampunk detail combined with historically accurate clothing to create something new. It’s a perfect balance of history meets alternate reality, showing how steampunk affects the way people live day to day. See another gorgeous example that I just fell in love with here.

Steampunk Overlord Mechanical by SteampunkOverlord

Styles can be wildly varied and they tend to flout the more staid and stale aspects of traditional historical limitations in favor of a fresher approach to society where men and women are on a more equal footing, both extremely confident in their approach and carriage. How else can one be when they have what might look like bizarre additions to their dress otherwise. With a devilish gleam in the eyes, chins held aloft, wearers of steampunk fashion make a bold, promising statement for steampunk art.

Click here, by the way, to see pictures from the 2009 Steampunk Asylum, a yearly three-day event in the UK.

If anything, one should gather that steampunk art is as widely varied and unique as any other kind of art today. Simply from this article alone, we know that individual style adds another rich layer to the mix, creating limitless possibilities. It is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the mind.

Are you a fan of steampunk art? Feel free to share with us your favorite steampunk style inventors and artists.

Many thanks to all the artists who generously gave use of their images for this article. I hope you’ll take the time to visit their sites (by clicking on the images) and explore their work further.


  • Steampunk Art at The Book Smugglers | Lurv a la Mode
    March 12, 2010 at 4:20 am

    […] the next to last day for The Book Smugglers’ first Steampunk Week and I’m there today, gabbing about steampunk art with plenty of great examples. Head on over and get your eyeball fill of some seriously great […]

  • Diana Peterfreund
    March 12, 2010 at 7:16 am

    I’m a big fan of Steampunk design. I love the Steampunk Home blog, though it’s been pretty quiet lately.

  • katiebabs
    March 12, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Loving these pictures! Great research Kmont. 🙂

  • KMont
    March 12, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Babs, I had so much fun looking at all this stuff. Was forced to cut myself off or the post would have been nothing but pictures.

  • Erika (Jawas Read, Too)
    March 12, 2010 at 11:10 am

    That little bird is hilarious! Wonderful artwork you’ve collected, though. The watch cuff is beautiful. 🙂

  • Meljean
    March 12, 2010 at 11:48 am

    I love these, KMont 🙂

    A few years ago had a Steampunk: Myths & Legends art contest (re-imagining popular myths as steampunk versions) that resulted in some amazing pieces (including Alex Broeckel’s above) and a lot of fun to browse through.

  • KMont
    March 12, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Erika, did you hop over to the watch person’s Etsy page? The link is on her Deviant Art profile I believe. More gorgeous stuff over there too. Pricey but beautiful.

    And I loved that little birdy when I saw him! Can you imagine a whole steampunk world like that? 😀

    Meljean, thanks for that link! Gonna go feast me eyes.

  • Moonsanity
    March 12, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    I love, love, love the art, fashion, and creativity of steampunk. I could browse through steampunk art and fashion all day and never be bored. It’s awesome. The Steampunk Overlord is amazing!

  • Rebel Prince in a Ghost Town | Literary Escapism
    March 12, 2010 at 9:19 pm

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  • Jane George
    March 13, 2010 at 12:49 am

    Love Steampunk. My teen son Steampunked an old Nerf gun over winter break and it turned out surprisingly well. He used stuff from the basement, old electronics and a few things from the hardware store. You can do it too!

    And hey, a Steampunk author is eligible for the Campbell Award this year if you’d like to check him out.

  • Kim Lenox
    March 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Ooooh, I want a little steampunk spider like that to wear on my lapel to work!

    And love that octopus.

    Great post Kenda.

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