kickstarter_jdillon

On my bedroom wall is a an art print called Life in Motion, by an incredibly talented artist named Julie Dillon. I’ve been a fan of her work for years, so when I heard tell that she had created a kickstarter to fund the first book of her Imagined Realm series, I was ecstatic to pledge.

This campaign isn’t just great because it showcases Julie’s amazing artwork, it is also an incredible for another reason: “‘Imagined Realms’ gives me the opportunity to spend more time creating my own illustrations and projects, and also gives me the chance to create more illustrations that feature positive and diverse representations of women.” Every piece of artwork in this book is of a beautiful, empowered, diverse and unique woman, all set in a fantasy world all her own. The end product is breath-taking.

I am incredibly excited to share with you an interview with Julie Dillon herself. She has graciously taken the time to answer a few questions about her artwork and her already-funded Kickstarter campaign.

jdillon01

Interview with Artist Julie Dillon

01. Your kickstarter only just launched and it’s already exceeded your goal. How do you feel with having such an amazing success already?

I feel relieved! This whole process has been really stressful, and it’s a big weight off my shoulders to know that I was able to get it funded. There’s still a ways to go to reach the stretch goals, and I have a lot of stuff to add on if the kickstarter gets to that level. Of course, while I want this to be as successful as possible, I’m also very aware of the fact that the higher it goes, the more work I’ll have to do to pack and ship everything. It’s just a big undertaking in general.

02. Tell us a little about what your process was for launching your kickstarter.

There was a lot more preparation work than I realized. At first I was only focused on making the art for the book, which was a big enough task in itself and took up several months. But as I got ready to launch, I realized I had to make all the site graphics, write up the press release, create a video (which I’d never done before), shop around for printers, price everything out, etc. I tried to stay on top of everything and not get too overwhelmed. If you just take it one small task at a time, it’s not so bad.

03. I adore that you’re focusing on empowered and diverse women. Is there a female person (fiction or non) that has inspired you in your work?

I don’t know that I can point to one individual person. I think rather I take inspiration from most women I meet, in some way or form. Their perseverance, how they handle adversity, their joy and love and how they express that in different ways.

jdillon02

04. Your work is so wonderfully colorful! Do you have a favorite color palette you enjoy working with the most?

I noticed a while back that the purple and gold combo tends to show up a lot in my work. I’m partial to anything with a complimentary color scheme, since that tends to be a very eye-catching and dynamic. Sometimes I try to do something with a more subtle or desaturated palette, but I always end up making it more bright and colorful in the end.

05. What advice would you give another artist who is hoping to launch a kickstarter for their own work?

Get as much prepared beforehand as possible, and plan your promotion strategy long before you launch. You need to get the word out, or it’ll be a lot harder to get funded. Avoid promotional services that you have to pay for; I tried a few and so far they have done absolutely nothing, whereas working with my existing contacts and networks led to most of my traffic. Think about what kind of blogs and websites might be interested in your project, and send them your press release and ask if they’d be interested in featuring you or maybe even interviewing you. Many won’t respond, but some might, and every little bit helps. Be prepared emotionally if the kickstarter doesn’t go well, but also be prepared logistically if it ends up being really successful. Lots of people get overwhelmed in the order fulfillment stage because they didn’t plan properly. But, also bear in mind that at the time I’ve written this, I’m only about a week and a half into my first kickstarter, and I still have a lot of learning to do myself. :)

jdillon03

Pledge to this Kickstarter!

You can pledge to Julie’s Imagined Realms: Book 1 Kickstarter by going to that page and donating at any pledge level. She has some great rewards and some even better stretch goals! So pledge, share, and celebrate in the awesome crowdfunding abilities of art lovers!

Anna Akana is an actress and YouTuber extraordinaire, and while she says she’s still trying to find her voice, I think she’s pretty solidly found it, if this recent video of hers has anything to say about it.

This is the best “make-up” video I’ve ever seen. Be confident. Be bold. Be the most beautiful You you can be. (And there ain’t nothing wrong or anti-feminist about wanting to look good to give yourself that extra confidence and happiness boost – I’ve had THAT conversation way more times than I can count.)

As Anna says, “The power of make up is incredible, but the power of you is cray cray.”

The World of Hayao Miyazaki + Beautiful Fanart [Part 2]

Hello friends! Here is Part 2 of our Miyazaki Fanart showcase! I have so many gorgeous pieces of artwork to show you – it’s always hard to choose, but I hope you’ll agree that these are some of the greatest. Hayao Miyazaki is a master at his craft, but these illustrations could give him a run for his money (okay, well maybe not). Don’t forget to read Part 1 if you missed it – it features the first five movies and an introduction who the man who directed these beautiful films is.

Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke is one of my absolute favorites of Miyazaki’s. “The story concentrates on involvement of the outsider Ashitaka in the struggle between the supernatural guardians of a forest and the humans of the Iron Town who consume its resources. There can be no clear victory, and the hope is that relationship between humans and nature can be cyclical.” – Wikipedia.

mononoko-sang

mononoko-saki

mononoko-jenmundy

mononoke-yaphleen

(more…)

The World of Hayao Miyazaki + Beautiful Fanart [Part 1]

This is a post long in the making. A post I have been in the process of writing for a long time. A post highlighting the work of the greatest animator of our time: Hayao Miyazaki and his wonderful Studio Ghibli. A man who has brought more tears to my eyes than any other movie creator. I can’t adequately explain how his movies make me feel, but anyone who has ever watched Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke or any of his epic masterpieces… well. You understand.

Who is Hayao Miyazaki?

“Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese manga artist and prominent film director and animator of many popular anime feature films. Through a career that has spanned nearly fifty years, Miyazaki has attained international acclaim as a maker of animated feature films and, along with Isao Takahata, co-founded Studio Ghibli, a film and animation studio.” – Wikipedia.

He is best known for his strong female characters, his simple line art but elaborate background paintings, and his love for nature and magic and the belief that children are the most remarkable and courageous people on this earth. All of this shines in every one of his works.

In honor of The Wind Rises arriving to the US, I thought I would do a showcase of some of my favorite Miyazaki movie fanart. I absolutely love seeing how different artists bring his characters to light. Because he’s done so much amazing work – I’m breaking this up into 2 posts and we’re going to focus on the work he directed under Studio Ghibli. On with the show!
(more…)

fuel-jg04-150x150Of all the illustrators alive today, there has been one man whose work has been a constant fixture throughout my life. I was one of those strange girls that would rather be outside excavating dinosaur bones in my backyard, getting my hands and knees dirty, than inside with a dollhouse. I spent countless hours pretending to be a world-famous archeologist, discovering hidden temples and pretending I had stumbled upon portals to other worlds. My favorite book reflected this: Dinotopia by James Gurney. I poured over those books, taped print-outs of his paintings on my wall, and I still have my first copy of The World Beneath on the bookshelf – now with the spine taped together because of the many times that book accompanied me into the woods. When I graduated high school, as my gift, my parents drove me hours away to a tiny museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin where James Gurney’s Dinotopia paintings were on display. They are even more incredible in person. My favorite painting? The Black Fish Tavern from The World Beneath. The use of light and detail in that painting is incredible and I remember walking around the last corner of that gallery and there it was, sitting on an easel as you walked out the door.

For those who don’t know him, James Gurney is a writer and illustrator, best known for Dinotopia and his work for National Geographic Magazine. “He specializes in painting realistic images of scenes that can’t be photographed, from dinosaurs to ancient civilizations.” In fact, one of my favorite art guide books is Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist, an excellent book for anyone interested in fantasy illustration. You can learn much more about James Gurney and his work by visiting his website, which was recently redesigned by his talented son, Dan. Check it out and take a look at his gallery. Thank you again to James for this fantastic interview. Enjoy!

On with the Dinosaurs! …I mean Interview!

fuel-jg03

As a kid, dinosaurs played a huge role in my everyday imaginary adventures. How were you first introduced to dinosaurs and the different civilizations that make appearances in Dinotopia and when did they begin to appear in your sketchbooks?

I was bitten by the dinosaur bug as a kid, thanks to the Zdenek Burian illustrations in the Time/Life book on evolution and a few trips to natural history museums. I was also fascinated by lost civilizations. I grew up with a bound set of old National Geographics outside my bedroom door. I’d tiptoe out in the hall at night to read about great explorers like Hiram Bingham discovering Machu Picchu. My ambition in third grade was to find a dinosaur or a lost city. I started excavations in my backyard and had my friends helping me until their mothers told them they couldn’t come over anymore because they always came home with their pockets full of dirt.

I majored in archaeology at UC Berkeley, and then worked for many years as an illustrator for National Geographic. They put me in an early grave, you might say, by sending me on assignment to Etruscan Italy to poke around some recently discovered tombs in Tarquinia. They also sent me to Rome, Athens, and Jerusalem, and I worked with a lot of archaeologists and paleontologists. Around 1988 in my spare time I started doing big paintings of lost empires and I came up with the idea of drawing a map of an island and telling about it through the journal of a Victorian explorer named Arthur Denison.

Does your artistic process differ when you’re working on paintings for your fictional books in comparison with work for instructional art books or commissioned pieces?

Not really. Both my Dinotopia paintings and my scientific illustrations are imaginative work, meaning there’s no photo to copy. The idea is to do a realistic painting of something that isn’t visible in front of me. For both science and fantasy paintings, I have to do lots of sketches, and maybe pose models or build maquettes. If it’s a commissioned illustration, I might have to resolve the sketches a bit more than I would if I was doing a Dinotopia painting. The artistic process does differ of course for my plein air work, where I work on oil primed panels, drawing the subject directly with a brush.
fuel-jg02

In your experience, what was more beneficial in helping you grow as an artist: formal art education or your personal travels and learning on your own?

For me the most beneficial thing was learning on my own and traveling, simply because most art schools weren’t teaching the good stuff 30 years ago. You had to dig it out from the old art instruction books that were 50 or 100 years old. Doing that felt like having Norman Rockwell or Harold Speed or Andrew Loomis as your teacher. Many art schools are better now, and are offering a good skill-based foundation. Still, I’m a real believer in learning through direct observation of nature, which means carrying a sketchbook around constantly, and painting outdoors.

Imaginative Realism is a fantastic book, but for those who haven’t read it – how do you go about creating your paintings of creatures that no longer exist? What steps must you take for the creatures to look as real as they do?

I work completely in pencil and oil. My studio is upstairs in my house, and it’s crammed full of art books, maquettes of architecture, old theater costumes, and sculptures of dinosaurs. My method is based on the nineteenth century academic approach: thumbnail sketches in black and white and color, studies or photos from costumed models, plein air sketches, and lots of reference photos filed away in a set of filing cabinets. The really elaborate paintings can take as long as six weeks, but an average painting goes together in about six days. During my lecture tour this fall I’ll be doing presentations at several different art schools and studios in LA and Ohio. People can find out the list on my blog under “Upcoming Appearances.”
fuel-jg05

Your blog is an amazing resource for all sorts of traditional artists. What is the biggest piece of advice you could give to a blossoming illustrator?

Thanks for the compliment. As far as advice, I’d start by saying: don’t worry! Professionals in the business often complain about the headaches of stock art, photo-illustration, lousy contracts, and disappearing clients. There’s no doubt: it’s a tough time right now to make a living as an illustrator. But it has always been a changing business, whether you were working in 1905, 1925, or 1955. In many ways, this is the best time ever to enter the field. We live in a more visual culture than ever, and never before has fantasy and science fiction been so central to our culture.

I’d also recommend balancing imaginative and observational work. Sketch from life and sketch from your head. And don’t worry about developing a style. Just observe nature faithfully when you’re young. The style will come naturally.

We have more resources at our fingertips—tools, references, printing technology—than any of our artistic ancestors ever dreamed of, and there are unlimited opportunities if we can just try to rise to the high ideals and standards that they stood for. Illustration is a proud calling. We should never forget how lucky we are to be able to conjure dreams out of thin air.

And finally… in one word, what “fuels” your illustration?

Probably the same thing that has fueled artists all along—the desire to tell a story, to bring a character to life, to create a doorway into a world that no one had ever imagined before. I’m constantly reminded of the impact that still pictures can have over us. I got a letter last week from a young woman who is an art student in Germany. She said she found her old copy of Dinotopia after it had been misplaced for many years, and she remembered something her father said about it. He told her that it was a magical book, and that every time she opened it up, there would be a new picture hidden somewhere in its pages that she had never seen before.
fuel-jg01

You can learn more about James Gurney here: