Story Updates and The World of A Digital Artist

Before we get to the main event, my interview with artist, Julie Dillon, I have some news to share with you.  My short story, "Lifesource," is now available in the latest issue of Stupefying Stories!  Dubbed by the editor, Bruce Bethke, as the "Weirder Homes & Gardens" edition, it features twelve stories "of the fantastic, funny, and frightening things that can happen in that most mundane of places: the home, with attached garden."

You can download this edition to your e-reader for just 1.99.  Don't have an e-reader?  That's OK.  Amazon offers a free Kindle for PC download here .

Now on to an interview I'm very excited about.  Last month, I met a digital artist whose wondrous colors transformed her creativity into awe-inspiring images.  Julie Dillon’s artwork drew me in starting with the name badge at ArmadilloCon (see the photo of the image on my name badge below, reprinted with permission).  When I discovered her artwork in the gallery later, I knew this was an artist I needed to meet.  I found Julie to be a very down-to-earth artist who exhibits joy in her work.  I can't blame her.  Her art is breathtaking and draws you into worlds that your imagination didn't know existed.

Planetary Alignment ©  Julie Dillon, With Permission

BVE:  When I first saw our name badges at ArmadilloCon, I wished that the t-shirts had the same image.  Your Planetary Alignment piece is gorgeous, but you know that since it won the Chesley Award in 2010.  Congratulations!  What can you tell us about the development of this piece?  What was your inspiration for the woman?
JD: Thank you so much! I'm really glad you like that piece. It started it out as a contest entry (which I ended up losing, unfortunately), and, initially, I was just trying to make something colorful and eye catching. I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do, so I just experimented with sweeping compositional elements, and as I worked on the image they ended up turning into the giant gold orrery shapes. The central figure was originally going to be a robot, but something just made me realize it needed to be this woman instead. I'm not sure what my inspiration was at the time; I just knew as I was working that I wanted to paint her.

BVEHow have you developed your skill over the years?  What kind of training (formal and informal) have you had?
JD:  It's been really hard, and I still have a long way to go! I started out trying to figure things out on my own while I was busy studying other things. Eventually, I realized I really wanted to focus on art, so I started taking figure drawing classes at my local community college. That went pretty well and I learned a lot. I didn't do enough research, though, and thought that my local university would be good enough. I stuck around long enough to get a BFA, but the program was geared towards abstract expressionism and actively discouraged and disparaged illustration and realism.  I wasn't able to get my real start until I was able to start attending classes at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. More recently, I've taken several workshops at Watts Atelier in Encinitas, CA. They have an excellent program (one of the best I've seen, especially for the type of work I want to do) that allows for a lot of schedule flexibility. It's tricky finding that balance between work and training; I have to be working full-time to afford classes, but I can't take the classes I need if I'm working full-time. One of these days I'll get it figured out.

BVE:  When you figure it out, let me know.  Sounds like one of the same dilemmas writers face.  Your images are computer-generated.  Do you paint by hand or only by computer and why?
JD: I paint digitally only. I used to do pencil sketches and scan them in to color, but I've found I personally work a lot faster if I do it all in Photoshop with my graphics tablet. While I do miss the tactile feel of traditional media, Photoshop doesn't make so much of a mess in my work area, I don't have to spend a lot of time scanning in drawings, and it's easier to make rapid edits and adjustments. I'd like to do more oil studies and paintings, but I have a hard time finding the time to put in the amount of practice I'd need to get my oil painting skills up to the same level as my digital painting skills.

BVE:  Well your digital skills amaze me!  On your website, you mention that you love bright colors.  Where do you think that love came from? Have you tried to paint in darker hues, and if so, how did that affect you?
I get really excited by good, strong complimentary color schemes and bold colors juxtaposed against each other. For some reason, color is one thing I seem to be able to intuit to some degree. People have complimented me on being able to juggle bright colors, but I can't really pin down why or how I pick colors; I just know when it feels "right."

For a while I went through a phase where I was painting a lot of really dark and dreary, desaturated images, but people didn't really connect with them as much. I realized I was being overly self-indulgent of my bad moods at the time. That's not to say that anything with a darker palette means the artist was in a bad mood, that was just how it was for me. I've had a lot more fun with my work since brightening up my palettes. Now, even my paintings that are technically darker still usually have at least a few hits of bright color.

BVE:  It's amazing how much our moods affect our work and our work affects our moods.  What's the most unexpected reaction you've ever gotten to your work?
JD:  I'd have to say someone complaining that some mermaids I drew were too fat, merely because the mermaids had slightly wide hips. It really shouldn't have surprised me, but that rudeness really took me off guard. However, it's made me all the more determined to make sure I keep drawing women of a variety of ages, sizes and ethnicities, since.

BVE:  Good for you!  I know in the SciFi/Fan genre women often appear scantily clad and stacked.  We need a little realism, at least in relation to body shape, for women in fantasy art. While I was preparing for this interview, I noticed a reference in the ArmadilloCon program to a web comic you're working on at What is it called and how did you get involved in web comics?
JD:  That was actually a misprint that I feel really bad about. Gran Grimoire is the project of Taneka Stotts and Christina McKenzie. Taneka was kind enough to write my bio for me for the ArmadilloCon booklet, and I asked that they include a link to Gran Grimoire as a way to thank her, but, instead, it was worded to make it sound like it was my webcomic instead of Taneka's. Taneka Stotts is an exceptional writer, and Christina McKenzie has been doing an amazing job with the artwork, and I'd definitely like to clear that up now that Gran Grimoire is their project, not mine. I was just trying to send some traffic her way to thank her for writing my bio for me, but it backfired a little, unfortunately. 

BVE:  I'm glad to help in that regard.  Hopefully, we'll send some readers their way through this interview.  Where can we see your work next?
JD:  I'm working on the 2014 astrology calender for Llewellyn Worldwide and am wrapping up some labels for a reformulation of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab's Carnaval Diabolique series; both projects have been a lot of fun. I, hopefully, will have some new book covers to announce soon, but I can't say anything more specific about that for another few months, unfortunately. 

BVE:  How exciting!  I can't wait to see what your spectacular imagination creates next. 

Thanks Julie.  It's been interesting comparing the artistic process between artists and writers.  Creativity comes in many ways, but we often use and feel similar emotions.

For those of you interested in viewing more of Julie's work and learning about her creation process, check out her website.  You can purchase copies of her paintings through her online gallery.

Do you have a question for Julie?  Post it in the Comments below.


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