Cincinnati hosts the International Steampunk Symposium every spring, and while shopping for some new costuming pieces, my eyes fell on some beautiful Steampunk posters. They had a stained-glass quality about them. I was unfamiliar with Seth Lyons and his drawings, but I was fascinated by his unique mix of Steampunk elements, whimsy and elaborate detailing. Not only was this was his first time at Symposium, but it was his first time ever vending at a Steampunk convention. I had the opportunity to speak with Seth about his artistic journey into the Steampunk realm.
Zahara: Let’s start at the beginning… how would you describe your evolution as an artist, and what media do you enjoy using the most?
Seth: My favorite media is easily pen and ink on Bristol or illustration board. The evolution of my work is a little harder to answer. Over the past few years, my work has became more intricate and detailed. If there’s a grommet or texture to the material, I’ll compulsively render it. Sometimes I sketch and re-sketch certain details as I go before inking them, but once the pen hits the paper, there’s no going back. I do prefer to color digitally just for the degree of control you have; but I’m trying to step back from that and do more coloring by hand again, using whatever medium I need to achieve the marks I want. Aesthetically, I feel my Steampunk designs are a universe removed from the standard look. I like adding different cultural or fantasy elements to my designs that you don’t typically see. I feel like the Steampunk world should expand further than just Victorian England, but still be recognizable as Steampunk.
Zahara: Could you describe how you first began creating Steampunk art?
Seth: If I had to pinpoint the turning moment that had me creating my Steampunk art, it would be my piece entitled “Steampunk Menagerie”. She is a very much based on a traditional Steampunk design with the top hat, goggles, Victorian dress and surrounded by a menagerie of clockwork animals. I have a love of old black-and-white movies, and this particular model is loosely based on Audrey Hepburn from “My Fair Lady”, which I used as reference material.
What led me to even create this piece was a chance meeting with the proprietor of The Alley Vintage and Costumes in Dublin, Ohio. Without going into the long-winded story of our entire exchange, I ended up showing her a piece I had recently finished called “Oz Reimagined”, which had some Steampunk-style elements such as the Wizard and Flying Monkeys. This lead to being asked if I had other Steampunk art, with the potential that it could be sold on consignment through the store. I felt I had to seize the opportunity, so I produced “Steampunk Menagerie”. I did not want to do the same type of designs over and over, so I have tried putting my own spin on it while keeping some of the Steampunk aesthetic. I have done a series of elementals, mythical beasts (the dragon being one of my most popular pieces), as well as fairies, an angel and a unique spin on Wonderland.
Zahara: You have a beautiful array of work. Aside from your Steampunk pieces, what are your favorite scenes to create and why?
Seth: I also do a lot of comic illustrations, and I always have fun with big collage pieces or scenes with multiple characters; my record is 655 characters on one piece. I enjoy creating these massively intricate pieces, because people have to really look to find out what is going in my work. I’ll hide things for the viewer to find. A lot of the comic-related pieces I’ve done recently have been more nostalgic in nature, so I guess their appeal to me is just a return to my childhood.
Zahara: Do you work on commissioned pieces? If so, please describe one of your favorites and why you agreed to do the piece.
Seth: I do work on commission pieces. I find it easier to work on a commissioned piece when there is a personal connection to the buyer. It seems those works that have an emotional element to them resonate more for me while creating them. I’ve done some illustrations for literary conventions that have a wide array of contrasting imagery and themes, so it’s a real challenge developing a cohesive image; however, the end results are very rewarding when you feel like you’ve finally succeeded. My favorites are still the ones that have individual appeal rather than universal. A cancer charity piece I did for my best friend’s brother-in-law comes to mind. The imagery for that piece was chaotic and meaningless, unless you knew who the piece was representing. All his friends and family, to whom I was a stranger to most, were awed by how much the illustration personified his character, interests and history. Unfortunately, that memory is bittersweet, considering he lost his battle with cancer shortly afterwards. Now that illustration serves as a unique reminder of a lost friend and brother.
Zahara: Where can we see and purchase your art? Where will you be vending again in this year?
Seth: You can see my work in progress on Facebook most of the time. Whenever I’m working on an illustration, I like to show my progress as a piece comes together. My work is also available at my online store: http://sethlyonsgallery.storenvy.com/ or at The Alley Vintage and Costumes at 3502 W. Dublin Granville Road in Columbus, Ohio. I currently only have one more upcoming show this year, where I’ll be at Tricon Columbus on August 22nd, so look out for new artwork this summer!