Once you have the skills to bring your ideas to life, the hardest part is coming up with ideas. What do you do when you can't think of something to make? What happens when your well of inspiration runs dry?
As someone who isn't an artist, I had to figure that out for myself. Since there are lots of people in Steampunk who aren't primarily artists, I figure that they may benefit from my experiences!
I've found that inspiration and motivation go hand in hand. While it seems obvious that being inspired will make you motivated, I've found that it also works the other way around. Forcing yourself to innovate can be an extremely difficult task, though, so included below are some places you can go to help jump-start your creative engine.
A Google image search is often my first stop. It's not particularly good, but it can get the job done quickly. The quality of images you'll find when you search for 'Steampunk' is a mixed bag, but on the other hand, the images fill your screen, so it's easy to scan them quickly.
Additionally, Google will suggest additional searches all on its own. That way you can get some variety in what you see.
Reddit is a great place to go, because the cream automatically rises to the top. This means you won't have to sort through too much junk in order to find inspiring things.
Also, Steampunk has a specific subreddit, which means that everything in the subreddit should theoretically be related to Steampunk.
That's what it looks like!
deviantART is a collection of artists, so it stands to reason that you'll find some impressive things there. Like everywhere else on the internet, though, you'll have to sort through the ridiculous or awful things, too.
Some of the best things are available on deviantART, though, because many of the people who make inspiring Steampunk things are full-time artists who don't self-identify as Steampunk.
If you're looking for authentic Steampunk things made by Steampunks, look no further than Steampunk Empire. What's unique about this particular forum is that they have a giant photo album for the site, which means that you can browse through all of the pictures that people have uploaded.
Some of them are "featured", too, which are often the better ones. You may have to sort through some unrelated images, but as you can see in the above image, there are over 87,000 images. It'll take you awhile to go through!
Many photo-sharing sites will work for you, but I've found Flickr to be consistently the best when it comes to finding good Steampunk images. The quality of the images can vary significantly, and it's rare to find good professional photos. More often you'll find convention snaps, or self-shot outfits.
Still, there are a ton of images on the screen at one time and it's pretty easy to skim through them.
Photobucket is another photo-sharing site that will work. It doesn't have as many images per screen, but I've found some pretty good shots on Photobucket from time to time. I wouldn't make this my first choice, but it's not a bad place to go if you're still hungry for more after exhausting the above options.
While Brass Goggles isn't as active as it once was, it's still a good place to go for ideas. The 'Tactile' board in particular is full of people talking about clothes and props. So even if you can't find a picture of something that inspires you, you may find people talking about ideas that strike your fancy.
In my time, I've been far more inspired by ideas than by images. Just sayin'!
There's no better way to exchange ideas than at an in-person event in your area. You can see what other people are working on, talk about what inspired them, and get caught up in the feeling of Steampunk.
There are many local communities on Facebook, but if your area doesn't have one, Tor.com puts out a monthly event summary.
It's not entirely thorough, but it's at least a good place to start.
I know, I know, this should go without saying, but I try to post inspiring things pretty often, so check back here! I've got a few articles that are relevant, such as an article on making expressive outfits, creating Steampunk personas, and prop breakdowns. And anyone is welcome to submit their own Steampunk builds (tutorials much appreciated).
One last thing you can do is to watch old movies! The vast majority of talented Steampunk artists that I know draw inspiration not from what other Steampunks are doing, but from old films. You can go back to the films from the 1960's, such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or The Great Race, or back even further to Metropolis or A Trip to the Moon.
If you haven't seen them, I recommend watching as many old movies as possible. They're extremely visually rich!
If there's anything that you read or watch to get inspiration for your Steampunk stuff, please share it with us below in the comments! I'd love to hear from you!