Tea & Automatons

Diana Vick's corner of the interweb

Express Yourself!

Yesterday I gathered a group of friends at the Woodland Park Zoo to take some photos to promote Steamcon V.  Amber Clark of Stopped Motion Photography graciously offered to donate her time and energy to the project.  I am eagerly awaiting the results.  I’ll make sure to post some when we get them done.

It was a very fun adventure and I think we will have some fabulous photos.  We really have to do that more often.  It got me thinking about photography these days.  Digital photography has made things so much more fluid.  It’s so nice not to feel that you have to control every aspect of what gets into the shot.  PhotoShop is my best friend for so many reasons.

I showed my book, Steampunk Archetypes to a young woman the other day and she politely said it was “nice but too over processed” in her opinion.

A little history about the book; I wanted to create a book that addressed some of the main archetypes of steampunk as a way to think about dressing for the genre.  It is to encourage people to think beyond the standard uniform looks that we had begun to see.  It is not very big or detailed, but it’s kind of a starting point.  I’d love to have the chance to write a larger tome some day.

All the photos in the book are of me, for a few different reasons.  The first is because I have lots of pictures of myself in various costumes so that was handy.  The second is because I really can’t afford to hire models, rent or buy clothes, pay photographers and all the other myriad costs associated with doing a more professional operation.  The third is that I am quite frankly proud of my efforts to step beyond the ubiquitous and create new and different looks.  These are looks that I engineered and I am proud of them.

As for “over processed”, yes I concede that my photos are reworked in Photoshop to a large degree, but it is entirely intentional.  I thought about her comment for a while, but I keep coming to the same conclusion which is that I make up for what I lack by using my artistic skills.  The woman in question is a young model and still enjoying notoriety and attention.  I am no longer young and thin.  I freely admit that I “shop” out blemishes, unflattering bits or double chins once in awhile.  I also do not have a makeup artist, stylist or lighting assistant to help make the photos better from the start.  I do not even have a professional photographer usually.  It’s just my husband shooting quick shots during this or that event that half the time, we are also running.  So I make do with whatever photos we happen to get.  Often I have to compensate for poor light levels or bad backgrounds.

I did a little modeling when I was younger, but the difference is that now I am creating the entire image.  I am choosing the clothes, props, and accessories.  I pick out the wigs.  I do the makeup.  Then I take the photograph and Photoshop out or in a background.  I decide on what effects to add.  This is my artwork.  I am working toward showcasing the look, not the photo itself.

It’s pride perhaps but not vanity. I am not dressed up because I think I am “all that.”  I dress up because I created this look to express myself.  I am proud of my costuming, and my makeup work.   I found a way to express myself and it makes me feel good.  I want to encourage others to do so as well.  Five years old or fifty or seventy five, I want people to feel free to express themselves.    So what if we are not supermodels?  Dress up!  Have fun.

Can Art Nouveau Be Steampunk?

Art Nouveau Steampunk Portrait by Echo Chernik

For the past year or so, I’ve heard people say that Art Nouveau is dieselpunk.  Not being an art history major, I wasn’t going to argue the point without knowing the facts.  That did not sound right, but maybe I was confused.  Then in the last week, while having four different discussions about the difference between steampunk and dieselpunk, people have said something to the effect of “I am not really a dieselpunk fan but I do love Art Nouveau…”  Hmmm.  Time to hit the books or rather the internet.

Almost every source I found says that the Art Nouveau movement is from 1894 – 1914.  I generally feel that steampunk gives way to dieselpunk at about the start of World War I which is 1914, so that would make Art Nouveau entirely acceptable in the steampunk era.  Not that I am saying that the artwork from that period is steampunk.  It would obviously need to be tweaked, given a degree of anachronism, science fiction or technology, but my favorite art movement is most definitely in the appropriate era to be steampunk.

Okay, so perhaps the problem is that these people are mixing up Art Nouveau with Art Deco, which is rooted quite squarely in the dieselpunk era, beginning in the 1920’s and going all the way to the 1940’s.  After a little digging, I am pretty sure this must be the case.  I know that some of the works are a little hard to differentiate, but they are definitely separate things.  In a way it’s a lot like the difficulty people have distinguishing steampunk and dieselpunk.

Steampunk came first chronologically and though they are both types of retrofuturism, they are most certainly distinctive genres.  Steampunk is based in an earlier age when steam power was more prevalent, with to my mind a bit more optimism.  Dieselpunk arose at the beginning of World War I, with the use of diesel power, when the world changed and became a war hardened place.  While I like to say that steampunk doesn’t NEED historical accuracy, understanding how the world is changed by certain events does help you to understand how people of the time might have imagined their future, which leads to how dieselpunk and steampunk differ.  Just like in art, an understanding of the underlying basics is key to being able to change history believably.


My Busy Spring

I hope that you have been enjoying this crazy season.  I feel like I have either been prepping for events or attending them non-stop for a while.  Still a few more to go too.

First there was the Steampunk Exhibition Ball run by the Center for Sex Positive Culture.  It was held in the new location for the Museum of History and Industry. People were so very well dressed.  It was quite a treat.  I do miss the old location for it’s multiple spaces.  The new space is nice and very open.   The prohibition on flash photography was also a bit annoying but we found light where we could.


We went to a dress up event at the Raygun Lounge called Shindig.  I am not really a game person so it won’t be a standard haunt for me, but several of my friends were moving away soon, so it was a great excuse to hang out with them.  They had tasty food and beverages for sale as well, so it was a nice night.

Lastly, there was Steampunk University last Saturday.  We had classes and a store full of great merchants.  Attendance was decent, despite the many scattered showers.  I got a lot of good feedback from people who came to find out what this steampunk thing was really all about. They seemed very enthused.  We sold a lot of memberships to the convention!

Although I am steadfastly saving every penny for my birthday trip to Paris, I did buy a gorgeous mini pith helmet from my friend Amanda Forbes.  It was too cute to resist and it will go well with Steamcon V’s “Around the World” theme.

Next weekend, the Abney Park and Steam Powered Giraffe show!

About The Author

Diana Vick

I am an illustrator, writer, costumer and steampunk enthusiast.
I have done illustration for comic books, animation and collectible card games such as Magic the Gathering and Legend of the Five Rings. Currently, I do art for my own line of cards and gifts in my Zazzle shop.