Page 2 of 3

Zhichao Cai

Visual Inspiration: Zhichao Cai

I’ve been ramping up my research for The Bell Forging Cycle, Book IV and while browsing through my Pinterest boards, I kept coming across the work of Chinese illustrator Zhichao Cai also known as Trylea. Since I found his work inspiring, I figured it’d be worth it to take a moment and share some of my favorite pieces with you.

When it comes to mood boards, I tend to like grimy and dank cityscapes occasionally interrupted with bright splashes of neon. So my eye is always drawn to pieces that show clusters of humanity. Trylea’s work has that, but it also differs significantly. It’s mainly due to his use of color. Even his densely packed cities are awash with a vibrancy that captures a unique and frenetic energy—it makes his work stand out, and his pieces serve as a good reminder that even in concept art we don’t need everything to be grim.

I included a small gallery of some of my favorite work below.

You can check out much more of Trylea’s work on his Zcool page, that seems to be where he shares most of his work. He also posts high-resolution versions as well as some process shots. It’s worth spending some time on his page. You can also find him on Behance, and he has some work on Art Station. If you’re not a member of any of those sites, I encourage you to join and give Trylea a follow.

If you like Zhichao Cai’s work be sure to check out some other illustrators and concept artists I’ve shared in the past:

Visual Inspiration by Yuri Shwedoff

Visual Inspiration: Yuri Shwedoff

It’s been too long since I’ve done a visual inspiration post on here, so let’s fix that. I’ve long been a fan of the stunning atmospheric work of Russian artist Yuri Shwedoff, but when a friend of mine mentioned him today, I figured it’d be the perfect time to share his work with you. (So, you can all thank Chris.)

There is something very evocative about Shwedoff’s work and it’s more than his incredible compositions. Each piece tells a story and leaves the viewer hungering for more. That’s why I find it so inspiring. You can hear the howl of the wind moan across vast expanses. You’re there as his figures stare at immense landscapes of ancient monoliths. You can feel the energy present as an unlikely warrior steels herself for the coming of a terrible monster. It’s incredible work.

Dragons by Yrui Shwedoff
Dragons by Yuri Shwedoff
The Sun by Yuri Shwedoff
The Sun by Yuri Shwedoff
Werewolf by Yuri Shwedoff
Werewolf by Yuri Shwedoff
Excalibur by Yuri Shwedoff
Excalibur by Yuri Shwedoff (Also, featured at the top of this post._

Shwedoff is active all over the internet and I highly recommend following him. Start by checking him out on Twitter and Instagram. You can buy your favorite piece from his shop on Society6 and you can also support his work via Paetron and get exclusive HD images, process videos, and PSDs. If you want to see more of his work check it out at Behance or at Art Station. There are a lot of great pieces, it’s hard to pick a favorite. If I had to decide I’d probably settle on Dragons (featured above). There’s a lot going in that single image and clearly more to the story. Which of Yuri Shwedoff’s work is your favorite?

"Wall Market" by Jordan Grimmer (B&W)

Visual Inspiration: Jordan Grimmer

A few days ago, my friend Michael pointed me in the direction of concept artist and illustrator Jordan Grimmer. He mentioned that a few of his pieces reminded him of Lovat, the city that is the central setting of my book, The Stars Were Right, so my interest was piqued. After seeing the work I can’t say I disagree. It’s pretty spectacular stuff and instantly got me in the mood to brainstorm, I knew I had to share his work.

There’s a lot to love here. Grimmer has a wide range of work ranging from the fantastical to the grounded. I love the moods he’s able to capture. Trains billow clouds of white smoke as they rush through cities, airships drift above titanic walls like fat clouds, and neon reflects off the wet streets of a buried neighborhood. It’s great stuff. Click on any of the images below to see them larger:

Train City by Jordan Grimmer
“Train City” by Jordan Grimmer
"Tyr City Walls" by Jordan Grimmer
“Tyr City Walls” by Jordan Grimmer
"Train Graveyard" by Jordan Grimmer
“Train Graveyard” by Jordan Grimmer

I especially liked these two pieces.

"Wall Market" by Jordan Grimmer
“Wall Market” by Jordan Grimmer
"Quick Photo Bash" by Jordan Grimmer
“Quick Photo Bash” by Jordan Grimmer

These images are just a fraction of Grimmer’s impressive body of work. See more on his portfolio site at, he’s also active on deviantART as well. What’s your favorite piece?

Visual Inspiration: Kuldar Leement

Crusaders (Detail) by Kuldar Leement
Crusaders (Detail) by Kuldar Leement

It’s been a while since I have posted a visual inspiration post, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been inspired! Those of you who follow me on Pinterest see me post things almost daily, but I know there a lot of you who just read my blog. So I am overdue.

My friend Ryan O’Nan—who is a marvelous illustrator in his own right (and available for hire!)—shared the work of Kuldar Leement. Ethereal landscapes, strange figures, and gorgeously rendered city scenes dominate his work. Each telling a story of their own. His use of space is what really stands out, in many pieces he creates a vastness that is somehow also very intimate. My favorites below:

Golden Witch Doctor by Kuldar Leement
Golden Witch Doctor by Kuldar Leement
Euphoria by Kuldar Leement
Euphoria by Kuldar Leement
Brofist From God by Kuldar Leement
Brofist From God by Kuldar Leement
Never Quiet by Kuldar Leement
Never Quiet by Kuldar Leement

Amazing work, right? I could post so much more of his work, but you should really just check it out for yourself. See more of Kuldar’s illustrations at his site: —  good stuff. I hope you found it as inspiring as I did.

Visual Inspiration: Marc Simonetti

R'yleh by Marc Simonetti

“In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu
waits dreaming.”

—H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu

While doing some research on R’lyeh this weekend I stumbled across an amazing image of the dead city by French artist Marc Simonetti. I had seen Simonetti’s work before—you probably have as well, he’s behind illustrations and covers for: Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire series, and guys like Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Robin Hobb and Michael Stackpole—but had no idea he had done a whole series on Lovecraft! It’s all great stuff, but I wanted to share a few of my favorite pieces here:

Visual Inspiration by Marc Simonetti
Nyarlathotep by Marc Simonetti
Mountains of Madness by Marc Simonetti
Mountains of Madness

Really great stuff isn’t it? There’s a lot more at Mr. Simonetti’s site and I’d encourage you to check out the rest of Lovecraft’s World. You can see more of his work at his website or on his Deviant Art page and he has a Kickstarter-like campaign going with It’s Art for a new art book called Coverama which still has 22 days left. I think I will be backing this one.

Hope you found Simonetti’s work as inspiring as I did. What piece was your favorite? Leave a comment and let me know! Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Visual Inspiration: Anthony Wolff

Something I miss from old video games was the lack of fidelity. Okay, okay, hear me out, I have reasons. These days graphics in games have gotten to the point that it requires no imagination from the player. Back in the old 8-bit days there was a lot of room for our imagination to explore. While I appreciate the immersion high-fidelity photorealistic graphics, I do fondly remember those pixels of yesteryear. That mass of color could become a terrifying monster, or a beautiful princess, or a lush forest. I was guided by the artist and limited only by my imagination.

All that rambling reminisce leads me into explaining why I love these pieces from illustrator Anthony Wolff. His style reminds me a lot of that old pixel art. His loose brush strokes allows us to grasp concepts but also leaves room for our imagination to fill in the gaps. It’s a neat effect and it allows him to create stunning scenes full of masterful detail:

Sharn: City Of Towers


Click each image to see it larger. You can see more of Anthony Wolff’s work at his portfolio or on his deviantART page. I’d encourage you to explore his other work as well, he’s incredibly prolific and has something for everyone.