In this spotlight, we asked artist Julie Dillon to tell us a bit about the background of her cover for this issue of Lightspeed, “Gold Sea.”
Most of the time I carefully plan out an illustration, but this one was much more spontaneous; I didn’t have a plan at all when I started out. Initially I was just playing around with different colors and brush settings in Painter. I really liked the contrasting blue and gold colors I was working with, and from that I created a loose composition. I knew I wanted a glowing figure surrounded by floating creatures, and the idea to include mechanical fish developed as I was working on the piece. It was very much pieced together as I went, and was a lot of fun.
In browsing through your gallery, your vivid and dramatic use of color stands out. Is this something you consciously focus on?
Definitely. Color is one of my primary focuses; I’m very easily distracted and won over by bright vivid color. I particularly like contrasting color schemes, and when I first begin coloring my sketches I’ll often start with a very strong complimentary color scheme (red and green, blue and orange, etc) as a base, and tone it down a little as I work on it further. I’ve been trying to reign in my color schemes a little bit more lately and try keeping things more muted, but I usually cave in and resort to adding in bolder colors by the time I’m finished.
Where do you look for inspiration in your work?
Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of inspiration from nature. I’ll see the iridescence of a bird’s feathers, the texture of a flower, or the way water glows when the light hits it a certain way, and I try to find a way to incorporate that into an image. I’ve made several illustrations mainly as an excuse to draw honeycombs, octopi, eels, or water reflections.
There are several steampunk-themed pieces in your collection (including the cogs and gears in “Gold Sea.”) What do you enjoy most about the subgenre?
It’s an open-ended and organic blending of science fiction and fantasy that I find very appealing. You have the soft flowing natural forms found often in fantasy art, accented with the sharper crisp edges of science fiction. I can include shining surfaces and gears without having to have a completely sterile hard-edged science fiction piece. I probably don’t do “proper” steampunk; I tend to touch on the subgenre very broadly and somewhat abstractly, but I really enjoy a lot of what it has to offer visually.
What challenges you the most right now with your art?
The biggest challenge right now is pushing my work to the next level. I’ve been trying to learn and master traditional painting as well as digital painting. It’s proving difficult, but I’m enjoying the challenge and am trying to learn as much as I can.