The Artist’s Den Featuring JULIE DILLON (+ Giveaway!)

May 7, 2013 Artist's Den, General, Giveaways, Interviews 17




The Artist’s Den is a new feature here at SWR where I showcase something I’m obsessed about – fantasy art.  Though I’m no expert, I truly appreciate the beauty, originality, and pure creativity of this genre of art. 

This feature is inspired by my previous posts under the SHELF CANDY meme which was hosted by the wonderful Maria at A Night’s Dream of Books.  I loved doing interviews with cover artists under that meme but found that I often wanted to feature the work of artists who had not done traditional covers but still did work related to fantasy and science fiction.  I plan to feature an artist at least twice a month and, while I realize this is not always going to be book related, I do hope you enjoy these posts as much as I do.


Please note that all images are subject to copyright protection and are property of today’s featured artist – Julie Dillon.



To kick off this new feature, I’d like to welcome the Hugo nominated artist JULIE DILLON to the blog.  Julie has done incredible work for the online series of shorts and for science fiction magazines such as Apex.  Recent projects include new covers for the reissue of the Darkness is Rising Sequence from Simon and Schuster and the 2014 Llewellyn Astrological Calendar.  Her work is full of energy, vibrant color, and interesting compositions; Dillon’s compelling images always make me want to know the narrative that inspired them.

Please welcome Julie to the blog as she discusses her process and her influences.  And stick around for the giveaway at the end of the interview!




1.  When did you know you wanted to be an artist?  Is there an experience that stands out as being a defining moment for you as an artist?

There wasn’t any one particular moment. I’ve always been drawing off and on for most of my life, but I had other interests as well, and it took me a lot time and a lot of soul searching to figure out what it was I wanted to do. For a while I thought I was going to be a computer science major, but that didn’t work out; I then tried technical theater, but that didn’t work either. Each time I kept coming back to art, because I could make a little side money doing private commissions for people. Eventually I decided I’d give art a real try, and I started training and working harder at it. But even after taking classes and eventually getting pro work, I still doubted myself and still wondered if I’d made the right choice. It’s hard to support yourself as a freelance artist, especially when starting out, and there were several times I almost gave up. Even after winning a few awards, I still have a lot of self doubt and have trouble calling myself an artist sometimes. I’m doing okay for the moment and starting to feel like I might have a chance at an okay career, but there definitely has not been any one defining moment that clarified things; just lots of hard work that hasn’t ended in complete failure (yet) X) 




2.  Who are some of the artists who’ve influenced or inspired you and why?
Currently my favorite artists are Jon Foster, for his dynamic compositions  and ability to abstract and warp a scene to help aid the narrative of his illustrations; Donato Giancola, for his superb draftsmanship, solid compositions, and his obvious passion for the craft; and Sam Weber, for his incredible draftsmanship and his ability to seamlessly integrate graphic elements and abstraction within his illustration. There are countless other artists I admire, but I have to say those are my current top three. I know I’ll never reach their level, but I strive to learn from them and others and be the best I can.
3.  What is your creative process and are there any rituals or routines you have prior to starting a project?
I wouldn’t say I have any rituals or routines, really, I just try to dig in and get the work done as quickly as possible. One thing I’ve learned is that with my deadlines, I don’t really have the luxury to wait until I’m in the right mood; I just have to get things done no matter my surroundings or emotional state. I do have a process, though. I brainstorm ideas, then make thumbnails for the client. Once the client approves a thumbnail, I’ll move onto the polished sketch, and once that’s approved, I start work on the color version and progress towards the final. If it’s a personal project, then I have more flexibility schedule wise, but often I’ll start a sketch and leave it unfinished until inspiration strikes. 
4.  How would you describe your style as an artist?
This is always difficult to answer… I feel like whatever “style” I have is simply inability to achieve the look I want. I try to paint a certain way, and it rarely turns out the way I want, so I try to mask my shortcomings with bright colors and swirling lines, and what I’m left with is what people consider my style. 
Planetary Alignment

Planetary Alignment

5.  Two of my favorite works of yours are Planetary Alignment and Artificial Dream.  Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind these pieces?
Both started out as loose sketches with no real direction in mind, until I developed them further and started figuring out narratives and themes. Usually I brainstorm an idea first, but with both of those pieces I started with very little and brainstormed as I went along. 
Artificial Dream

Artificial Dream

6.  Artificial Dream was the cover for the novella Silently and Very Fast by Catherine Valente.  Was the art commissioned for the novella or was it something you had worked on before and adapted to the novella?
I did Artificial Dreams beforehand on my own, and it was licensed as-is later on for use on the cover for “Silently and Very Fast.” Cat Valente thinks it fits her story very well without needing changes, but I really liked the imagery in her book and I wonder if I might have been able to make something that fit it better. 
7.  What is your favorite medium to work in and why?
I appreciate oils, and I wish I was better with them, but I prefer to work digitally with Photoshop. I love the tactile quality of traditional media, but I like Photoshop because it’s cleaner (no paint-stained clothes!), I don’t have to wait for things to dry, I have more editing options, and I don’t have to constantly purchase new materials (like brushes, canvases, paint, solvents, etc). Working digitally has it’s shortcomings  of course; you are little more physically removed from the work, and you don’t have an actual physical original painting that you can hang and sell. But for better or worse, Photoshop is what I started with and what I’m used to. 
8.  Can you describe your workspace?
I do all my work digitally, so my work area is a computer with a dual-monitor set up on my desk, with some action figures and artwork around my work station. Nothing too unusual or exciting. It’s comfortable and quiet so I can work without too many distractions. 
9.  If you were given the opportunity to create the cover for any one book, what would that book be and why?
I don’t know, I think working on my favorite books would be too stressful, because I’d always be worried that I didn’t do it enough justice. Instead I’m just grateful for whatever work I get, and do the best job I can with every cover. 
10.  What side projects, passion projects, or upcoming art would you like to share with us?
I recently finished up work for Llewellyn Worldwide’s Astrology Calendar, which was a big project for me:
(I’m posting one piece per day until they are all up: ) I have a few other things going on, but I’m not allowed to talk about them yet.





To purchase prints of Julie’s work, please check out her store here.  And now for the giveaway…one 8×10 print of one of my favorites – Planetary Alignment. 

Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

Planetary Alignment

Planetary Alignment

About the Artist

Artificial Dream

Julie Dillon is a freelance illustrator living and working in Northern California.

She received a BFA in Fine Arts from Sacramento State University in 2005, with continued education at the Academy of Arts University in San Francisco and Watts Atelier.

Julie is a 2013 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Professional Artist and 2012 World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Artist. 


Please visit JULIE at her favorite spots:



17 Responses to “The Artist’s Den Featuring JULIE DILLON (+ Giveaway!)”

  1. lindsay

    I like artificial dream because of the Science Fiction theme.

  2. Stephanie

    I really love Reassurance because there is so much raw emotion from the characters in that scene.

    • shewolfreads

      Felicia! I know…I wish I had an ounce of what these artists do. The work is just beautiful.

  3. sandyg265

    I like Planetary Allignment because it reminds me of a classic Sc-Fi cover.

  4. AJ Larrieu

    Fantastic interview! Julie, I love what you said about always striving to get the image to match the idea in your head but always feeling that you’ve fallen short. As a writer, I feel this way too, every time. I like to think it’s part of pushing yourself and being committed to your craft.

    I love all of the art you’ve shared here today. You manage to convey a lot of emotion with these images. It’s so hard to pick, but I think Artificial Dreams might be my favorite. Or maybe Treasure from the Deep…such a sense of hidden depth & secrets.

    Awesome stuff. Thanks for sharing!