When I think of steampunk-style artwork, pastel isn’t the medium that usually comes to mind.
After all, much of steampunk artwork relies on heavy detail and Victorian-style line work. Pastel is much harder to achieve fine detail with, although of course it’s possible with practice. And the often-softer styling makes me think more Tasha Tudor (one of my favorite artists, by the way) than something out of a Girl Genius comic.
But that being said, lately I’ve begun experimenting with pastel again . . . in sepia tones. It’s been years since I touched the medium, so I have a long way to go to get my skill back up. Eventually, I hope to craft a style that is reminiscent of Tasha Tudor’s Victorian illustrations, but with a bit more overtly “steampunk” flair.
Still, there’s something about the whimsicality of the look that already intrigues me. For a future gaslamp fantasy project I’ve got up my sleeve, it just might do the trick.
To achieve the sepia tones that are prevalent in steampunk art, I marshalled a collection pastel sticks and pencils. I find the sticks are great for those soft, sweeping tones, while the pencils allow me to begin to approximate the detail I hope to achieve in the future.
The color range for a “sepia” style work can range considerably. If you try this, I’d recommend having everything from eggplants to rusts to ochres and cremes at your command. It’s amazing, too, what blending the colors will do!
Consider taking inspiration from old photographs or simply experimenting with your own combinations.
Since returning to my art practice, I have worked mostly in black and white, so having a greater range of colors is quite a treat. Yet it’s not quite as overwhelming as a full range of colors would be.
I actually started with this simple set from the art store, then dug out my old pastel and a few of the pencils (above) to add variety.
I’m not happy with the level of detail or nuance I’ve yet achieved, and I find myself drawing more crude figures than usual. (Imagine trying to do a complex filigree border featuring cogs, pipes, and flowers? Hmmm …. that’s going to take some practice.)
But I suspect that this clumsiness will pass in time.
Exploring a new medium is a great way to push yourself and discover new avenues for expression. I’m excited to explore the whimsical possibilities of this “softer” steampunk style.
Who knows? Maybe after Alethia Grey is finished, I’ll do a steampunk graphic novel entirely in pastel!
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Have you explored new mediums in your steampunk art?
If so, what have you discovered?