Lost Phoenixes - detail from final illustration for a science fiction short story in magazine

I recently had the good fortune to be hired to create some black and white (actually “grayscale” since everything is not only black and white in the picture) for a short story in a (for now) to-remain-nameless science fiction magazine. Above is a detail from the final drawing that I made for the publication.

I started by reading the story, and then creating a character to go with it — in this case the viewpoint character. I created the original as a 3D character model that I rendered, and then made a drawing from that test render to determine whether I could produce the “look” I wanted. Here’s that first test drawing:

Beautiful Dreamer model for art in science fiction magazine

This worked — except that her hair seemed a little short. So I created longer hair on the 3D model, and then posed her for a “head-on” shot with just a slight turn away from the viewer. Since the Earth and Moon figured in the story, I placed her in front of both. Here’s the result:

Lost_Phoenixes - black bacground version of final sci-fi magazine artwork

This was a little “heavy” with all the dark surfaces, especially the background of space. Since each of the picture elements was on it’s own layer (all of my art is digital), it was simple to turn the black background white, remove the Earth, and enlarge the Moon, adding a transparency gradient to the lunar surface so it didn’t clash with her dark uniform. I then used a digital “wet brush” to lighten and smear the lower edge of the picture to frame everything in white.

Lost Phoenixes -final magazine illustration for sci-fi short story

And that seemed just perfect. So…


I cross my fingers, hope the editor approves it, and then wait for the issue to come out, sometime this fall.


Duncan Long is an illustrator who creates a variety of art for books and magazines. You can find more of his illustrations at: Duncan Long’s Online Art Gallery.