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What Is Steampunk Art?

Steampunk - The Art of Victorian FuturismWhat 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 it has evolved into its own fashion, art movement, and way of life. Spurned on by so much fantastical and inventive imagery born from authors such as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Tim Powers, and K.W. 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 be realized in the casual tinkering of gadgets or in 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 miniscule to the magnificent.

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

For those looking to create steampunk art a good 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 generally avoided in many steampunk types of work since they are manufactured by more modern practices. Standard additions and accessories may includes items like rivets, gears, cogs, chains or other industrial type things but 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 specialty sites if you’re 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 futuristic Victorian society the realization of that idea will lay solely in the hands of the artist. For those endeavoring in creating their own art it’s important not to get discouraged by criticisms or the fear that something isn’t “steampunk enough”.  Stick to your own creativity and inspiration if you truly want to make your art an expression of what steampunk means to you.

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