Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Of Interviews with Phantoms Siren and Real Pirates

Heya!  It's been a pretty interesting week so far:  We went up to Steamboat and had a blast in the amazing natural hot springs over the weekend.  My band Pandora Celtica had a gig at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in honor of their "Real Pirates" exhibition.  We saw some good friends there and got to perform for quite a few people who'd never heard our music before so that was awesome.  When the exhibit officially opens in March you should absolutely go if you're in the Denver area.

And now another interview!  Phantoms-Siren (who's real name is Vyctoria Hart) is an up and coming artist all the way from the UK.  She has a way of mixing Art Nouveau, Steampunk and imagination to create some really astounding pieces.  I would definitely count myself among her many fans and I hope that by the end of this interview, you will too.

Before we start, let me say that it's an honor to have you join us today.
Thank you for interviewing me, it's great to be here!

So, let's start with the obligatory question, what is Steampunk to you? 
Broadly speaking steampunk is an alternative history (or possibly future) set in something that resembles the Victorian era but with distinct post apocalyptic overtones.  But I think it's safe to say that there are probably as many definitions of the genre as there are steampunks on the planet!

As a relatively new genre with roots in so many diverse origins (goth, science fiction, historical re-enactment) steampunk is something of a creative sandbox.  Pretty much any direction you choose to take yourself in can be justified within one or more of the plethora of alternate time-lines.  There's a huge amount of freedom to be found in this once you get beyond the urge to add cogs, octopi and zeppelins to everything.

Being from the UK, do you see the genre as strictly a British thing or as something a little more international? 
I was originally introduced to steampunk as a genre by American bands and the North Carolina based radio show Clockwork Cabaret so I wasn't initially aware of the British side of the genre as a separate entity.  The internet is a wonderful tool that lets us cross oceans so easily we sometimes forget to look in our own back yards.  There are some differences between countries, the Stateside steampunk seems to have more elements of pioneering and adventure for the individuals sake, whereas Empire building and exploration is more likely to crop up on this side of the pond.  We also seem to have differing ideas relating to the punk element of the genre, which can be seen if you compare the albums of Abney Park and The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, for example. 

However when you have a whole world to play with, and a number of questionable histories to rewrite its not surprising that bands with truly international influences like Sunday Driver are gaining ground.  So even though you have cowboy hats whilst we have pith helmets, we all have goggles and aviator caps.  Ultimately it's the similarities that will draw us together, and the differences that keep the genre interesting.

How does Steampunk inspire your work and how do you continually try to make your art unique?
I take a great deal of inspiration from steampunk music and literature, so much of steampunk writing is a lesson in obscure history and literature that can lead you to some really interesting places.  I also enjoy the challenge of looking at something familiar and changing it to something new, but old at the same time.  I think my use of specific brushes and blending techniques makes my work pretty recognisable, but at the same time I do still experiment with other techniques and take on board those that work. 

Who are some of your favorite artists?
Historically speaking my favourite artists are Alphons Mucha, Aubrey Beardsley and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  I love their graphic style, beyond the realism of the Pre-Raphaelites but not yet at the surrealism of the styles that followed.  I'm especially influenced by their contribution to early advertising and aesthetics, so it's usually into their era that my steampunk works tend to fall.  In terms of contemporary artists my influences include Henning Ludvigsen, the Arkham Horrors artist; Tracy J Butler, the creator of Lackadaisy; and Ida Mary Walker Larsen, the fantasy photomanipulator and one of the finest sources of Steampunk stock photography.  However, my greatest source of artist sanity comes from Dr Geof Banyard, the comic book artist who isn't afraid to point of the funny (and often adult) side of science and steampunk. I recently had the honour of contributing this design to his fantastic travelling museum.

I worship at the altar of Alphonse Mucha and Ida was my model for Steampunk Sally - ya... can't say enough good things about her.  :)  So, how long does it take you to do a piece from start to finish?  Can you take us through a little bit of your process?
An average piece can take between 14 and 20 hours to complete, though some of the more complex images can take over 30 hours. I've streamlined a great deal of my process over the years to reduce the time spent on the basics. I'll usually decide which stock images I want to use before I start. Then I build the basic background frame before I add the figure lines and basic colours. I have set groups of brushes for skin, hair and clothing. Usually the background is added last. I keep all the clothes and accessories on separate layers so the colour scheme can be adjusted easily. However, it's often  the small things that take the longest, colouring the main figure might take four hours but designing the repeating motif behind the model can take up to six. 

What methods seem to work best for you in terms of self promotion?
Personally I've found one of the best ways to promote myself is through other people. Helping others is one of my main drives in life and I find that the work I've created for other people is often the most successful. I've also found that joining local and international art or craft groups can be really productive in reaching new contacts and markets.

What's the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring artists that want to follow in your footsteps?
Don't be afraid to charge for your work, and where necessary don't be afraid to charge in advance.  Conversely, enter as many contests as you can, the experience of working to other peoples requirements opens up your range and even if you don't win you'll often get some free exposure.  Join an artist community, the resources and feedback can be invaluable, and you might make some good friends on the way. 

Ya, Deviant Art has been invaluable to me over the last few years.  It's a fantastic resource and community for artists.  When you need to recharge and get out of your head a bit, what kinds of things do you like to do?
I'm a huge geek so I spend a lot of my down time watching sci-fi or fantasy movies and I have a soft spot for classic shows like Babylon 5 and Doctor Who.  I don't like to sit still without doing something productive though so I'm usually sewing, knitting or crocheting at the same time.  I also read pretty much anything and everything available, the last books I read were Cherie Priest's Dreadnought and Adam Roberts' Yellow Blue Tibia.

Hey, I just finished Dreadnought myself, in fact.  You'll have to tell me what you thought of it sometime.  OK, last but not least, where can we look to find and support your art, Vyctoria?
Irregular Magazine -
Davenport and Winkleperry -
Craft Candy -
Island of Doctor Geof -

Thank you so much for spending time with us, Vyctoria, I absolutely appreciate it!  This concludes the interview but I'll leave you guys with a few more pieces of her amazing art.

- Chaz -
Buy my art here:
Look at my art here:
Listen to my band here:

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