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Local artist creates stylistic art, stories of a parallel universe
Jacob Bloom said steampunk to him is a kind of Victorian science fiction.
“When we in the 20th century think of science fiction we think of spaceships, aliens, robots and super computers,” Bloom said.
“In Victorian times, these things were not even conceived of or even possible to create. So steampunk to me is what people during the Victorian times would have imagined the future would be like.”
The local artist shows a variety of work at the Bayview Cash Store’s Taste for Wine Cellar Room art gallery through August. Bloom has about
15 paintings in the show, six of which he said are of the steampunk style, while the others fall under the classic fantasy or modern science fiction genre.
Steampunk, for the uninitiated, is an artistic style often described as the crossroads of fantasy, Victorian romance and technology.
“Sophisticated augmentations made of clockworks to enhance or replace humans, giant iron machines powered by steam and sailboats that take to the sky,” Bloom explained.
One of the pieces in his current show is titled “Sky Flier” and depicts one such steam-powered, wood-framed sky machine, sailing into a light-soaked puff of clouds and blue horizon, its young pilot’s white scarf whipped by the wind and smacking of a free-spirited life.
“It would be like a parallel universe to our own if sciences took a different turn than they did in our universe,” Bloom said.
“Instead of oil-driven sciences like plastics, gas and, later on, computers, the steampunk universe would have focused on machine works and steam.”
The term “steampunk” originated as a tongue-in-cheek play on “cyberpunk” by an unsuspecting science fiction novelist who was trying to define his genre. It stuck.
The movement, which came into prominence in the 1980s and early ’90s and extends to literature, music, fine art and fashion, has reached
Questacon and the Museum of the History of Science in England, and has touched down in the hinterlands of Whidbey Island.
Steampunk enthusiasts could be described as pseudo-Victorians. Tinkers in the steampunk style take modern utilitarian objects and modify them to reflect objects of the steam-powered era.
A steampunk sculptor might redesign a computer, telephone or an electric guitar to include elements of polished brass, iron, wood or leather using design elements and craftsmanship consistent with the Victorian era.
In fashion, it runs the gamut of the purely Victorian with fine tailored suits, petticoats, and exquisite haberdashery to the raggedy post-apocalyptic look.
In Bloom’s case, he uses the steampunk style to tell stories in pictures of a future that looks different — a future where science and engineering produces a world of romantic, steam-powered fantasies.
Although his work imagines a place with more steam, Bloom creates it through the most modern technology.
His sketches, he said, are done in Photoshop using light washes in shades of gray.
“I use a tablet pen instead of a mouse to control the airbrush tool in Photoshop.
I don’t really think it’s any different than other means of painting,” the artist said.
“I just don’t have to buy paint or brushes. I use a combination of fine art techniques that oil/water/airbrush use, combined with techniques
I learned in my digital illustration classes.”
Bloom is a graduate of the Seattle Art Institute. By day he is the owner and manager of Sound Business Center, Inc. in Freeland and recently created the logo and poster art for the Island Shakespeare Festival’s current production of “Romeo and Juliet.”
He attributes his love of art to his sometime artist mother, Virginia Bloom, one of the tasting room’s winemakers, whose paintings and drawings he remembers from his childhood and which prompted him to draw often from a young age. He also mentioned the strong influence of his South Whidbey High School art teacher, Gene Koffkin.
“He helped push me to try new things like airbrushing. With guidance, and by giving me a sense of independence (important for a teenager), I learned a lot and decided to go to art school,” Bloom said.
Bloom said he also soaked up the gradual effect that movies and animations had on him, unaware all the while that his style was emerging.
“I have always been a fan of science fiction, and have found myself fascinated with the art styles seen in the movies or shows I was watching,” he said.
Other artists, too, had an effect, including Bill and Samantha Cass of Nymbols Secret Garden in Langley, who encouraged Bloom to create in the steampunk style.
“Being a concept artist, it wasn’t hard to find inspiration. It also helps that the Casses exude inspiration,” he added.
The artist admitted that most of the time his pieces come out of nowhere and that he doesn’t really know what will happen on the canvas before he begins to paint.
“After laying some color or gray washes down, things will start to form. If something starts to speak to me I will continue painting.”
When he finishes, the images are printed on canvas and then mounted on wood, or stretched onto a wood frame, while others are printed on satin photo paper and mounted. Bloom makes a limited number of each print, but makes custom prints to size for customer requests.
And it’s the customer, the viewer of his pictures, who ultimately decides what his art is all about.
Bloom said he doesn’t kid himself about the meaning of his art. There are no great philosophical or political themes in his work. He just likes to tell stories, he said.
“Not just the one I’m dreaming when I paint it, but the ones people think of when they view them,” he said.