Interview: Julie Dillon, Artist

We’re thrilled to have an interview with our anthology cover artist Julie Dillon. If you’re a fan of genre fiction, you’ve probably seen her work, even if you didn’t know it.

A bit about Julie:

She is a Hugo Award winning artist from California. Her clients include Simon & Schuster, Tor Books, Penguin Books, and Wizards of the Coast, and she is working on self publishing her own art books.

Hi Julie! Please tell us a little bit about yourself: What got you interested in art? Have you taken any art classes or have an education background in art?

I have always had a creative outlet of some sort, whether it was drawing, writing, crafts, or music, but over time I eventually gravitated towards art. I like being able to express myself visually; it allows me to be both direct and subtle, and lets me really play around with light and color and shape. I have a patchy education in art, pieced together from bits and pieces at different schools and workshops. I have a BFA from a local school, but I got most of my actual training from the Academy of Arts University in San Francisco, and the Watts Atelier in Encinitas CA.

What is your preferred medium and why?

While I love traditional media, I prefer working digitally. It’s what I’ve practiced with the most, so I’ve become more proficient with it than other media. I also like how portable it is. I can get my freelance work done anywhere that I can plug in my laptop. I don’t have to wait for canvases to dry, I don’t have to keep buying paint and brushes and canvases, and storage is never an issue. However, I do not have physical originals of my work, which is a big downside. Whenever I display at an art show, I can only put up prints. Giclees and canvas prints can be beautiful, but it’s not quite the same as an actual original painting.

What got you interested in doing freelance illustration? Can you tell us some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

I wanted to do art, but I also wanted to be able to support myself, and doing artwork for clients seemed like a good way to afford to do what I loved. I didn’t think I had the skill for doing animation or concept art work, and I wasn’t interested in pursuing fine art gallery work, so doing freelance illustration, which would afford me a lot of creative freedom and flexibility, seemed like a great idea.

I don’t really have a favorite project.

How is the freelance process different from creating personal art? What do you like about it? What do you dislike?

Mostly, when I do a freelance illustration, I have to have every stage of the illustration approved by an art director, whereas when I’m working on my own work, I am only accountable to myself and I can do whatever I want. I like the freedom associated with doing my own work, but sometimes it is helpful to have an art director to help me narrow down choices or to bounce ideas off of.

Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?

There isn’t any one major source; I get a lot of inspiration from nature (either from being out in it or from photos), as well as from listening to music, looking at art, watching movies, etc. I tend to pick up little bits and peices of things that I cobble together into something different. Art is the way I filter and process the things or ideas that I find beautiful or interesting. I try to find a way to capture how something made me feel.

What advice do you have for beginning artists who want to become professional illustrators, especially for fantasy and sci-fi art?

Be patient with yourself, because it’s a lot of hard work, and it probably isn’t going to all happen right away. It’s okay if it takes a while to build your career; start small and work your way up. Freelancing is hard at any stage, and there’s no shame in needing a 2nd job to help you pay the bills. If the work is slow, that doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough, it just means the work is slow; this happens to everyone. Finding your own artistic voice is just as important as developing technical skills, so don’t sacrifice too much of your own ideas in the pursuit of technical proficiency.

What kind of work would you like to do in the future?

Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. I feel like I’m at a crossroads, and am adjusting my course somewhat, trying to figure out where I want to go from here.

You’ve had two very successful Kickstarter projects. Do you have any others planned for the future?

Nothing concrete, yet. I pushed the first two out in rapid succession, and I feel like I need a bit of a breather now before I start planning out more. I’d like to eventually put more self published works out, though.

Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where we can view your work?

Thanks for your time, Julie! We look forward to seeing you and your imaginative artwork continue to popup all over the place.