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Artist Spotlight: Aimee Stewart of Foxfires
Created by DelilahDawson on 10/8/2012 3:24:35 PM

Author Delilah S. Dawson brings back our Artist Spotlight series with Aimee Stewart of Foxfires!


I’ll cop to it: when I was asked to interview Aimee Stewart of Foxfires, I was unfamiliar with her work. But once I found her gallery, it was like going home. If you dig Abney Park, you know her. And if you squee every time an ethereal illustration of dirigibles, clocks, fairies, or masks pops up on Pinterest or Tumblr, you’ve probably seen her magic. From realistic to ethereal, whimsical to sexy, the art of Foxfires shares the flexibility, adventure, and beauty of steampunk itself.

Delilah S. Dawson:  Thanks so much for joining us! To start off, can you tell us what steampunk means to you?

Aimee Stewart: For me, steampunk is the exact creative expression I've been waiting for all my life, and simply didn't know it.  To be able to take the aesthetics and ingenuity of the 19th century, and graft that onto the wild notions of futuristic daydreams is everything that could possibly ever strike a spark of inspiration in me. It's my chance to delve into wildly intricate gadgetry and machinery, people and places. It's a marriage of romance and adventure, at it's core, for me. It also allows me to explore creating things based on feel, and mood.  In some of my pieces (like 'The Final Touch' for instance), it's more about a surreal suggestion of steampunk, rather than a literal interpretation. It encompasses all of that, to me. My artwork is wildly varied, as most of my professionally licensed work is pure fantasy based. But steampunk is near and dear to my heart, because it is closest to who I am on a daily basis.  I'm a bit of a mad hatter, really.

DSD: What was your first introduction to steampunk?  

AS: About five years ago, I was a very active member of DeviantArt, and had started seeing artwork and costumes crop up that people were describing as Steampunk. I hadn't even heard of the word 'steampunk' until then, but the moment I saw all these brilliant visuals, it was like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. It was one of those magnetic moments that just drew me in with all it's might. There was no looking back. I had found something that resonated deeply in my creative conscious. And when I saw the whole visual aspect of steampunk, I was a goner. Imagine a child screaming with wild glee in a candy store. That was me, seeing the community and the possibility of steampunk.  So, I started gathering together all the steampunk bits I could find on DeviantArt and featuring them in weekly articles, to try and spotlight it a little more to the art community in general. I also created my first piece, 'Captain Persephone', which on a whim I sent in to Advanced Photoshop Magazine. To my surprise, they wrote me back and asked if I would write a tutorial for them on how I created that particular piece.  It was the first of several tutorials I was professionally hired to write, and it actually kick started an entire aspect of my career!

DSD: Around the steampunk community, you're known for your work with Abney Park. Can you tell us a little about that experience?

AS: Full disclosure here... it was born out of a pure fangirl moment. Right after my DeviantArt epiphany about steampunk in general, I followed some links from Myke Amend's page, which lead to Abney Park. I was totally shocked that here in my home of Washington State, there was this fantastic steampunk band! So I immediately sent an email to Robert of AP with a sample of Captain Persephone... and let him know of my deep interest in doing some artwork for the band! Over the years, anybody who knows the band, knows that Robert loves to involve their fans in creative endeavors... and it was no different back then. He loved what I had made, and let it be known that he would be stoked to see what I would make regarding the band! He sent me a link to high res photos of them, and yet again I had another 'kid in the candy store' moment. I selected a picture of him, and conjured up my official Captain Robert portrait.  He loved it!!  And after that, I made portraits of the rest of the band, which are the very portraits a lot of the folks in the steampunk community ended getting to know me through. It was fabulous! Music has always been a giant element in my creative process, so this collaboration with AP was like lightning in a bottle for me.

DSD: What would your dream project be?

AS: To write and illustrate a steampunk children's book with a soundtrack. I recently just finished my first fantasy based children's book which hopefully will be out in stores by this winter, and I am really, sincerely hoping that it will open the door for me to do one with a true steampunk theme.

DSD: What's your artistic process like?

AS: I'm in a very fortunate position in that I've gained momentum as a professional artist by making art for myself first... and having people want it in their own lives, rather than needing to create art *for* an audience.  So I've stuck with that mantra. I make what I personally want to see. If I wouldn't hang it on my own wall, I know right away it's not going to have the heart and soul it needs to spark with someone else. I've tried that, and it ends up going down in miserable, forced flames. It is why I rarely accept commissions. I do, but only in cases when what *they* are doing ignites my own interests and imagination. Otherwise, it is a huge struggle for me because I'm not fully engaged. But that's just me. It's the way I function well as an artist. So when I sit down to start creating, it's because something has caught my eye out of my constant daydreaming that made me think "oh WOW, I would really love to see this...", and I start in on making *that* come to life, visually. I don't have a day job anymore, which also helps. Making art *is* my daily life, now.  So I'm at home, and with all the comforts and pitfalls of being at home I launch into each new piece. I'm not organized, at all. But once I begin a piece, I'm ultra focused, because it is FUN!  And I rarely have an entire piece really set in my mind when I start in. I like telling myself a story, and being surprised with the ending. So most of the time, that's exactly what happens. I launch into an idea, but the end result has morphed into something completely unexpected. And that's when it's magic, for me.

DSD: How can the steampunk community best support you?

AS: The community has been awesome to me. I've enjoyed meeting people at Steamcon in Seattle, and hearing from folks through emails and such.  So the best way they can support me is just by continuing to come out to the art shows at Steamcon and Norwescon (where I generally include a steampunk piece or two in amongst my fantasy pieces) - and taking time not to just see my work, but to see all the artists who pour their heart and soul into their artwork.  It takes a lot for an artist to travel to a con, and the best thing the community can do is take a few moments, stroll through, and talk to us artists if you get a chance.  That's the stuff that fuels inspiration!

DSD: Do you cosplay or dress up for cons and events? If so, as what/whom? If not, what would be your dream steampunk costume?   

AS: While I don't cosplay as any certain known character... I always dress up for cons and events! At Steampunk events, I dress as my own 'character', a Steampunk artiste! My very tall leather shako hat has paint tubes in it, instead of bullets in the bullet holster, and a large paint brush and clock pendulum sticking up off the side. I've outfitted it with a Steampunk masquerade mask, which when I put it on... the gears and mechanisms come into play, and allow me to see the visions I create. That's the go-to outfit. Then I will gather things that catch my eye through the year. This year, I'm thinking of incorporating an amazing kimono I acquired, along with a headdress.  

DSD: Your bio says you're self-taught. How did your journey as an artist play out?   

AS: I was the kid who was constantly sketching and doodling. By the time I hit school, I was already able to draw and sketch things I saw. So throughout school, I became the girl everyone went to for posters and creative projects. It all just came very naturally to me (as did pretty much all creative endeavors, such as music, etc.). But it wasn't until I got my first computer and digital art program, did I really start to see the potential. I was frustrated with traditional methods, because of the space it took in a small apartment, and the money it cost constantly replenishing supplies. Digital was so compact! So I started looking around and finding out what people were doing with the medium, and was instantly hooked!   

DSD: Your FAQ provides a detailed plan of how your works are created. Can you give our readers a brief run-down of how your work goes from idea to finished product?

AS: I have a magpie mind, in that I take inspiration from anything and everything I might encounter during the day. Once something sparks, I can spend an afternoon, or an entire week or more searching for the right elements to include in my work. Since my expertise is in photomanipulation, this means finding stock photos, or taking my own. For a person who is not familiar at all with photomanipulation and digital painting, I say it is like initially working with paper dolls. I find bits and pieces in photographs that I like, whether it is something main like a model, or a building.... or something small like a clockface, or a gear from an engine, and I digitally cut all those things out. I work in layers, so I can move all these pieces (sometimes hundreds upon hundreds of pieces!) around on my canvas until I get the basic layout I desire. Then the real fun starts!  I go in, and paint over all these things, enhancing features, adding color and details, working tirelessly so that several hundred disjointed bits of photography can suddenly look as if it is one seamless work of painted art. I use a Wacom tablet, and Adobe CS5.   

DSD: Do you have a list of events you'll be attending?  

AS: A small list!  Ever year I attend Steamcon in Seattle, which is October 26th, 27th, and 28th this year.  I also attend Norwescon in Seattle every Spring. For now those are my only two regular appearances, but there are possibly more on the horizon!

So there you go! Check out our gallery of Aimee’s work, as well as her spiffy artiste hat. Be sure to visit her shop, where you can buy posters, cards, puzzles, and even cross-stitch patterns of her work. And here’s a gallery pulling together all her steampunk work, including our friends at Abney Park. Thanks to Aimee for spreading the steampunk pretty and answering our nosy inquiries.

Deliliah S. Dawson is the author of WICKED AS THEY COME, a steampunk paranormal romance and the first in the BLUD series from Pocket/Simon & Schuster. She's also an Associate Editor at www.CoolMomPicks.com and can be found at www.DelilahSDawson.com.

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