Steampunk Art: 11 Steam Powered Character & Fiction Elements

Steampunk, the aesthetic of Victorian clothing and steam powered technology, is known best for its old timey costumes and eccentric, cog-laden accessories, but there’s a whole side to the movement that’s exploding in popularity: Artwork. The airships with their sky captains, the rumbling, lurching machines of war, and mustachioed heroes with rocket packs provide a plethora of content for any artist. Here are 11 of the best and most intriguing types of steampunk artwork:

(Images via anidea, steampunkscholar, steampunkmagazine)

A large part of the steampunk appeal is the variety of characters and the uniqueness of their clothing, appearance, and behavior. The Airship Captain and his nemesis the Air Pirate… the Soldier of Fortune with a rocket pack… the variety is endless. It’s natural that paintings and digital art would spend a lot of time focusing on these characters and their eccentricities. Bright colors and a lot of movement give these portrait subjects the appearance of swiftness and power.

(Images via boingboing, infinitecoolness, templates, lanalog)

Any sci fi world has to have robots, as they’re a crucial focal point for the examination into humans and technology. With steampunk’s emphasis on pushing the boundaries of technological innovation (albeit via outdated science), the creation of robots is a large factor in the genre. The clockwork, cogs and gears, element makes robots even more interesting because of their apparent fragility and uniqueness.

(Images via cgsociety, omega7red, saintview)

The only thing more fun than a clockwork robot is a clockwork robot hundreds of feet high. As is natural in any scenario that involves brilliant Professors, some of them are bound to be insane and power hungry, and just downright villainous. Whether these lurching colossi were created by an ambitious government power, or a greedy tycoon, they always add excitement to a steampunk tale. Artists have a lot of fun illustrating the destruction these creations can wreak on an urban center.

(Images via steamlords, ottens, mykeamend, phoenixnewtimes)

Airships are one of the staples of steampunk, and their importance to the movement is well represented by the amount of artwork centered on them. Whether they sail through the sky using gigantic Zeppelin style balloons, or are kept aloft by gigantic flapping wings and rotors, they are a stunning visual example of all that’s interesting about the culture, and the technological dream it represents.

(Images via ebsqart, elfwood)

Just as fantasy subcultures have an intense subculture that revolves around cartography, mapping the various lands in fictional universes with beautiful sketches and old style maps, steampunk has schematics of the intricate clockwork machines and attachments that are required in any interesting steampunk tale. Schematics are often beautifully rendered, but they’re also just as often quick entertaining sketches that appear to have sprung out of the mind of some madcap Professor.

(Images via izismile, darkroastedblend, haikubaikou)

As any steampunk world is part of a fictional universe, some artists tend to take the aesthetic into a more abstract direction. They dream of worlds in which animal and machine are combined, or where machines have become so advanced under steam power that they’re as ingrained as cars are in our world.

(Images via peachbeach, brassgoggles, steampunkrings, elfwood)

The prolific inventor and wildly intelligent inventor / gentleman is one of the many character types that are popular in costuming and art. The combination of old style stateliness with action and wild accessories lend an interesting duality to these characters.

(Images via myfreewallpapers, ubersuper, cghub, commissioned, ottens)

Victorian landscapes and visions of classic city centers is always beautiful. When you add the steampunk aesthetic, these landscapes can transcend what is truly possible and become utopian (or extremely industrial). The steampunk emphasis on machines and technology allow artists to incorporate incredibly interesting elements into what would otherwise be a mundane cityscape.

(Images via ottens, brassgoggles, drikoland)

Star Wars has leaked into nearly every subculture since its premiere in 1977, and steampunk is no exception. While many artists concentrate on creating costumes for Stormtroopers and Darth Vader that represent steam technology, there are also plenty of painters and digital artists who have taken a stab at this famous trilogy and its characters.

(Images via aj-concepts, gaiaonline, darkroastedblend, streettech)

Transportation is a fun element in any steampunk fiction. Pneumatic tubes, incredibly fast railroad cars, and powered bicycles are just some examples of the shaky steam powered vehicles that are common. The only requirement is that they be groundbreaking for the story’s period, and that they break down often, but can always be repaired on the go, and are always able to kick back into action when a second’s delay would have meant doom.

(Images via thegeekcouch, pinkkryptonite, forbiddenplanet, conceptart)

Any fiction includes war, but steampunk fiction adds new twists, with even more exotic ways for nations to butt heads. Flying ships, napalm, rocket packs, tanks and robots, all add to the variety of troops and machines that can be sent against one’s enemies. In some fiction nations fight in the old style, with alternating volleys of steam powered muskets and rocket barrages, but in most tales, it becomes much messier. Giant war machines are typically at the center of any big battle, and they add an intimidating visual element to steampunk artwork.