Steampunk Artistry as the Heart of Victorian Futurism

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Cláudia Carvalho

What had once been merely a literary genre has become a style and culture unto itself. While steampunk had previously been just an idea of an alternate history line, it has evolved into its fashion, art movement, and way of life.

Spurned by so much fantastical and inventive imagery born from authors such as Herbert George Wells, Jules Verne, Tim Powers, and Kevin Wayne Jeter; fans were inspired to bring life to the beauty and technology of the steampunk genre by way of art and fashion. For many people steampunk is now much more than a fiction genre; it is a wardrobe, an art form, a dream, and a way of life.

Steampunk art comes in all shapes and sizes, from pocket watches to redesigned laptops, to entire vehicles or houses. Because the art is an expression of the individual, the scale of the art depends only on one’s passion and imagination. It may come to life by the casual tinkering of gadgets or the designing and painting of vast and complex Victorian utopias. Be it in the eyes of an artist, a collector, or an appreciator, steampunk art can be found anywhere from the minuscule to the magnificent.

When it comes to determining whether an item is a steampunk or if it is simply Victorian the difference can be found in the technology or inventiveness of said piece. Steampunk usually has very Victorian influences but it is modernization and re-imagining of the work that sets the two styles apart. Steampunk art could often resemble what Victorian era dreamers would visualise when imagining what future technology might look like.

For those looking to create steampunk art, an excellent starting point is to determine what materials to work with. Typically brass, copper, leather, glass, and wood are all authentic mediums for Victorian era constructions. Other materials, of course, can be used since steampunk is a reinvention of that period, but sticking to types of materials that could be created with steam-powered technology will usually give your work a more typical steampunk look. Plastics and other such materials are avoided in many steampunk types of work since more modern practices were used to manufacture them. Standard additions and accessories may include items like rivets, gears, cogs, chains, or other industrial type things; but it should only be included if it pertains to your vision rather than being added for the sake of making your art “look steampunk.”

Anyone looking to collect steampunk art may be fortunate enough to have a local art gallery which features such works, otherwise you may have to take your search online. Sites like Etsy.com usually has handmade steampunk items or you can browse eBay.com or other specialised sites if you are looking for specific pieces.

Steampunk art may not always conform to another person’s definition of what a steampunk style should look like, but since the genre is based on a fantasy of the future by Victorian society, the realisation of that idea will lay solely in the hands of the artist. For those endeavouring in creating their art, it is important not to get discouraged by criticisms or fear that something is not “steampunk enough.” Stick to your creativity and inspiration if you truly want to make your art an expression of what steampunk means to you.

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