Manuel Sumberac and Zdenko Basic Talk Steampunk Artistry

Manuel Sumberac and Zdenko Basic are the talented illustrators behind the fascinating, creepy, beautiful steampunk illustrations that pepper Steampunk: Poe (which you can begin reading for a limited time on Figment here). Their art updates classic Poe poems and short stories. Do you find it inspiring? Enter the Steampunk: Poe Contest! And read on to learn what inspires Sumberac and Basic.

Did “steampunking” Poe come naturally? What do you think the illustrations add to the dark and mysterious world that Poe’s already envisioned?

We think that the steampunk style is a very natural fit for Poe’s poems. Reflecting on the time when Poe wrote these tales, at the beginning of industrial revolution, he described the dark and mysterious parts of the human mind—those that became increasingly isolated amidst the outside, changing, growing world. Our illustrations, we hope, combined with the steampunk style, illustrate that sense of fragmentation and isolation.

Did you use digital media to create your illustrations, or did you stick to a more traditional method?

Yes, we use digital media to create our illustrations—but with the same approach one would approach traditional illustrations and paintings.

Some of the people in these illustrations look so life-like. There’s even a photograph on page 159 that looks like it could’ve been taken from someone’s actual collection. Do you use models when you draw people, or is everything freehand?

In our work, we use lots of real models. (Some of our friends help us with this task!) We work with real costumes, make-up, props—and then combine the “real” elements we create with other techniques. The goal with this project was to create something between quirky old style photographs and old paintings.

How do the illustrations for Steampunk: Poe differ from those in other books that you have worked on in terms of technique and tone?

Our illustrations for this project are quite different in approach from other books we have worked on. These are basically collages from 3D models, photography, costumography and paintings—merged together, in a steampunk way. The colors and palette we have used serve to describe the dark and mysterious atmosphere of Poe’s tales.

How did you choose which of Poe’s stories and poems to illustrate? Which was your favorite story or poem to illustrate from Poe’s collection?

The stories and poems in this book were chosen and collected by the publisher, Running Press. The two that intrigued us the most were “The City and the Sea” and “The Conqueror Worm.”

How long do you generally work on an illustration before you consider it finished?

As much as it takes until we achieve our idea. 🙂 🙂

Are there any artists and illustrators that you loved when you were younger that inspire you today?

We have been inspired by many artists and styles over the years, particularly Bruegel and German Expressionism.

Any plans to “steampunk” other classic authors?

We have just begun working on M. Shelley’s Steampunk: Frankenstein (also for Running Press) and are enjoying applying the steampunk style to the story, playing with the story’s elements in terms of space and dimension.

3 thoughts on “Manuel Sumberac and Zdenko Basic Talk Steampunk Artistry

  1. I’m 66 years old and I had a brain tumor, so the stuff about Poe looks hard. But your pictures are absolutely BEAUTIFUL! Any easier ones for me? Anyhow, keep’m coming, kid.

    P.S.— Could you tell me how many pictures from “Steampunk: Poe”?

    • Hi Ira,

      Thank you for your interest, but unfortunately, the contest has ended. Please feel free to enter any of our ongoing contests!

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