This month’s featured creative is Art Donovan of Donovan Design and curator of “Steampunk: Devices + Contraptions Extraordinaire” at the Museum of the History of Science at the University of Oxford, UK. His new book “The Art of Steampunk: Extraordinary Devices and Ingenious Contraptions from the Leading Artists of the Steampunk Movement” is available on Amazon.com – currently “pre-order” status.
I came across Art Donovan’s work in 2007 via an article on “Brass Goggles”, the UK based Steampunk blog. Along with several other artists creating new Steampunk flavored designs, Donovan’s clock and lamp designs caught my eye because of their inherent craftsmanship and implementation. Where other start-up Steampunk artists are categorized more in the collage or patchwork art domain, Donovan’s art is derived from a background in interior lighting design and detailed craftsmanship. Donovan’s pieces are not only hand crafted, but more often than not made from scratch, which I find much more inspiring than the scavenging and re-purposing often attributed to Steampunk art.
Art Donovan designs for a variety of clients, most of whom are not Steampunk related. This pre-existing design background is what gives Donovan the sharply unique, custom-manufactured look that I find so appealing. His company Donovan Design was established in 1990 as a contract and residential lighting design house. Donovan’s designs have a heavy dose of Art Deco stylization which I attribute to his early influences from working with Donald Deskey, designer of Radio City Music Hall.
Art Donovan discovered the Steampunk genre in August of 2007.
“It was the most exciting new style that I had seen in over 30 years as a designer. Steampunk combined all of the interests that I ever had- science fact, speculative fiction, early sci-fi films, history, antique technologies, Jules Verne novels… It was even more surprising to discover that Steampunk embraced such unexpected things as arcane spiritualities, traditional Victorian manners and everything else that was thriving in culture of the late 19th and early 20th century.”
After discovering Steampunk, Donovan created two introductory pieces, a distressed brass clock and a Steampunk style table lamp, both of which were featured in several Steampunk blogs including Brass Goggles. His next more elaborate piece, the Siddhartha Pod Lamp, cemented his name in the minds of Steampunk fans across the globe and catapulted his design career into the Steampunk world. Donovan was recently dubbed the “world authority on the visual genre of Steampunk” and is continuing to expand his line of designs.
Much of his fanfare comes from Donovan’s having been curator of the “Steampunk: Devices + Contraptions Extraordinaire” exhibit at the Museum of the History of Science at the University of Oxford, UK. The exhibit brought the Steampunk genre to light in the art community, and showcased the high quality artistic creations emerging within the genre. Donovan also recently wrote his own review of the experience, in which he stated, “True Steampunk would be an artifact of grace and artistic ingenuity. It would at first pay homage to the antique arts and sciences but ultimately point to a ideal or concept greater than itself.” This “artistic ingenuity” is the very aspect of Steampunk art that drew me into the aesthetic so many years ago, and I think Donovan makes a good point when describing Steampunk as an “artifact of grace and artistic ingenuity” rather than as a simple label, which I find even more appealing when tempered by a studied application of craftsmanship and pre-conceived design.
Art Donovan has new book coming out soon that promises to be a very informative look at the Steampunk art community. “The Art of Steampunk: Extraordinary Devices and Ingenious Contraptions from the Leading Artists of the Steampunk Movement” will soon be available on Amazon.com, and I highly recommend you take a look at it when it arrives. More information about Art Donovan can also be found at his blog “Art Donovan: Steampunk Art + Design.”
Here on “Grasping @ Creativity” I highlight a creative each month with the hope of inspiring readers in their own pursuit of creativity. These highlighted individuals have all inspired me at various times in my life, whether through their creations or through their philosophy. It is my hope that readers will find these articles both interesting and informative, a source of inspiration, and a resource for initiating their own creative endeavors.