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Author Topic: How do you get inspiration to do what you do?  (Read 1291 times)
cossoft
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United Kingdom United Kingdom


« on: March 12, 2017, 07:07:02 pm »

I realise that it is a forlorn hope to be able to distil inspiration but nevertheless... 

I'm a proponent of what I call Functional Steampunk and I've written on this elsewhere.  It means that my stuff works, but is built in the Victorian style as the Victorian scientists and engineers would build it.  So a galvanometer (current measurement device) would be brass and wood, but it would have little decorative items that serve no functional purpose.  It's the decorative panelling, inlays and carving surrounding a grandfather clock.  None of it is necessary and you won't see it in today's products.

I can't do this stuff.  It's art and I find it extremely difficult to decide upon some aesthetic feature that has no engineering merit.  And where to put it.  The Victorians did it all the time, very successfully.  Consider a Victorian fireplace surround.  When you make an airship, the lift has to balance the weight.  The lifting medium has to be contained and a hull attached for the passengers.  That's how I see it, and those parts are easy and I can do the calculations.  How do you make this stuff look nice?  I'm not expecting a treatise on spacial theory or the power of the naked form, but is there something that you can say?  Is it just a manifestation  typifying the difference between an engineer and an artist? And how can one be both?

I once worked on a rail bridge that had no architectural input, it was simply driven by the technical requirements.  It was absolutely awful and people still use it as an example of really crap design (Lyne Bridge over the M25).  It's efficient and cost effective.  The Forth railway bridge is a world heritage construction.  It's absolutely crap structurally, being vastly over engineered and a maintenance nightmare.  The investors probably went bankrupt.  Yet it's beautiful. I see wonderfully elaborate Steampunk and assemblage pieces and they're stunning.  How do you turn a lamp with a bulb into an artistic piece?  Where's that stuff come from?

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RJBowman
Zeppelin Captain
*****


« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2017, 10:16:53 pm »

Inspiration comes from the spark of divine fire that we all carry within us.

Or, failing that, go to the library and find some books on historic industrial design, decoration, and architecture. I recommend books focusing on art nouveau, rococo, early streamline era, and art deco. There are books with copious photographs and illustrations that will show you what has been done in the past, which will give you insight into what can be possible in the future.
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Madasasteamfish
A clanger waiting to be dropped......
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Rogue Ætherlord
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09madasafish
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2017, 10:55:55 pm »

The short answer:

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
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cossoft
Gunner
**
United Kingdom United Kingdom


« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2017, 01:51:12 am »

Ooh, that's nasty of you.  I thought that I was clicking through to find an essential guide to wisdom, skill and inspiration (and perhaps even virility)  Sad
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walking stick
Zeppelin Admiral
******
England England


« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2017, 07:50:08 am »

None us are born skilled, we learn bit by bit no matter how much talent we have.  Think of it like learning to drive or cook, learn a few basics and then practice until it's something you do without fuss.   When that feels natural you can go for more skills in the same field. 

From what you've said you understand practical mathematics.  There's quite a lot of material on how maths applies to nature and  art, the ratio of a spiral, fractal patterns and so on.

Start a picture collection of art you enjoy.  Do another collection of interesting shapes like the cross section of a shell or a particularly impressive rock formation.  The same with architecture, engineering, vintage machinery and so on.

If an artist you admire has a webpage or You Tube presence look at whatever they put up.  Some will mention artists whose work they like which will give you more styles to explore.

Look at stuff in the dollar stores, cooking utensils, kids toys, hardware, picture frames, anything that has details you like. 

The more ideas you look at the more you can play with them.
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Madasasteamfish
A clanger waiting to be dropped......
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Rogue Ætherlord
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09madasafish
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2017, 09:14:48 am »

Ooh, that's nasty of you.  I thought that I was clicking through to find an essential guide to wisdom, skill and inspiration (and perhaps even virility)  Sad

Apologies, but asking where any creative person (be they a writer, artist, musician or otherwise) gets their inspiration from is like asking: 'Why is water wet?'.

There's no single answer, nor an easy one. There's no one place where inspiration comes from other than from within one's own mind. Being a writer and occasional sketcher myself I speak from experience. I know it sounds cliche, but inspiration striking is like in cartoons when a light bulb suddenly appears over a character's head. Sometimes an idea just pops into your head (occasionally out of nowhere) and you think, 'Yes! That could/would work.' and that is where most of my inspiration comes from. A lot of the time what's necessary is just a willingness to try something.
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Hurricane Annie
Zeppelin Captain
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New Zealand New Zealand



« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2017, 03:44:17 pm »

Inspiration comes from the spark of divine fire that we all carry within us.

Or, failing that, go to the library and find some books on historic industrial design, decoration, and architecture. I recommend books focusing on art nouveau, rococo, early streamline era, and art deco. There are books with copious photographs and illustrations that will show you what has been done in the past, which will give you insight into what can be possible in the future.

Library books !! And more library books!!

 On all manner of subjects,  from the ridiculous to the sublime. Go through the catalogue subject by subject .  Books filled with large illustrations  and detail.
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Kensington Locke
Officer
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United States United States


« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2017, 03:52:08 pm »

Odds are good Cossoft is a Form Follows Functionality person like myself.

It has to work first.  Then make it look nice.

That's OK.  I certainly respect engineering, when compared to things that look nice, are supposed to work, but fail to work well.  especially because people will flock to the pretty, forgetting about functionality.  Been there done that.

The challenge then, as an engineer, a builder, whatever is to figure out how to make something look good once you get it working (or to keep that in mind while you are engineering).


Here's an experiment (practical or thought, depending on if you play along).

Load up Minecraft, the ridiculously easy game to make stuff in.

Consider carefully on whether you put it into Creative mode (no danger, all powerful), or survival mode.

I won't judge, but if you put it into Survival mode, what will you learn about your building?

Odds are good, you'll dig into the side of a hill and make a boring base made of the plain materials you just dug up.

Why?  Because form follows functionality hewed too strictly causes ugly design.  It is the least work and most practical to conserve effort and reduce risk by not wasting time getting fancy.


Now let's go pick on children.  80% of the children you see playing Minecraft will make the ugliest houses you've ever seen.  Pure dirt or exact same logs.  No plan to layout or anything.


What's missing?  It's a similar problem to the first example.  Not sense of design aesthetic.  They built for practicality.


What I learned about design in Minecraft isn't rocket science.  But aspects of it apply to steampunk and even fashion.

Use different materials.  The floor should be a different material from the walls.  Even better if the ceiling differs.  The materials should also complement each other.

How's that apply to Steampunk?  take a look at a bad Nerfpunk gun.  Odds are good somebody spray-painted it copper or brass colored and called it done.

Now look at a better one.  Odds are good it is painted to represent at least 2 different materials that complement each other.


The point then, is to learn how to use complementary materials (wood, brass, copper tend to complement).

Then you need to learn how to use space and decoration.  In retro-victorian design, that may mean making the engineering compact enough to wrap it in beautiful decoration, or spreading the engineering out, expose parts of it.  detail scrollwork on borders, shiny bolt/screw heads that stand out from the wood.  These are things to look for in other designs.

Just some thoughts.  

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annevpreussen
Gunner
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United States United States


Captain Annemarie of the Eagle's Arrow Airship


« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2017, 06:19:21 pm »

Just go with the flow, literally. Watch the lines and try to determine where your gaze is being directed. Is the focal point of the piece in the center with smaller details radiating out? Or maybe it's designed so the top corner catches your eye first, but the design takes you down weaving to the base. Try looking at the art nouveau style for some great examples of art in architecture that still overlaps with that steampunk-y vibe!

And Pinterest. Oh goodness, I love Pinterest.
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cossoft
Gunner
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United Kingdom United Kingdom


« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2017, 02:32:11 am »

So I've been reading the suggestions here, and there's a lot of good stuff. Yes, I'm definitely a Form Follows Functionality person.  That's easy for me, but you end up with an iPhone that looks like a Samsung which looks like a Nokia and all equally soulless.   I've been reading up as suggested.  The following are three examples I came across of sheer design madness that you'll pay £100s for in an antique dealership:-



This is a hinge.  A bloody HINGE!



I'd love to know where this comes from.  Why would you put gold castings around a belly stove or engrave a hinge?  And just why is there a large gold urn atop the stove?  A superfluous urn with superfluous superfluous handles.   I can now replicate it of course, but only if my thingie includes hinges or is a stove.  What if it's a large ball on legs instead?  Is this just mindless copying and reproduction, things that some despise?  Is all art just copied with originality reserved for the true masters?  Is this question too metaphysical?

I guess I don't really know what I'm grasping for, it's just that I feel something's missing.  Thanks for all your contributions.  Time for bed I think before another bought of depression comes over me...


P.S. Weren't some of the masters manic depressives (or mad)?  Perhaps there's hope yet  Tongue
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Wolfgang Edwards
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United States United States


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« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2017, 03:25:16 am »

As a writer I take inspiration from all sorts of sources, books, movies, video games, tv shows, art work, music, and the rich history and diverse cultures of the world itself. But one specific resource I've found is a very great source of inspiration is Tumblr, where I've found lots of really cool accounts to follow, and I have essentially created a collage of inspiring art work, pictures and videos people shared on tumblr.

It isn't all super-steampunk-concentrated, but my book is set in a Steampunk world, so everything on my tumblr is somehow inspiring to me as I work on the sequels:

http://flintlockpenguin.tumblr.com/
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RJBowman
Zeppelin Captain
*****


« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2017, 05:36:02 am »

This is a hinge.  A bloody HINGE!



I once had some hinges and door latch plates that looked kind of like that. I picked them up out of the ashes of an old house that was to have been demolished, but was instead burned in a training exercise for the local fire department. That was just how they made them back then.
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James Harrison
Immortal
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England England


Bachelor of the Arts; Master of the Sciences


« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2017, 07:51:37 pm »

Honestly?  I couldn't rightly say. 

I was going to say that a lot of my inspiration comes from old silent films and older novels and to an extent that is true, but the thing I always find is that reading one book or watching one film will always bring up something else I find interesting and then I simply have go chasing up information and knowledge about that.... ten years down the line from buying my first HG Wells novel I find myself with a wide-ranging and eclectic library of music, books and films and although in my mind I know it's all interconnected, if someone were to put a gun to my head and tell me to explain to them precisely how I relate K W Jeter's Morlock Night to Anthony Trollope's The Prime Minister I don't think I could, for all that they sit on the same bookshelf. 

I suppose really that's part of the beauty of it, I'm gathering all this material around me and slowly world-building with it, though I'm quite sure this world will only ever exist in my head.  If asked to explain it to somebody I really wouldn't know where to begin or where to leave off. 

The same goes for when I (eventually) buy a house.  I've had an idea for years that I want a Victorian/ Edwardian house, and, once I have it, I'm going to decorate it in a 1900s style and fill it with original and reproduction 1890s/ 1900s furniture.  I even have a pattern book of Arts & Crafts/ Art Nouveau furniture full of things I want to make, when I have somewhere to put them.  But I couldn't tell you where this ambition has come from, because I don't know myself.  If ever I did know where the idea came from, I've forgotten it since. 

Incidentally; does anybody else make themselves a mood collage of images or ideas they really like?  I suppose a sketchbook would come close to what I'm describing.  I don't keep a physical one (though I suppose there's nothing really stopping me doing that), rather I have a sort of mental pinboard that is covered with images, information, bits of ephemera.... 
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walking stick
Zeppelin Admiral
******
England England


« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2017, 10:12:06 pm »

Yes, assembling a mood board works quite well.  For a more portable version one friend uses cheap photograph albums and rearranges bits from various themes in two page spreads, another bulk buys file pockets and sticks loose photographs, magazine articles etc. under general themes in lever arch files.
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cossoft
Gunner
**
United Kingdom United Kingdom


« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2017, 04:12:38 am »

A mood board sounds like an excellent suggestion, thank you.  I didn't realise that there was such a widely used technique for externalising a concept.  All I knew were recycled print outs and my white board, and the problem with the white board is that I'm always mixing up the permanent markers with the proper ones.  Do you think this technique would work with small three dimensional objects?  For example some small glassware or even a stereotypical /ridiculed/ we all use them cog?
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walking stick
Zeppelin Admiral
******
England England


« Reply #15 on: March 20, 2017, 07:49:38 am »

Look up Cabinet of Curiosities.  This combines mood board, steampunk style and place to keep small interesting items you would otherwise lose. 
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Lord Pentecost
Snr. Officer
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United Kingdom United Kingdom



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« Reply #16 on: March 21, 2017, 09:32:08 pm »

I also have an engineering background, the engineering projects of the Victorian era are a good place to start for inspiration, take Crossness Pumping station this was built to pump sewage, the interior would only ever have been seen by the company workers and yet it looks like this


It all very well saying how over designed things were in the Victorian era and yet look how many of them are still standing and still in use compared to more recent structures which were built to the limits of design codes and are now found to be inadequate for modern needs. Personally I believe there is something to be said for building once, doing it right and paying a lot for it but realizing it will last almost forever with maintenance instead of building with a 20 year design life then rebuilding (I know this seems to not be a popular idea these days!) .

In terms of my steampunk projects I do try to keep them practical, my PC is a PC but is designed to look like a Victorian computer. A good way I find to do these things is to think about how you item would "work" with Victorian technology and make that your design. So a PC needs a steam power plant, make the case look like a riveted boiler. It needs a power source, coal wouldn't be practical for a free standing item so it would run on gas, use a blue power LED and orange disc activity LED to give a gas flame flicker effect. This is usually my design process so form does follow function but the function may be imaginary!

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Kensington Locke
Officer
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United States United States


« Reply #17 on: March 21, 2017, 10:11:59 pm »

Take the images of the pot belly stove and the door hinge and deconstruct their styling.

In both cases, borders were defined and outlined.  On the hinge, it's the rectangle framing the entire flap.

For the stove, it's borders around the doors the separation from the top piece with the gold ring.

Then anything inside that border is filled in with ornamentry, like the curliques on the stove door.  or the lines and stars on the hinge.

Any bolt, pin, fastener is ornamented or made to stand out because if you can't hide it in the design, you can make it look pretty.

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cossoft
Gunner
**
United Kingdom United Kingdom


« Reply #18 on: March 22, 2017, 02:56:35 am »

My Lord, please don't get me wrong.  I'm not criticising Victorian engineering or over design per se.  It was a comment (as you also made) criticising our current disdain for it.  I've recently wondered as to the value of quality and what actually constitutes it but that's a future metaphysical thread.

I find it totally incredulous that an engineer can convince someone to pay for all that fancy (read expensive) cast iron work for a device to pump poo.  How much does average Joe spend on his toilet these days?  Our thinking today would be:  just build the bits we need to shift the poo, and either invest the remainder in the stock market or pay for some more nurses and coppers.  We always want more of those.  And it doesn't have to run for more than 10 years as I will have realised my stock options by then.

I wonder what changed.  Could the poo of the first World War have put paid to Victorian excess and optimism?   
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VampirateMace
Zeppelin Captain
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United States United States


Mein Hexapod


« Reply #19 on: March 23, 2017, 05:09:00 am »

Inspiration comes from a lot of places. Sometimes I try to figure out where I want to go with an idea and I'll do a bunch of research or look at pictures in that style (steampunk is interesting style wise because there's multiple angles to come at it from), but other times I'll just start working on something that came into my mind because I already know what I want it to end up looking like, and I might not even be sure where the idea came from.
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Kensington Locke
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United States United States


« Reply #20 on: March 23, 2017, 07:47:47 pm »

I think part of the question you're really asking is why would Somebody pay for a fancy looking poo-pumping station, instead of a cheaper simple-looking one?

I would be the answer lies in both economics of the time, the nature of the trades/craftsmanship ranks, and the evolution FROM victorian design.

Consider that it was rich people paying for this stuff, they may have expected it to look fancy to justify its expense.

actual labor costs were low, this is why rich people had servants, and nowadays, they don't (not to the extent that they did back then).

Also, craftsman trained for years and had pride in their work.  Good looking craftsmanship was proof of their quality, because a slipshod maker would just do the minimal work and not put the attention to detail in.


Now I'm not well versed in the art/design styles, but obviously we shifted from Victorian to modern/art deco styles which tended to favor simplistic design, hiding the engineering inside the box, etc.

Some of that might have been to simplify construction as we moved to assembly line, lather, rinse, repeat fabrication, rather than one man toiling over the entire object.

A student of art/design history could probably tell us, and my bet is that there are clues in the transition away, as to what justified it originally.


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VampirateMace
Zeppelin Captain
*****
United States United States


Mein Hexapod


« Reply #21 on: March 23, 2017, 08:07:40 pm »

Now I'm not well versed in the art/design styles, but obviously we shifted from Victorian to modern/art deco styles which tended to favor simplistic design, hiding the engineering inside the box, etc.

Some of that might have been to simplify construction as we moved to assembly line, lather, rinse, repeat fabrication, rather than one man toiling over the entire object.

A student of art/design history could probably tell us, and my bet is that there are clues in the transition away, as to what justified it originally.

Well, I had to take 3+ classes on Art History for my BS, so, I'll take a crack at that. I think the answer is; yes and no. While simplification does make some sense for mass production (especially early on when we were just learning now to replicate things in certain materials or still had to make/finish certain pieces by hand), certain things could be easily molded with intricate patterns (especially nowadays, when they could also be lasered or printed). But society as a whole shifts their aesthetic tastes to reflect current ideals. World events inevitably alter how things look. Wars cut back available resources, often leading to smaller simpler designs. The women of the 20s shed the excess layers of clothing to reflect their freedom. That minimalistic streamline look we never totally got away from was supposed to convey the illusion of motion and the concept of looking to the future.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2017, 08:09:53 pm by VampirateMace » Logged
Lord Pentecost
Snr. Officer
****
United Kingdom United Kingdom



WWW
« Reply #22 on: March 23, 2017, 09:12:48 pm »

I think part of the question you're really asking is why would Somebody pay for a fancy looking poo-pumping station, instead of a cheaper simple-looking one?

I would be the answer lies in both economics of the time, the nature of the trades/craftsmanship ranks, and the evolution FROM victorian design.

Consider that it was rich people paying for this stuff, they may have expected it to look fancy to justify its expense.

actual labor costs were low, this is why rich people had servants, and nowadays, they don't (not to the extent that they did back then).

Also, craftsman trained for years and had pride in their work.  Good looking craftsmanship was proof of their quality, because a slipshod maker would just do the minimal work and not put the attention to detail in.

There is another good reason for this, in the Victorian era a lot of major projects were paid for by subscription (which I believe worked a little like crowd funding) the thing with this was that all the money raised HAD to be spent on that project and many of these projects were over subscribed (just think how many people funded that useless fidget cube on kickstarter and then imagine how many more people would subscribe if the project was to literally get rid of the rivers of poo in the street!). As the money had to be spent on the project once the essentials had been built fancy ornamentation was seen as a good way to spend left over cash.

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annevpreussen
Gunner
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United States United States


Captain Annemarie of the Eagle's Arrow Airship


« Reply #23 on: March 23, 2017, 10:03:28 pm »

Lord Pentecost, I know this is extremely late but CROSSNESS PUMPING STATION IS WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF and I would like to thank you very much for sharing it with us!!!
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Athanor
Zeppelin Admiral
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Canada Canada


Keep them off-balance and brazen it out!


« Reply #24 on: March 24, 2017, 05:03:19 am »

just think how many people funded that useless fidget cube on kickstarter and then imagine how many more people would subscribe if the project was to literally get rid of the rivers of poo in the street!


Call me a cynic if you will, but I have a strong suspicion that, should the question come up today, many of the wealthiest among us would soon start screaming "Why should I pay to get rid of other people's poo?" And the contract would go to the lowest bidder......

Athanor
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