This is the cover art for a privately published novel by an academic specializing in womens' military history. Her name is Linda Grant dePauw and as far as I know from doing the usual web search, she is still alive though she may not be writing science fiction any more. She contacted me at a Maryland convention, if I recall it, and it led to the commission for her cover.
"Baptism of Fire" takes place in dePauw's original world where battleships are big spacecraft spanning the stars. The whole military society is based on the British Navy of the 18th and 19th century, sort of Horatio Hornblower style, but women serve equally with men. What if Horatio was a girl? In this story, a sudden and unexpected enemy attack kills off the entire upper level officer staff, leaving only one young female officer (depicted here in the blue uniform) to be the captain. I did a lot of concept art for dePauw before she approved of the uniforms and the characters. I did the scroll-like title panel and the type as well, painted right into the picture.
In this world of dePauw's, there are two humanoid races as well as at least one alien enemy species. One of them is like our own, except that there appears to be a genetically engineered caste system. The other looks entirely human but they can not speak, and communicate only by telepathy. Those who wish to work with humans must use a voice synthesizer and not attempt to use telepathy with humans. The woman to the left, with her hand on the voice synthesizer, is one of this alternate human race.
One of the more interesting ideas from dePauw's world is that the officers and leaders in the military belong to a group, or caste, called meritocrats, who are mentally constrained to only act in morally correct ways. She does not develop it too much in the story because she wants to keep the action going. But what would a meritocrat do when faced with only two equally morally wrong options? The lesser of two evils? Maybe if dePauw had written more, she would have addressed this. She planned a sequel but I don't think she ever published it.
You can find this book still for sale at this used-book address. Linda Grant dePauw has moved on and is now a "life coach" at this address, the "Magical Godmother," though it seems not to have been updated for a while.
"Baptism of Fire" is acrylic on Strathmore illustration board, 14" x 22", September 1992.