Tag Archives: movies

Aesthetic Preference – Steampunk/Clockpunk

This is one of my personal favorite Aesthetic Preferences. Steampunk and the visual offshoot Clockpunk have both become very popular and accessible, especially in the form of jewelry and home décor. You know an aesthetic has entered the mainstream when there are a bunch of scrapbooking and papercrafting lines devoted to it!

Steampunk began as a literary sub-genre within science fiction. The original idea was an alternative history where steam power, as it began in the Industrial Revolution, is the basis of technology and industry. For example rather than an internal combustion engine, vehicles would continue to be steam powered. Part of the assumption is that air travel would have developed along the lines of dirigibles rather than fixed wing planes. The early steam ships would have become bigger and more luxurious, instead of diesel engines taking over. Imagine Leonardo da Vinci with the addition of steam engines. Iron is needed for the engines, so it is not wasted on body work – instead there would be a great deal of wood, ahead of aluminum. The first solution to any problem would be mechanical rather electrical devices. The writers started in the Victorian era and moved on from there.

Leonardo da Vinci Spring Device

Leonardo da Vinci – Spring Device

The aesthetic springs from that idea and includes pipes, pulleys, wheel mechanisms, valves, tubes, steamy mists and late Victoriana. The preferred metallics are brass, stainless steel, copper and galvanized iron, or iron with rust. Motifs spring from steam engines including pistons, turbines, and of course clockwork, including keys and all sorts of cogs. On clothing the garments of the Victorian and Edwardian era are embellished with buckles, turnbuckles, grommets and belts. Look for small machines and vials, leather either new and glossy or distressed and worn.

Here’s my current Etsy Treasury of a small selection of the myriad of cool steampunk themed items around. It includes some of the accessory staples, goggles – based on a combination of old driving glasses from nascent automobiles and safety goggles.

Timelady by WolkenschiffRebecca

Movies whose plots are founded on steam powered technology include The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), Wild Wild West (1999), City of Ember  (2008) and the recent Sherlock Holmes (2009) and sequel. For some nice clock work see Hugo (2011). The presence of steampunk technology in the design was a point of contention in The Three Musketeers (2011).

Literary genre scholars tend to believe that the presence of steam technology in earlier times would have a ripple effect on culture and politics. There are popular forums and academic discourses devoted to it.

However there are more movies where the steam punk aesthetic is present. To find it lurking in classic movies takes some more observation but certainly includes Metropolis (1927), The Time Machine (1960), Modern Times (1936) and The Wizard of Oz (1939). It feels like some of the iterations of Gotham City show steampunk influence. Take steampunk medieval in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013), and notice the visual motifs in Time Bandits (1981) and Van Helsing (2004). How about the machine in Princess Bride (1987)?

The Machine from The Princess Bride.

Steampunk characters are staples of cosplay. I think it’s because those garments so much fun. And everyone is flattered by a nice corset.

steampunk

Finding Inspiration Around You – Billboards and posters

Affliction - James Coburn, Nick Nolte

A somber poster that captures the whole story in a moment

If there is one group of designers who have their fingers on the pulse of the latest visual trends, it’s the folks who design posters for movies and television. Movie posters are instant visual storytelling. When they work well they can be an education in the Elements and Principles of design. Plus they are easy to find on billboards, magazines and online.

Genre strongly influences the designs of movie posters and billboards. Action movies with special effects like to focus on heroic moments, or the spectacle. Horror and thrillers will often show abstracted, vague images that add to the mystery. Sci-fi will be blue and silver. Romances will depict the central relationship/s, while you know it’s a comedy when the colors are bright and people are posed in wacky ways. Family films will often show a cluster of the characters, mimicking a family portrait.

My personal preference is for simpler, graphic posters that encapsulate the story or theme immediately, rather than the kind that shows a busy collage of numerous stars and elements in varying scales – a popular, if old fashioned, method especially for dramas. One trend is to showing the ensemble – note how star hierarchy can still be preserved with a “pyramid” layout. I notice that one trend is to creating multiple visually related posters as part of the larger campaign. “Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows II” is a series that springs to mind immediately, as does the major campaign for “Iron Man III”.

NHM La

Sometimes genre conventions mean similarities that can get in the way of branding. Recently the Museum of Natural History ran a billboard campaign for it’s new “Becoming L.A.” Los Angeles history exhibit. (Looking forward to getting to that one!). It was vintage sepia portraits of a historical family, on a dark background with the title.

 

 

 

Boardwalk Empire

Meanwhile further up the road the HBO hit series about gangsters, “Boardwalk Empire”, had a remarkably similar billboard series featuring sepia portraits of the cast on a dark background. Pretty heavy and dramatic.

I don’t say it is causation, but the new posters for the LA exhibit feature a cow on an orange ground, and a joke about cow poop. This humorous approach suggests lot more fun in the exhibit than the intimidating drama colors and layout.

Historical Posters

Here are two great slideshows about movie posters through history, that highlight the genre conventions and also mention some of the famous graphic designers.

Art of the Movie Poster and History of Movie Poster Art are both by graphic artist Victor Moreno.

Using posters for inspiration

Scrapbookers and card makers looking for layout inspiration can adapt posters in different proportions for their sketches. Once you start noticing billboards and posters to “scraplift”, it’s tough to stop.

Here are some ideas from some current releases.

Last Vegas poster sketch Poster sketch 1

Aesthetic Preference – Art Deco Industrial Chic

Art Deco carved Penobscot facade

Ooh this is one of my personal favorite Aesthetic Preferences! I find it appealing on so many levels – partly because of where it leads visually (to Steam Punk especially in one direction, and Craftsman in the other) and partly because of the places where it is found – those wonderful glamorous movies, books, theater and retro magazines. I like clean lines and simplicity, but I also like curves.

Here’s how I describe it on my Etsy Treasury:

Geometry, repetition, symmetry, Fred and Ginger, high contrast, the Chrysler Building, Erte, clean lines, metals, hard edges, Ayn Rand, “Metropolis”, Poirot, the Nile, luxury train travel.

To this I would add the Pyramids and Scarabs, 1930’s Vogue magazines still lush with fashion illustration, and some of that hard edges, three color screen printing that transformed so dangerously into totalitarian propaganda. (That’s where I stop liking it.)

Cunard Line Poster

Of course I was imagining “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Death on the Nile”. Add “Hugo” for the clockpunk end, and never forget Busby Berkeley and all the theatricality of “Gold Diggers of 1933” and the harder edged “42nd Street. Had it softened by the time “Casablanca” added Moroccan lushness?

Thoroughly Modern Millie movie still

Julie Andrews in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”.

You can see still it in Gary Cooper’s ties in “The Fountainhead”. You can enjoy it on the roof of spook central in “Ghostbusters”. “The Great Gatsby” – both the movies, and the book. For a very light take try “Thoroughly Modern Millie”. For the dark side try Fritz Lang. “Metropolis” is his most famous, but his work includes “M” a film noir classic.

In no other style or time period are the architectural forms so clearly influential in jewelry design.

So many of those wonderful buildings are lurking in New York, but Los Angeles has a surprising number of them downtown – the old Wiltern Theater on Wilshire is one example. You can see many examples on my Pinterest board.

In terms of design Elements, Art Deco Industrial uses line to create simplified shapes and moves away from the uneven abstracted leaves and flowers of Art Nouveau nature forms (that’s coming, never fear). The Principles it embodies include high contrast (High Major Tonal Schemes), repetition and symmetry. (This is coming too.)

Using Art Deco Industrial Chic

As a style of decor, it can be quite easy to incorporate into many modern homes, by the use of painter’s tape and paint. Try a little Trompe L’oeil and create some faux molding with painted shadows. Chevrons, so popular right now, are an offshoot of it.

 

 

Winged Circle from Egypt

Collect vintage posters and frame them simply, or incorporate a bit of Egyptian into your decor like my late mother-in-law did with her black and white striped mirror frames.

Egyptian applique scarab

Art Deco definitely lends itself to stencils. Try layering – start with a light grey or silver paint over white, then offset the same stencil again in black.

Silhouettes, that work so well with romantic styles, look great in an Art Deco situation, with simple black and silver frames or perhaps with a fan shape in the background.

I like it because it is so easy to incorporate actual and reproduction vintage with very simple modernism and the clean lines of Mid-century Modern furniture – although I would be cautious with the textile prints and textures from that period and let Art Deco textile designs create my drapes and pillows.

Is this one your favorite too?

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