Today’s author is a little different from the authors who’ve visited the Steampunk Cavaliers before. He’s also an incredible artist working on a fine art photography book exploring a steampunk world and the characters within. I’m thrilled to be able to share his amazing artwork with the world and to learn more about his creative process.
Please give Gary Nicholls a warm welcome!
Can you tell us a bit about The Imaginarium – Eva’s Story?
The Imaginarium is a Dickens style steampunk themed story about one woman’s journey from ruination to salvation, saving the world from a powerful nemesis, told in a series of Fine Art Photographic images. In a Steampunk world of wickedness, betrayal, murder and greed, one lost soul stands out as her saviour. Eva Elizabeth Lovelace is born into a North of England workhouse, her mother dying in childbirth. At the age of 12, after working all hours in the Mill, she is sold to work in a bordello, as a skivvy. When older, she becomes an Adventuress, working for a domineering, wicked madam, Regina Von Black. Treated badly, she takes to the bottle and her life spirals out of control.
Dr William Percival Stockdale, a wealthy doctor and inventor, sees Eva and hatches a plan to save her using a device he has invented called the Necessitti. The Abernathy’s (workhouse owners) constant arguing, lead to Captain Abernathy meeting a stranger in an inn, who asks questions about Eva. This stranger appears throughout the story. Eva’s secret past is known by Bella Donna Abernathy, who also has a secret object kept in a box, that relates to Eva. The Abernathy’s son steals all their money to gamble it away, leaving them broke and ruined. There is a relationship between Captain Abernathy and Dr William, Lady Abernathy and Eva, and Eva and the stranger, revealed later in the story. Dr William is aided by two Steampunk, time travelling “Angels”. Eva is kidnapped by Regina’s Harlots and held in a pumping station. In the fight to rescue her, the madam’s twin sister is killed, leaving Regina to call upon the powers of her Steampunk Witch mother, to turn her into an all powerful Nemesis, in order to avenge her sister’s death.
From wickedness, treachery, prostitution, secrets and murder, the plot twists and turns, each character having their own story that builds into the final sections where almost all is revealed. With now, 36 characters and 65 extras, no main character in the story is who they seem each having a past that is about to catch up with them. The final scenes in the trilogy have 4,000 Steampunks lined up ready to do battle with The Nemesis, to save the world from her power. I will be flying all over the world to visit steampunk groups, photographing them to build this image.
My images are printed on metal, limited to just 7 of each, in one size, 36” on the long side. There are two images that are at 48”, but they are very special. The prints sell from £1,000 to £3,000 each.
What an interesting story and a massive undertaking! I’m crazy about this blog but I can’t imagine working on a project of this scale. I admire your dedication.
How did you first discover steampunk?
I used to subscribe to a Photoshop magazine, and one month there was a ‘create your own steampunk image’. This made me think that perhaps there were people that did this for real, not just models in pictures. I googled it and found The Asylum, Europe’s largest steampunk festival held every year in Lincoln, UK, at the end of August. So I bought a ticket and realised, on seeing the huge number of steampunks in attendance, I had found the theme for my project.
Even the steampunk events here draw in hundreds of people every year and we definitely don’t have the biggest convention or anything. It really is amazing to see how many steampunks are out there creating awesome stuff.
When you decided to start actively doing art again, why did you drift to the steampunk genre?
It was purely because I was fascinated by the creativity and artistry in the gadgets and costumes. People say ‘you need to think outside the box’ the reality is that if you think there is a ‘box’ then it is already too late. However, once you drift into steampunk, it sucks you in. I now have several costumes I wear for my exhibitions, and love it.
Steampunk really is addictive! I’ve only put together one costume so far but I’m already planning my next one.
The Imaginarium – Eva’s Storyis a fine art storybook. Did you come up with the story or the art first?
The Imaginarium story started as just 3 images, and 5 steampunks. My one rule is that to be in the project, you need to be a genuine steampunk. I work differently to other artists that work composites. The image is completely formed in my head, first. There is no sketching, no planning, it is just ‘there’ in my mind. The inspiration can come from a song, a costume or just how someone looks. I then jump onto google to find the location that matches what I have ‘seen’ and I am off. The steampunks are then ‘directed’ in a studio, so that I get the image telling the section of the story I am trying to tell. This can take a huge number of shots (to create 100 pictures, I have taken over 8,000 images) The story, however, is another matter entirely. It is very organic. It has gone from a few pictures, to twenty, then sixty and now over 150. Not only that, the whole tale is now a trilogy, so over 450 images to create. The story developed after I had created 6 images, where I realized I actually had a story to tell.
This is a really awesome process of discovering your story. I wonder if it’s done growing yet.
Had you done any fine art before starting this project?
The simple answer is no. I attended art college, for a couple of years, when I was 16 and was Head of Graphic Communication and Design Technology in a London Secondary school after graduating as a teacher. Design has always been in my blood, as I see anything I am designing as completely finished, before pencil hits paper.
I always see amazing, beautiful images in my head when I sit down to art, but I’ve never had the patience or skill to make them reality. Kudos to you for following your creative muse so effectively!
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned working onThe Imaginarium – Eva’s Story?
Steampunks are amazing people. The people I have met, while working on this project, have been incredible. Polite, friendly, interesting, helpful and generally wonderful. The clothing has a huge amount of amazing style, and makes any person look great and I have learnt a lot about myself and my own imagination.
Who is your favorite steampunk artist & why?
I wouldn’t say that I have a favourite, and I am certainly not influenced by any Steampunk Artists. My influences tend to stem from Photoshop Gurus like Glyn Dewis. The way that I work is that the idea and image come first. I then look to find out how on earth I can create what is in my head. I do not use stock photos, every element in my images is photographed by me.
What are the next steps forThe Imaginarium – Eva’s Storyand when can I buy my copy??
The next step is publishing the first book of over 150 images and story. It is being printed at a very high quality, with the pages printed in matt grey with the images over printed and spot varnished to match my metal prints. There will be a Kickstarter running at the end of this month, where you will be able to buy a copy, being offered with various options. The first 1,000 copies will be numbered and signed limited editions and you can register your interest in this Here The retail price will be £89 plus p+p but the Kickstarter will be £79 plus p+p. The first 2,000 copies sold via the Kickstarter will also have your name in the back as a listed supporter.
This is so exciting! I can’t wait to see your Kickstarter campaign & finished work.
Gary Nicholls was born in Rochford, England, and was brought into the darkroom by his father as early as 3 years old. Now he is reclaiming his love for photography with The Imaginarium, a steampunk themed fine art photography book. He already has over 100 images complete and will be flying all over the world to meet with other steampunks and complete The Imaginarium.
Got any questions for Gary? Love his artwork? Let him know in the comments section below!