When I painted the picture The Heavy Metal Hero (below) in 1985, I had no idea that I was contributing to the “Steampunk” movement.
It happened thus: the glory days of ‘Big O’ posters were over, and had been since 1980 when the company collapsed. I had continued to work with other poster art companies, such as: ‘Wizard & Genius’, Switzerland; ‘Holmes McDougal’, Scotland; ‘Anabas’, UK; and others. One of the others was ‘Red Moon Merchandising’, run by Bob Moon. Bob and I were contemplating poster art one day when he suggested an image with some large and intimidating creature or machine.
Later, in my studio, my eyes fell upon the working model of the locomotive the Flying Scotsman that my father had made and which had become mine upon his death in 1980.
By comparison to ‘The Heavy Metal Hero’, the ‘Scotsman’ was tiny and tame, but wait, I remembered an acquaintance living nearby who was an engineer and regularly travelled to the United States to work on collectors’ steam locomotives of prodigious size and thunderous character. I borrowed some photographs of these huge beasts that were often used to haul wagons full of coal up the steep gradients of the ‘Rockies’. Plenty of stuff to use on these photos: acres of metal plating and rivets, soot blackened funnels, acidic looking burns and miles of blackened metal conduits, not to mention the well-stoked fireboxes. I had a field day!
Then just a simple matter of making the engine very, very big. One of several ways I did this was to include maintenance workers of human size, some distance in front of the train.
The Heavy Metal Hero has had an enduring appeal and is one of my most recognised pieces. In 1987, it was licensed by FM records for use as the front cover of the Diamond Head album Am I Evil? It has appeared in most formats, including posters, prints, calendars, mousemats, cards, snowboards and, early on, a game box cover.
Recently Sarah posted the image on the Facebook Page ‘Steampunk Tendencies’ to receive a considerable response. This made me think about the genre and consider that since the start of my career I have fostered a nuts and bolts tendency of my own, not realising that there was an interest in fantasy machines in parallel with the Victorian era. Some of my images that come to mind in this respect would be:
The Revenge (an album cover for Russell Allen and Jørn Lande):
The Martians (from The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells):
The Nautilus (from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne):
The Sack of Zodanga (from the book A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs):
The Pericles (from Michael Moorcock’s Warlord of the Air):
The Firewagon (from Nigel Suckling’s story The Moth and the Moon):
There have also been a number of conceptual pencil sketches for computer games, animations, movies, intellectual properties, etc. that have generally not seen the light of day. Here are a few:
Dr. Agon's Mammoth Machine (from Lavender Castle):
Genghis Ken's Ornithopter (from a proposed intellectual property titled Thunderbolt):
The Mole Machine (for The Magic Roundabout Movie):
... and finally,