Rising from the Sea of Smoke by Julie DillonRising from the Sea of Smoke by Julie DillonRising from the Sea of Smoke by Julie DillonRising from the Sea of Smoke by Julie Dillon

When Kate Elliott, author of The Spiritwalker Trilogy, approached me about the idea of debuting artwork from Julie Dillon, who’s just about the greatest thing going in fantasy and science fiction art at the moment, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. For all of genre’s current obsession on gritty-grimdark-[insert buzzword here], Dillon is a shining beacon of colour, imagination and diversity among the drab, grey-cloaked and tired masses.

Last week, I gave a sneak peek of the art on A Dribble of Ink’s new Tumblr page (check it out, yo.), and today I’m proud to debut “Rising from the Sea of Smoke,” artwork by Julie Dillon, inspired and commissioned by Kate Elliott.

Kate Discusses “Rising from the Sea of Smoke”

I love illustrated books but it is only with the advent of the internet, digital tools for publishing and art, and the ebook that it finally occurred to me that I could hire an artist to draw pictures set in my worlds. When I decided to commission an artist to illustrate a short story in the Spiritwalker universe, I was thrilled that Julie Dillon agreed to work with me. She’s a fabulous artist with an amazing and distinctive style and an astonishing color palette that makes her paintings exceptionally vivid.

Last October over on The Book Smugglers I wrote a post about creating “The Secret Journal of Beatrice Hassi Barahal,” which is available in both pdf and in print form from Crab Tank.

Besides the black and white drawings for the journal, I also asked Julie for two color illustrations. I picked the subjects based on passages from Cold Steel that I thought would be visually evocative.

As a guide I sent Julie this passage:

The heroines Cat and Bee have descended into the lowest depths of the spirit world. They emerge out of a cave onto a beach where “(t)he sky was as gray as northern slate, and the sea was a churning boil of smoke.”

As they stare “(a) sweep of color washed through the smoky sea . . . Night swept down. Lights like fireflies twinkled against a black sky. The sea surged, lifting like cloth raised from beneath by a hand. A bright shape emerged, smoke spilling off it in currents.

The dragon loomed over us. Its head was crested as with a filigree that reminded me of a troll’s crest, if a troll’s crest spanned half the sky. Silver eyes spun like wheels. It was not bird or lizard, not was it a fish. Most of its body remained beneath the smoke. Ripples revealed a dreadful expanse of wings as wide as fields, shimmering pale gold like ripe wheat under a harsh sun. When its mouth gape, I knew it could swallow us in one gulp.
We had come to a place we ought not to be.”

“For the dragon image, it made sense to me to have the dragon looming up over Bee and Cat’s tiny figures, to try to emphasize the size difference between them,” said Julie.

I call it “Rising from the Sea of Smoke.”