Thursday, January 31, 2013

Top Hat

Victorian Steampunk Inspiration

Making art from multiple sources of inspiration allows you an opportunity for
different avenues of thought to converge and spin into genres you’ve never
before tried. Mixing it up and treading on new ground creates entire new worlds
of unexplored subject matters and themes for you to build your masterpiece
Steampunk is a fun sub-genre of science fiction that mixes many ideas together, including Victorian Era style, steam-powered machinery, retro-future civilization, and great attention to technical detail. The result is a truly wonderful mash-up
that’s popular for artists and writers alike.

This piece was spawned from a series of other works I had done in many different medias. Skulls have interested me greatly throughout my life, and the subject matter has always been prevalent in my artwork. One of my favorite pieces is on the belt buckle I wear daily that I made in a jewelry class years ago. It has very special meaning on many levels, and the skull design has inspired many offshoots.

Being an avid attendee of the super art-centric festival Burning Man, I find myself doing a load of public art for different installations. A friend of mine -- who loves Steampunk and wears dresses in the fitting attire daily -- asked me to make a mural for his booth to welcome newcomers to the volunteer resource tent at Burning Man, and he wanted it to have some serious style.

It was important for the piece to look industrial and classy. We talked about the various symbols that epitomized Steampunk, and he kept visualizing old razor knifes and ball-peen hammers from the Victorian age.

I brought with me some Victorian photos to have a visual resource handy, and I also showed him some skull ideas I’d been working on from my sketchbook. To top it all off (literally), he asked if I would include one of his own hats in the piece as homage to the style.

The installation went beautifully. I used white paint straight on the 3-by-8-foot
surface, and the negative line-work really came out dramatically at this size. Here he is posing in front the final piece.

Fast forward a year or so, and I am still inspired by the subject matter. Since I maintained ownership of the image, even though I gave him the original painting, I could use the image again however I wanted.

From this large painting, I took a good photo and brought it into the digital space. The line-work was very simple, but even with the addition of some ornamental gears and geometry nestling in the skull, it was lacking something. Maintaining the three values, I added a good amount of texture and detail through the center of the composition, making the visual story all about the top hat and the skull. It was a fun idea and quite a challenge to interpret from metal belt buckle to large mural to clothing design.

We chose a fitting color scheme and sent the piece off for printing. Thankfully, we work locally, because when it was time for a press check (to proof the work before mass production), I was able to see that my original visual decisions on the screen were not reading quite right when translated to silk-screened print. I broke out the laptop and made the changes needed to fix the problem.

Check it out in the deviantART T-Shirts & Gear Shop. Click here. 

The finished design turned out to look really great when worn by a real person. I
learned a great deal in the process on this one, for sure. I hope you enjoy the journey this design took on the road to completion!