Although the paintings won’t be posted here until December, I seem to be going through a bit of a cyberpunk art phase at the moment. This is a genre of art that I seem to revisit every now and then, so I thought that I’d look at some of the reasons why it’s such an amazing genre.
1) Visual storytelling: Because cyberpunk art is focused on busy futuristic cities and/or interactions between people and technology, there’s a lot more room for visual storytelling than there is in many other genres of art. In fact, making a good cyberpunk painting pretty much requires you to hint at some kind of story.
Even if you’re just making a landscape or cityscape painting, the fact that it will probably include a lot of people and a lot of computer screens/ billboards means that you’ll probably have to include at least a hint of a story in order to make it interesting. As an example, here are two cyberpunk paintings I made earlier this year.
As you can see, the first painting is a depiction of an unusual playful moment within the confines of a busy shopping centre, where the couple standing in the fountain are contrasted against the mostly faceless crowds. The second painting is intended to be a scene from a detective story of some kind or another, it’s meant to look like it could be a single frame from a movie.
The cyberpunk genre is also perfectly suited to visual storytelling for the simple reason that it didn’t start out as an artistic genre. Depending on what you believe, it either began life as a genre of prose fiction (eg: in a short story by Bruce Bethke and, later, several novels by William Gibson) or as a cinematic genre (eg: “Blade Runner“). Since it was originally designed for storytelling, the cyberpunk genre is at it’s best when it involves a story of some kind.
2) Background jokes: Because many things in the cyberpunk genre are set in a dystopian corporate-controlled future, ominpresent advertising is one of the central features of the genre. This means that you can have a lot of fun hiding silly fake adverts in the background of your cyberpunk art.
Take a look at this cyberpunk painting that I made earlier this year, that was loosely-based on Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth:
If you look closely enough, you’ll see that one of the advertising signs says “Seagulls are your friends. Don’t vapourise the seagulls. Yes, that means you!”. If you’ve ever even briefly visited anywhere on the southern coast of England, then you’ll know how annoying the seagulls can be (I’m not a religious person, but these winged fiends are a compelling argument for the existence of Satan). So, this background joke is an absolutely perfect fit with the setting.
Because cyberpunk art (and cyberpunk fiction) revolves around the idea of “information overload”, you can hide lots of in-jokes in the background details of your art. If you want a spectacular example of this at it’s absolute best, then I’d recommend reading Warren Ellis’ “Transmetropolitan” comics.
3) Detail: As I mentioned earlier, the idea of “information overload” is a central part of the cyberpunk genre and this usually translates to lots of visual detail in cyberpunk art. Even fairly minimalist cyberpunk art can often include more detail than minimalist art in other genres does.
For example, here’s a minimalist cyberpunk painting that I made earlier this year. Although the painting doesn’t include much background detail, the foreground still contains a moderate amount of detail:
Not only is making cyberpunk art a good way to teach yourself to include more detail in your art, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of having made a painting that will reward close examination and will be the kind of thing where the audience will notice something new if they look at it more than once.
4) It looks really cool: This one is pretty much self-explanatory, I guess. Cyberpunk art just looks really cool.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂