Ciruelo, Illustrators of the Future Judge

Ciruelo’s “Dragon Caller” Provides Magical Cover for Writers of the Future Vol 34

We are very excited to announce that world-renowned artist Ciruelo has provided the cover art for L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34 releasing April 2018. And we hope you like it too! Known for his fantasy paintings, Ciruelo is perhaps best known as the illustrator of The Official Eragon Coloring Book.

“Dragon Caller” depicts a high magician standing on a platform carved with symbols which amplify the power of his summoning a dragon. Ciruelo stated, “The scene depicts some kind of collaborative relationship between dragons and humans, which is the kind of situations I prefer to paint instead of battle scenes among them.”

Last year and for the first time, we successfully paired the skills of two masters when we gave Larry Elmore’s cover art to Todd McCaffrey and asked him to write a short story based on the painting. And so Larry Elmore’s “Crimson Dawn” inspired Todd McCaffrey to write “The Dragon Killer’s Daughter” published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 33.

Based on its success, we are once again pairing two accomplished professionals. Ciruelo’s “Dragon Caller” was given to Jody Lynn Nye from which she has written her story called “Illusion.” By the way, for those of you who don’t know, Jody was co-author with Anne McCaffrey on many projects including The Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern. About working with Ciruelo, Jody stated, “I love having something to inspire me when I write. I was delighted to have the opportunity to write a story based on the splendid piece of artwork that forms the cover of this anthology, a fantasy painting by Ciruelo. It so happened that the subject matter dovetailed neatly with another fantasy series I have been working on. Instead of treating with the main character of that series, this story hearkens back decades to her employer, a great wizard—or so he seems.”

After being introduced to the Illustrators of the Future contest by fellow contest judge Larry Elmore (Dungeons & Dragons cover art), Ciruelo became a judge in 2017. “I feel honored to have been invited to be part of this prestigious contest which I considered to be an invaluable opportunity for writers and artists to start a professional career. And I’m personally thankful because the Fantasy / Science Fiction genre benefits from this generous event created by Mr. Hubbard.”

Now that you have seen the cover for Writers of the Future Volume 34, what do you think?

Vida Cruz, WotF 2nd Quarter 2017 winner

Meet the Winners – Vida Cruz – 2nd Q 2017

When it comes to writing advice, many writers will tell you not to stop writing. I’m going to be contradictory for a bit and tell you that yes, you should stop—at the right time, for the right reasons.

I’ve been writing stories since I was eight years old. Not much to tell about what I wrote in that period because what sticks out in my mind are long-winded attempts at Harry Potter fanfiction. What you should know is that I joined certain clubs—the literary club and the school newspaper in grade school, the latter of which was my club high school. As a college undergrad majoring in Creative Writing, these clubs morphed into workshops at the collegiate and national levels; and while I didn’t join the school paper or the literary publication, I did help start a creative writing student organization. Two years after graduating with what was apparently the longest thesis in the history of my program at that point—250 pages—I took a leave from my job as a journalist to attend the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop in San Diego (it was there that I met my friend Leena Likitalo, a first place winner fresh from the Writers of the Future ceremony in 2014). Even if it wasn’t always clear to me that I wanted to be a writer, it was always clear that I wanted to write.

You might glean from this short history of my writing life that I work hard, perhaps even passionate. That much is true. But that history doesn’t mention that time I stopped writing for three years to focus almost exclusively on drawing and playing the violin. It doesn’t mention the six months immediately after my graduation where I couldn’t write a new draft or even revise the 32,000-word novella I submitted as part of my thesis. Nor does it mention the two-month dry spell following my stint at Clarion, or the four-month non-writing period following the completion of my second-ever novella.

I didn’t stop writing during those times because I wanted to. I stopped writing because I’d run out of things to say. I repeatedly failed to understand that the reason creativity is likened to a well is that it is finite. Time and again I’ve hit the bottom of that well because I couldn’t tell when the waters were beginning to dry up.

And if I’d done some introspection much sooner, I would’ve realized that after I took a trip with my family to Hong Kong six months after my post-graduation burnout, I’d written the two stories that won me a slot at Clarion. I would’ve realized that in the two months of writing nothing after Clarion, I started the novella that got me lovely but devastating rejections and a few invitations to submit more stuff. And now, I know that in the two creatively-empty months following another painful rejection for that novella, I won Silver Honorable Mention for the third quarter of the 2016 Writers of the Future contest.

At the end of those two months, I wrote the story that won me first place in the second quarter of the 2017 Writers of the Future contest.

When I got the call that I’d won in August, I’d been on another writing hiatus since May—self-imposed this time, to head off another burnout before it took hold completely. With a new slew of rejections under my belt, I’d been starting to despair of my stories ever finding an audience. If I didn’t stop writing, at least for the time being, I was going to hate it—and that may have made me quit for good. But not long after I won, I was finishing a short story I started years ago and writing down the first five pages of what would become the first chapter of a novel in progress. It was nice to know that even though I was mostly writing words into the void and learning to be okay with that, some of those words reached people who actually liked them.

So, if you’ve been writing for hours on end, day in and day out, I say stop—at least for a little while. Give your brain a break. Fill the well. Because when you eventually return to your writing—and if you’re serious enough, you will always return to it—you never know, you might just write your WOTF-winning story.

Larry Elmore & Rob Prior onstage painting a dragon at the Writers of the Future Vol 33 awards ceremony

Can You Draw a Dragon? How Illustrators of the Future Inspires Students

I am teaching in a home school environment and have students who are artists at heart.  Each week I teach an art class that focuses on specific skills as well as ideas that inspire.  These classes validate the imaginative minds of my students in addition to simply being fun.

After this year’s Writers and Illustrators of the Future Event, I was inspired to teach a class on dragons.  I first showed my students (ages 4 to 14) portions of the live stream event starting with the opening sequence with the live action painting of a dragon on stage by two amazing artists, Rob Prior and Larry Elmore:

This was followed by Pat Henry’s fantastic “Dragons 101” speech.  The kids really loved this presentation and the wheels were turning!

I then showed them a YouTube tutorial (Art for Kids Hub with the very kid-friendly artist from Utah named Rob) on how to draw a dragon.

The students followed along and drew their own dragon.  Most of the students were certain they could never draw THAT, but all achieved successful results. Here are two samples of the finished products.

drawing of a dragon

drawing of a dragon

The students especially appreciated the fact that they could choose specific colors and personality traits for their dragons, even though they had to follow certain steps to learn the basics.

Art empowers anyone who will jump in and give it a try, and I thank the Writer’s and Illustrator’s Contest for not only featuring the creative efforts of some of our finest new artists on the scene, but also for inspiring the Future Artists of the Future, if I may coin a name for the group, to find their own personal genius through the arts.


Sisu Raiken

Sisu Raiken

Guest Blogger, Sisu Raiken received a BA in Music from Upsala College and studied at The Mannes School for Music, The National Shakespeare Conservatory and The National Improvisational Theatre in New York City. She has taught voice, acting and fine art and also has directed musicals and plays. She has held the position of Artistic Director at The New Village Leadership Academy, an independent school in Calabasas, California from 2005 to 2013. She is currently on the arts faculty for Every Kid’s A Genius.

Michael Michera on the red carpet with singer Joy Villa

Spotlight on artist Michael Michera

Michael Michera is a self-taught artist who found out about L. Ron Hubbard’s Illustrators of the Future Contest quite accidentally from a friend who then persuaded him to enter. That accidental encounter resulted in Michael winning the grand prize.

The contest, which is in its 28th year, costs nothing to enter. And thousands of artists enter every year from all over the world. The judging is done by top professionals and is anonymous, meaning the judging is done blind without reference to name, gender or nationality.

About Michael and His Art

Grand prize winner, Michael Michera

Grand prize winner, Michael Michera

Michael was born and raised in Poland where he currently resides. When it comes to art, he has been passionate about prehistoric animals since childhood, when he began drawing dinosaurs and creating his own creatures from his imagination. Later his interest expanded to include all animals and biology in general. He read many books on this topic and earned priceless knowledge for his current work as a concept artist.

As a youngster, Michael watched a lot of horror and sci-fi movies and it is those films, and most particularly the movie Alien, that has influenced his art.

Michael has always been fascinated by traditional drawing as well as comic art. He loves to experiment with art styles, though he most enjoys creating robots and futuristic designs of sci-fi technology. He uses digital painting and 3D sculpture in his creations.

Illustrators Workshop and Awards Celebration

As a winner of the Contest, Michael came to Los Angeles and attended the Illustrators of the Future Workshop the week prior to the awards celebration. The workshop is exclusively for the artist winners, and instructors include Coordinating Judge Echo Chernik along with judges Lazarus Chernik, Ciruelo, Larry Elmore, Sergey Poyarkov and a host of special guest artists and art directors.

Author C.L. Kagmi with the illustration Michael did for her story

Author C.L. Kagmi with the illustration Michael did for her story

During the seminars, the artists learn both the practical and business side of illustrating including how to put together their portfolio, how to brand and promote themselves, as well as practical experience on drawing. Each artist also has one-on-one time with professionals to get advice on their work.

During the week, the Writers Workshop is also taking place and so Michael met author C.L. Kagmi who wrote the story he illustrated, “The Drake Equation.”

For Michael, winning the grand prize was the best day of his life. In his acceptance speech, he talked about how artists and writers can together change the world and that he was glad to be shaping the future together with his fellow artists and writers.

He ended by saying, “Thank you for everything. This is a very important day for me and probably the best week in my life. If this is my American dream, I don’t want to wake up.”

We look forward to seeing much more of Michael and his creativity in the future.

Artist Ciruelo during the portfolio review of the Illustrators Workshop

Artist Anthony Moravian

Anthony Moravian is a tall, quiet kind of guy, but his art speaks volumes. He describes his style as fantasy inspired by classic renaissance paintings and, so, not surprisingly, he specializes in charcoal drawings and oil paintings as you can see here in his portfolio.

As a Finalist in the Illustrators of the Future Contest, we asked Anthony to illustrate one of the winning stories, “A Glowing Heart” written by Anton Rose. Anton’s story is about a boy faced with a terrible decision. His mother is dying, and the only way he can save her is by killing something beautiful.

Author Anton Rose with Anthony and his art for the story "A Glowing Heart"

Author Anton Rose with Anthony and his art for the story “A Glowing Heart”

In doing the illustration, Anthony said he was inspired by the story’s theme of doing what is necessary, even it if is something you would rather not do, which prompted him to capture the feeling of grief in the protagonist over what he had done. He further elaborated on his selection of the scene he chose from the story, stating that reading and writing play a large part in his process when doing an illustration. He tries to balance the two in order to maintain interest in the illustration and he can do this if he understands all of the elements of the story.

I read and enjoyed Anton’s touching story immensely and have to say that Anthony did a great job capturing both its mood and spirit. His illustration appears in the latest edition of the Writers of the Future anthology, Volume 33.

A bit about Anthony. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and has been drawing since the age of three. Anthony graduated magna cum laude from the Associate’s program at the Fashion Institute of Technology and is currently honing his art at the Art Students League of New York.

He came out to Los Angeles to attend this year’s Illustrators of the Future Workshop and the annual awards event. While here he met the author of the story as well as a host of artists from all corners of the globe as part of the Illustrators Workshop.

According to Anthony, the whole experience was wonderful and he had a great time meeting the other illustrator winners and professional artists and art directors who were part of the workshop. As he summed it up, “The seminars were very thorough. The critiques during the portfolio review were, perhaps, the most helpful parts of the event. I look forward to putting what I learned to good use.”

You can meet up with Anthony and see his art on display today (April 14) between 7:00-9:00 PM along with fellow artist Yader Fonseca at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square, Manhattan. They will be there signing copies of Writers of the Future Volume 33 which contains their art.

Anthony will also be doing another book signing, April 15, at Books-A-Million in Paramus, New Jersey between 1:00-3:00 PM.

For information about author book signings, visit the Writers & Illustrators of the Future facebook page.

Illustrators of the Future Winners 1992

An interview with Illustrators of the Future Winner, Illustrators of the Future Judge and Academy Award Winner, Shaun Tan.

With the Academy Awards event coming up just a block away from our headquarters here in Hollywood, I am reminded of one of our many Illustrators of the Future winner alumni successes.


That would be Shaun Tan, 1992 Illustrators of the Future winner when he, as a young teenager, was the first Australian to win this contest.


Almost two decades later, on the 27th of February 2011, Shaun Tan (along with Andrew Ruhemann) was presented with an Oscar for best animated short film, The Lost Thing.


We have since interviewed him about his own journey from being “lost” to being found and to now helping others to be found. I wanted to share some of his insights and his advice to any of you who are where he was.


How did you first find out about the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Contest?


I found out about both the Writer and Illustrator Contests in a copy of Analog Magazine. I started to submit as I had nowhere else to send my work. I got a couple of rejects and I got a response, a little handwritten note from Frank Kelly Freas, which was amazing. That was maybe the first contact I’d had with another artist, let alone an artist of that caliber. The comments encouraged me to submit again. And I finally won. It was quite a big deal as nothing was really happening in my life aside from going to school and doing my drawings in my bedroom.


What was it like to get the call “you won”?


Illustrators of the Future Winners 1992

Shaun Tan (bottom row, second from right)

When I got the call that I had won the contest it took a long time to register. It was probably the first time I’d ever had an international telephone call in my life. The person who called proceeded to explain that winning involved a trip and a workshop and also that they were inviting me to the writers’ workshop, not just for the illustrators’, because I had to travel such a long way. And traveling from Western Australia to Washington, D.C. was perhaps one of the longest trips a contestant has had to make. I was very grateful that they were able to host me to both workshops.


I was also interested in the writers’ workshop because I actually began my interest in science fiction as a literary interest. I’d always been a painter and had done a number of art classes and was very talented as a young artist. But as a teenager, my key ambition was to be a short story science fiction writer. I was really obsessed. I spent far more time writing than illustrating or painting.


You also submitted short stories to the Writers Contest. How did the Writers Contest and the Writers Workshop help you in your writing career?


The writers contest helped me in my writing career, especially at that young age, principally by just having a deadline. Nothing motivates you more into doing work than having an objective and a deadline. And the great thing about a contest like this was simply having something to submit to. I didn’t really have anywhere else to send my stories. At the time, there were a couple of very nascent science fiction magazines being published in Australia, but nothing like the industry that exists in the United States or Britain.


I never had any great ambitions or expectations, so it was a fun thing. It was like “oh – the deadline’s coming up yet again, I had better submit something.” That alone was quite a powerful motivating force.


What did you learn from the Illustrators of the Future Workshop?


A lot of the discussion was actually not as much about the craft of illustration but professional practice, markets and money─difficult information to acquire, especially in those pre-Internet days. It was  fascinating and a very realistic, very rational, methodical approach to craft. There was no false illusions about how easy it would be to work in this industry.

Meeting with these very established, accomplished writers and artists far more senior than myself and who were in some ways a little bit intimidating but super friendly, was the one thing that endeared me. What cemented my admiration for the science fiction and fantasy community was that sense of camaraderie, helpfulness, sheer friendliness, positive energy, no sense of competitiveness and no sense of selfish withholding of professional tips. It was extremely generous and people were just really nice. That was the first thing─how wonderfully nice people were. Secondly, just to see people who were so dedicated, particularly to a form of literature and art that I’d previously been led to believe in my mainstream environment as being quite obscure.


Tell me about your career since winning the Contest.


Since winning the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Contest and participating in both the illustrators’ and writers’ workshop, my career has followed a slow trajectory. I had time—I was still studying at university, various subjects and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. But having had that experience in Washington D.C. and having received that award and the kind of confidence boost that comes with that and with a better understanding of the industry that surrounds science fiction writing and illustration, I began to seriously consider being a professional illustrator. It was not something that I had thought about as a career. So I entered the contest almost as a hobbyist with an interest in something, like a very impassioned fan of the genre.


Afterwards I started thinking maybe this could be a career, and maybe not, but it was worth trying. I began to send my illustrations off with more confidence to other markets, some British and American magazines and had small amounts of success there. In the meantime there was a burgeoning movement of locally produced science fiction and fantasy in Australia, especially throughout the ‘90s and I had much more confidence in just submitting work to those. The fact that I had the award meant that people paid slightly more attention than maybe they otherwise would have.


It meant that I was able to progressively both have work published and train myself in the absence of any other formal training through a succession of small jobs, eventually leading up to professionally published book covers and higher paid work. These then began to support me once I finished my studies, eventually leading to picture books and particularly children’s literature, which is now where I’ve made a name for myself.


How many books and/or short stories have you published or illustrated?


I’ve lost count of the number of books and short stories that I’ve worked on, but it must be in the order of maybe twenty books. And if you include illustrations for stories on various magazines or periodicals, I would say about 250. And if you include theater productions and designs for feature films, it would be maybe eight of those. So, quite a lot of work and quite a variety too.


How has winning the Illustrators of the Future Contest as a seventeen year old teenager affected your life?


I think that perhaps winning such a big award at such a young age gave me a sense that it was possible you could actually win an award that felt very distant and far away, organized by people that you would otherwise never meet that seemed like from another universe. Since the age of seventeen and that trip to the exotic land of the United States, I have had this sense that I’m working in a global community.


That germ of confidence way back then has allowed me to approach these other things with confidence. A key ingredient to being a successful artist is believing that you can do stuff. Once you get that out of the way, which is a huge hurdle, then you can get on with doing it.


How does winning the Illustrators of the Future Contest compare to winning the Oscars?


Shaun Tan with his Oscar in 2011

Shaun Tan with his Oscar in 2011

Winning an Oscar felt like a very similar experience to winning the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future award and actually a similar pattern of the unexpected, traveling to the United States, discovering a whole community of people with like-minded interests, in the case of the Oscar, animation and film design.


As a young person, I was very introverted and I lacked confidence in myself. And I think the experience of having to not just go to win an award and have it given to you from somewhere far away, but to actually go there and participate, that was very important for me personally in my development as a confident artist who could communicate with other people. Otherwise, it may have taken me a lot longer to find my feet in that part of my life.


Why did you decide to become an Illustrators of the Future judge?


Becoming a judge is a big decision because it’s a big responsibility. Having been on the other side of the equation and being a contestant, I realize the extent to which your hopes really hinge on the decision of a person that you’ve never met, in a distant place, and that you’re hoping that they will really examine the work as closely as possible.


I also feel there’s some responsibility to give something back because it was such a good thing for me and such a helpful thing for me that I would like other people to experience that. To have their work commented upon and have the feeling that a person such as myself is not any different to them. I still feel the same as I did when I was seventeen. I still feel I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing and I spend most of my time just mucking around in my bedroom trying to come up with ideas for stories. My bedroom has now turned into a studio, but it’s just as big and just as messy. And I think a lot of young or new artists that are approaching this contest would take some comfort from the fact that I don’t feel like a wise professional preaching down to them. I’m actually there with them and I understand—particularly in speculative fiction—what they want to achieve and the problems that they’re facing as a young artist.


How do you view L. Ron Hubbard’s vision with the Writers and Illustrators of the Future contests and what they have accomplished?


I think L. Ron Hubbard’s vision for the contests is extremely generous and  based on a realization that great art doesn’t just happen. It does have to be nurtured and encouraged, especially because it’s a vocation that really challenges your self-confidence and self-knowledge. And it can be a difficult thing to pursue as an individual, particularly because your work is by nature isolated, intensively self-reflective, idiosyncratic if it’s any good, and produced in solitude. And I think there’s some awareness in the contest of the need to have some centralized focus, bringing together of the disparate threads of imaginative people into a singular community, something that extends into the future as well. So, not just about what’s happening now, but about things that are going to happen, work that’s going to be produced that we have no concept of. That’s a very generous vision.


You have entered both Contests. From your perspective, how do these contests affect the field of speculative fiction?


The contest affects the field of writing and illustrating for speculative fiction by providing a forum for discussion, a place for critical reflection, a feeling amongst amateur artists that their work is valued, that the word amateur is not necessarily a negative word, that it’s something that suggests promise and undiscovered success. I think also just the sense that you become part of a tradition, especially as the award has been going for so many years, it becomes something that makes you feel connected to a longer history of production, so that you are part of a continuum of experience, not just an isolated event.


Is there anything else you would like to say about your success and winning the contest back in 1992?


Well, I think it’s kind of nice to be here in a position to reflect on winning the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Contest and see it not as a weird, strange event that it may have seemed at the age of seventeen, but actually part of a continuum of experience. And it’s only something that I’m able to understand in hindsight. And I wish I could have said to myself back as a seventeen-year-old “don’t worry, it’s all going to be okay.”  This is quite a great business to be in. But I think people were already saying that to me back in Washington, D.C. at the workshops and the illustrators’ discussion group─that this is worth pursuing. That was maybe the first time I’d ever heard that from another person. So it’s really nice to see it as a singular history, not a scattering of random events.


Shaun Tan’s Illustrators of the Future award in 1992 was just the beginning of an outstanding and impressive array prizes and recognitions in the fields of writing and art

Shaun Awards

Shaun Awards

Fellow artists and close friends since first grade. (Left to right) Rachel Heissner and Megen Nelson

Finding the Meaning in Art – My Story

A few weeks before I got the call telling me that I’d won a place in Illustrator’s of the Future, I’d been considering giving up. On college, on my dream, on everything.

Megen-Nelsen-AsapicsmallI am a college student, and I’ve fought a long battle to finish my education. I call my experience a “fight,” because I’ve had so many set-backs, so many sad moments. For instance, out of high school I was accepted to the Ringling College of Art and Design in their Computer Animation program, which only accepts 60 students per semester. I was so excited—I was going to be an Artist! I was going to live The Dream!

And then reality crashed in. Money, of course, is needed to attend a private art college, and while I am a dreamer, I am a practical dreamer. My personal life has also had a huge list of setbacks which affected the money part of the deal. My mother was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2010. She underwent extremely invasive surgery to have a metal box attached to her heart. And then the wound got infected, and she had to have the surgery reversed, the box removed. So many hospital stays. I’m sure you can imagine the healthcare bills.

But that wasn’t the end of it. After my mother became stable, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Luckily it was early, but again, it added to my family’s level of medical debt. Since then there have been more complications, more debt, more near-misses. I am so grateful to have my mother and father still with me, when I could easily have lost them both. In that aspect, I feel like my college fight has been worth it. I want to better myself so that I can support them, but do so doing something that I love. And that’s a pretty tall order, when what you love is art.

With so much medical debt over their heads, I didn’t want to put my college woes on my parents’ shoulders. So I decided to pay for college myself. And let me tell you, paying for a college degree on part time minimum wage, without any aid except for my own student loans, requires a lot of hours, and more than one job. At one point I was working three jobs and doing volunteer peer tutoring; volunteering because I wanted to get the most I could out of college, even though I worked so much to afford it.

I won’t lie though, I succumbed to depression for a while. Then I pulled myself up and changed tactics. I couldn’t afford art school. And my second love is writing. So I set my sights on an English degree, which is what I’m finishing as I write this during my lunch break at work (yes, I am that busy!). Only three classes left! Also, thanks to a successful GoFundMe campaign, I was able to pay for this summer’s classes, which I finished yesterday. Old teachers, relatives, friends, so many people helped me raise enough money so that I could finish this degree.

Megen Nelsen book signing

Megen Nelsen book signingd

And now this. Illustrators of the future. After working so hard, and wondering if it was even worth the struggle, getting the call from Joni that I’d won the contest was like nothing I’d ever believed could be real. My artwork was worth something? It wasn’t just some convoluted hobby? Someone… liked it?

In my awards speech at the ceremony in Los Angeles, on a stage in the Wiltshire Ebell Theatre (seriously, what?!), in front of hundreds of people, I said that I hid my artwork in a closet. And that is perfectly true. No one ever saw my artwork unless they were on the internet, or my dad had friends over, and he poked me to drag my paintings out of the darkness to show guests. I would make distressed noises and then sullenly do as he asked. To be honest, those moments were sometimes the only things that kept me going. Seeing someone’s eyes light up when they saw a painting I’d done, seeing that they enjoyed it, that they got something out of it.

I often felt like my work was useless. I just didn’t think that it meant much. Here I was painting pictures of dragons and magical creatures, while life was telling me that art couldn’t do anything but hang there on a wall. Besides, it wasn’t art that had saved my parents lives. Doctors had saved my parents lives.

When I was flown to LA on an all-expense paid trip (again, what?!), and saw the passion that the judges and the staff at Galaxy Press and ASI had for fantasy and science fiction art and writing, my mind was blown. I learned that my love of space animals and fantasy creatures was shared by so many people. My art was enjoyed.

And it was useful. My art was able to bring to life Kary English’s story “Poseidon’s Eyes,” which was inspired by the life of a homeless man that Kary actually knew. When Kary saw my painting, she was reminded of that homeless man. She said that I had portrayed him exactly as she had imagined.

My artwork had perpetuated the story of this man, who passed away after Kary finished her story. That man lives on in Kary’s story, and through Kary’s story, my artwork. And through that exchange, I learned that my art does have meaning. Not the same meaning as a doctor saving my parent’s lives, but something perhaps a little similar to it. In a way, Peyton still lives, through our artwork.

And that, I think, is entirely worth the struggle.

Guest Writer post by Megen Nelson
Illustrators of the Future Contest 2015 Winner
Artist for “Poseidon’s Eyes” available in Writers of the Future Volume 31

Jessica Tung Chi Lee

The Journey to Win

It was in the late summer of 2011 when I first found Illustrator of the Future Contest. I was in a great stress caused by not being able to find a decent place to live less than a month before my years-long master program started and trying to adapt to a whole new environment and American culture which was the first foreign country I had ever traveled to.

It is an exaggeration, but I felt like an immigrant worker in the Gold Rush era; confused, scared, and hopeful but hopeless. I didn’t submit any work at that moment, because I had nothing. However, the contest was imprinted on my mind.

After a couple years of struggling with my art education in the Academy of Art, I finally had something I felt good enough to submit. Nothing came back.

Same quietness in the next year.

In my last semester, when I felt entirely hopeless with the competition, and honestly convinced that I would never receive anything back from the contest, I submitted my work as my last try. “It doesn’t hurt to just try the last time.” I told myself. I forgot about the contest completely after that submission.

Jessica with her illustration for Writers of the Future Vol 31 and bestseller list

Jessica with her illustration for Writers of the Future Vol 31 and bestseller list

It was after I had started working in the industry for quite a while, I received a phone call from a woman with an energetic yet smooth voice. “Hey Tung Chi! Congratulations! You won the first quarter of the contest!” Joni Labaqui said over the phone, excitedly. I was at a complete lost. “What was that?” I asked uncertainly.

“The Illustrator Of the Future contest! You won the first quarter!” Her cheerful voice resonated in my head.

I was thrilled, but it was not until the request for the final piece came in, did I realize how big a deal this contest was. There were renowned judges who were professionally established experts, and there was even an equally established Art Director (Bob Eggleton) I needed to work with to complete the final piece. It was a truly professional and top-standard competition and commission. I finished an illustration that was an obvious breakthrough in the body of my works.

Then I was flown to Los Angeles to participate in the informative week-long workshops, in which we met legendary artists such Larry Elmore, Dave Dorman, Nathan Fowkes, Cliff Nielsen, Ron and Val Lindahn and Sergey Poyarkov. After the packed yet fulfilling week, for the first time in my life, I was dressed up like a movie star in order to attend a ceremony as grand and formal as the Oscar Award.

Wining this contest not only brought me unforgettable memories, but also feature opportunities on magazines such as ImagineFX and Fantasy Scroll Mag, and tutorial requests from 3DTotal, and online features on DeviantArt groups, and many other exposure opportunities.

Most importantly, it made me one of the contributors of a national bestseller!

The award was not simply an assertion of my artistic ability and a proof of my achievement in the field, but also an incredible booster for the business side of my career. Now I look back, I feel immensely grateful to everyone who has been involved in my art journey so far, and also the young me, discouraged yet resilient, who decided to keep pursuing her passion and goal despite all the road blocks.

Jessica Tung Chi Lee

Jessica Tung Chi Lee

Guest Writer post by Jessica Tung Chi Lee
Illustrators of the Future Contest Winner
Illustrator for “Unrefined,”
Writers of the Future Volume 31

Rob Prior at Comic Con 2015.

Rob Prior, International Award-Winning Artist, Named as Judge for Contest

Best known for his art provided for Spawn, Heavy Metal comics and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as his rare ability of painting with both hands at the same time, Rob Prior has been named as a judge in the Illustrators of the Future Contest.

Rob Prior

Rob Prior

Prior joins other world-renowned artists on the jury panel that include such artists as Dave Dorman (Eisner Award), Shaun Tan (Academy Award winner for The Lost Thing), Bob Eggleton (8-time Hugo award winning artist), Stephan Martiniere (Hugo, Chesley, Expose 3 Excellence Awards) and Cliff Nielsen (Star Wars, X-Files and Narnia).

Prior is a graduate of both the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, and then went on to earn his MFA from the University of Toledo and began his career as a storyteller through his artistic skills at a young age.

As a comic book artist, he has worked with Marvel, D.C., Todd McFarlane, Kevin Eastman and Image Comics, to name a few, with his most notable credits on Spawn, Terminator, Deep Space 9, Evil Ernie, Melting Pot, Lady Death and Heavy Metal.

As a leading storyboard artist, Prior has provided storyboards for advertising campaigns such as Budweiser and Nikon, as well as for the gaming industry, for Titlist, 2K Games, Terminator 3 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He also created all the storyboards and animatics for the video games Ghost Rider and The Darkness.

As an illustrator, Prior has supplied cover art and interior art material for Steve Jackson Games, TSR (Dungeons and Dragons), Wizards of the Coast, Battle of the Lords of the 23rd Century, and many others.

Prior has directed short films and music videos in which he has storyboarded, production designed/art directed and did all practical effects for each and is now directing his first movie in 2015 called Whisper. Prior is also the VP of creative for Heavy Metal.

We look forward to working with Rob and welcome him as our latest Illustrators of the Future Contest judge.

Dave Dorman at the San Diego Comic-Con 2015.

Dave Dorman at San Diego Comic-Con

Dave Dorman is an Eisner award-winning illustrator who has been working as a professional artist since 1979. He is best known for his photo-realistic paintings of Star Wars as well as his action and fantasy subjects. If you haven’t seen his work yet, go to his blog and check it out.

Archie cover by Dave Dorman available from M&M Comics

Archie cover by Dave Dorman available from M&M Comics

Last weekend at the San Diego Comic-Con, some of our staff had a chance to meet up with Dave who is also one of the Illustrators of the Future Contest judges.

Dave was certainly busy while we were there, signing posters and books for his fans including this original drawing he was doing for one lucky guy (see video below).

Between signings, he filled us in on his recent projects, one of which was doing the cover for the relaunch of the new Archie. M&M Comics selected Dave to paint a realistic cover for ARCHIE #1 Variant. Dave, who has been a fan of Archie since he was a kid, took up the offer and created an image of Archie that brings that iconic figure into the 21st century. It was a hit with the fans as all the copies at Comic-Con quickly sold out.

If you missed out on getting your Dave Dorman Variant, visit M&M Comics to order your copy.