These winners are featured in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
For over 34 years, the Illustrators of the Future Contest has been discovering and nurturing aspiring artists and providing a platform for their artistic talents to be seen and acknowledged.
This is how the Contest works: Entrants from around the world enter three pieces of science fiction/fantasy art to the Illustrators of the Future Contest. There are no restrictions as to age, race, gender, religion or ideology. All art is judged anonymously.
Each quarter, the panel of judges selects three new contest winners. At the end of the Contest year, all 12 artists are each commissioned (with a 30-day deadline) to create a full-page color illustration for one of the Writers of the Future Contest winning stories. That illustration is featured in color in the annual anthology and is the subject of a second-phase competition for the annual grand prize Golden Brush Award.
Below are the pieces of art that won the first phase of the competition. Get a copy of Writers of the Future Volume 39 to see their commissioned story illustrations.
These Contest winners were selected by the following internationally renowned artists who serve as Contest judges:
Alexandra illustrated “The Children of Desolation” by Spencer Sekulin in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
Alexandra Albu, also known as Cyberaeon, was born in 1989, in Roman, Romania—a country that for fifty years was part of the Communist Bloc led by the USSR. After the bloody revolution in December 1989, her country stepped on the path of democracy and joined NATO and the EU.
Her parents are both former teachers—her father a math teacher and her mother a music teacher.
Alexandra found an interest in the English language and enrolled in Colegiul Național Roman Vodă, studying in the bilingual English section.
Her other passion is drawing. She has been drawing ever since she was little but started taking it more seriously after high school. She learns from every tutorial or book she can get her hands on and plans to enroll in an art university to gain formal art education.
She loves bringing characters and stories to life, both hers and other people’s.
Alexandra is currently working as a freelance illustrator.
Chris illustrated “The Fall of Crodendra M” by T.J. Knight in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
Chris Arias was born in 1997 in Cartago, Costa Rica, in a small farming town on the slopes of an extinct volcano. Chris has been passionate about art ever since he could hold a pencil in his right hand. He was inspired by the fantastic stories about goblins, witches, knights, and dragons that his mother told during their long walks through the local mountains and forests.
Chris comes from a humble family that couldn’t afford art classes during his childhood, and so he learned to draw by copying art from video games, comics, and cartoons.
It wasn’t until he entered university that he attended his first art class. In 2021 Chris graduated from UCCART with a degree in fine arts.
His passion for fantasy and science fiction and the support of his family has driven him to follow his dreams to become an artist in these genres.
He entered L. Ron Hubbard’s Illustrators of the Future Contest five times and is excited to have now won.
Clarence illustrated “Timelines and Bloodlines” by L.H. Davis in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
Clarence Bateman was born on the little Caribbean island of Jamaica and currently resides in New York. His passion for art was inspired by comic books from an early age. He fantasized about one day being a comic book artist for Marvel as Spiderman was his favorite superhero at the time. In his early teenage years, he would hustle family members by doing Christmas cards and lightly twisting their arms to buy them. He would do art for his friends in school and they would pay him with comic books. He dropped out of high school to enroll in the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica attending for three years before immigrating to the US.
After a series of dead-end jobs, he decided to go back to school for art enrolling in the New York City Technical College part time while holding down a full-time job in the garment district as a pattern maker. He did a three-year advertising program with the intention of becoming an art director and instead ended up working in the advertising field for the next thirty plus years as a freelance preproduction sketch artist. Sketch art at the time was done primarily with magic markers, color pencils, and inks. When work started transitioning to the computer, he taught himself how to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
Clarence’s primary focus is science fiction and fantasy art, encompassing such a wide range of subject matters he considers it practically impossible to have artist’s block. He spends his late nights honing his skills, constantly learning, and working to become a better artist.
Chris illustrated “Piracy for Beginners” by J.R. Johnson in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
Chris Binns was born in 1981 in Reading, England, but was quickly whisked away to live in Hillsboro, Oregon, at the young age of five, due to the relocation of his father’s engineering job. Throughout childhood Chris was always the “good drawer,” a pastime that was encouraged by his family over the years and heavily inspired by the plethora of fantasy novels his father would read on a weekly basis. The covers of these fantasy novels were a shining beacon to what would become his most coveted genre. Despite his love of art, Chris found himself graduating from high school and heading off to electrical engineering school at Oregon State University to follow in his father’s footsteps.
While taking a break from university in 2005, Chris moved to England to work in a pub in Manchester for the summer. This was when Chris found his wife Lyndsey, who would eventually become the mother of his two children, and the summer turned into six years.
Deciding to take his art more seriously, Chris attended the University of Huddersfield for an illustration degree. After graduating with honors and some newfound knowledge and skills, Chris moved back to America. While struggling to kick-start an art career and needing to provide for his family, he took an engineering job at Intel. Finding his footing as an engineer and thriving in this new role, Chris learned to feed both vocations. These days, art is still very much his passion as he seeks new challenges to test his skill sets and push his art to the next level. However, like the children’s books he writes and illustrates for his children, he creates art for fun and enjoys every minute of it.
Kristen illustrated “White Elephant” by David K. Henrickson in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
Kristen Hadaway was born in 1996 in Baltimore, Maryland. Her passion for illustration came from countless hours spent watching cartoons, reading graphic novels, and playing video games since she was young. When she was twelve years old, she already knew she wanted to pursue a career making video games and started exploring the world of concept art.
Kristen combines her traditional painting skills and digital drawing skills to establish a unique painting style that translates well into concept art. Kristen is a recent graduate of Towson University in Baltimore and is currently working as a freelance artist. She hopes to work as a concept art artist very soon.
Alaya illustrated “Kitsune” by Devon Bohm in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
Alaya Knowlton, also known as Drazini, was born in 2003 in a small mountain town in California. She moved to Sarasota, Florida, at five and grew up there.
She has drawn since she could hold a pen, yet she truly dedicated herself to this passion during middle school. Alaya is inspired by her sister Hana and her family to create works of art, as they have supported and nurtured her passions and her true self through its development.
Since then she has directed and worked on short animated films, digital illustrations, and many other forms of artwork. She is currently beginning her study of game art, the study of 3D and 2D artwork and animation for video games at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Alaya is completely dedicated to her passion to create artwork and strives to inform the artistic direction of games in the future. Her goals include inspiring others to do what makes them the most fulfilled and to create a better future that allows greater equality and understanding of all people.
Ximing illustrated “The Withering Sky” by Arthur H. Manners in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
Ximing Luo was born in 2005 in Hangzhou, China, the capital of China’s Zhejiang province. She is a student at the University of Pennsylvania studying Digital Media Design, an interdisciplinary program combining computer science and art. She has been drawing ever since she could hold a pencil, discovering her love for art and creativity during preschool. Inspired by children’s books and illustrations, she started illustrating and has never looked back.
Ximing’s current works explore the cohesion of reality and illusions in dreams and nightmares, consisting of surrealist pieces investigating the hallucinations of the subconscious human psyche. With a passion for novelty and originality, Ximing finds herself experimenting with a variety of media and concepts, always seeking ways to push her craft and imagination to the next level. She has worked with woodburning, scratch art, digital art, animation, traditional Chinese painting, ink, charcoal, acrylic paints, oil paints, and geometric sculptures, among other media.
In the future, Ximing endeavors to polish her work and pursue her artistic side while seeking new experiences. She aspires to fulfill her dream of developing a digital game, illustrating a children’s book, and traveling the world.
Sarah illustrated “Death and the Taxman” by David Hankins in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
Sarah Morrison is a fantasy illustrator and portrait artist. Working primarily with oil paint she focuses on figurative works designed to inspire narrative, with attention towards expressive faces and complex fabric. Escapism through fantasy has always been a central theme to her art, and she embraces whimsy and enigmatic details. Sarah’s imagery is designed to inspire a sense of wonder, encouraging viewers to develop stories about what might be going on in each piece.
Sarah has been drawing from a young age, thriving with her introduction to anime and manga in the 1990s, and later moving on to fantastic realism. After working in management at art supply stores for thirteen years while studying and building her portfolio, she left the retail life to pursue art full time in 2019. Sarah also occasionally works with printmaking techniques and textiles. Born in Canada, she currently resides just outside of Boston, MA, US, with her husband, toddler, and cat.
José illustrated “A Trickle in History” by Elaine Midcoh in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
José Sánchez, also known as Perrotrope, was born in 1979 in San José, Costa Rica, a small country with a unique beauty thanks to its exuberant nature. José has a BFA in fine arts from the University of Costa Rica, majoring in graphic design. However his real passion is illustration and animation, which he has studied in a self-taught way. As part of his formal studies, he also completed a one-year diploma in concept art at the Vancouver Animation School. His work was initially related to the advertising field, mainly as a motion designer. However his career took a decisive turn toward the animation industry, and he moved to Japan to work as a concept artist.
With passion parallel to his work in the studio, José kept producing personal pieces of art and illustration. That allowed him to experiment with various styles, as well as themes ranging from science fiction to fantasy for both adults and children. His illustration work is characterized by the special importance granted to color and lighting in storytelling.
Currently José is still working to break into the world of illustration so he can dedicate himself fully to what he loves so much, which is to tell stories hand in hand with writers of books, comics, and graphic novels.
April illustrated “Moonlight and Funk” by Marianne Xenos in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
April Solomon was born in 1983 and raised in Laguna Beach, California. Since she was a small child, April has had a talent for drawing and painting. She would draw anything and everything that came into her imagination. Of all things, she drew dragons the most! Thankfully, her loving and encouraging family inspired her to embrace her love for the arts.
She grew up around art. Her father’s art studio was filled with all the delights a child could indulge in. His bookshelves held stacks of art books containing illustrations from the old masters, the golden age illustrators, and even some fantasy art from TSR’s Dungeons & Dragons. Inspiration came in many forms. Fortunately, it was everywhere! And so her career as a young artist began.
Today, April is an illustrator and fine artist who has earned her bachelor’s degree in illustration at the Laguna College of Art and Design. April’s passion for learning the old masterful techniques of traditional drawing and painting is precisely what inspires her work.
Among her love for the fine arts is her unique appreciation for whimsical fantasy, which adorns every image of her portfolio. April’s meticulous creature designs aim for what is known as “fantastic realism.” A clever, concise understanding of anatomy, plants, and mysterious textures weave their way into her illustrations, leaving the viewer guessing at origins, influences, and ancestry. April’s work allows the viewer to dive imaginatively deeper and reconsider whether dragons might be real or whether werewolves exist to stalk the streets at night.
When not illustrating, April attends garage sales to unearth buried treasures, runs and lifts weights, or braves as many haunted attractions as possible during the month of October.
Dao illustrated “The Last History” by Samuel Parr in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
Dao Vi is a concept artist and illustrator from Los Angeles born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. While growing up, Dao has always had a connection with drawing and video games. However that connection wasn’t always strong, and he would occasionally lose his interest in art. His passion was reignited when he discovered the vast world of concept art and illustration for films and video games. Dao loves to tell stories through world-building, concept design, and illustration and hopes that one day he can share this passion with those around him. Currently, Dao is attending ArtCenter College of Design as an entertainment design student whose goal is to work as a concept artist for films and video games.
Helen illustrated “Under My Cypresses” by Jason Palmatier in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
Helen Yi was born in 2002 in Hackensack, New Jersey, and at the age of six months her family moved back to Seoul, South Korea. Her grandfather was a sculptor, and her grandmother is an artist. Her mother works in a design industry, and her father enjoys films and books. So she naturally developed interest in creative activities at a very young age. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that there hasn’t been a day in her life without art.
Her artistic passions started with simply copying characters from comic books. But as she slowly learned more about movies, digital platforms, games, and many other new and professional ways art can be shown to the world, she dreamed of working as a visual development artist creating art to entertain others.
Currently Helen is studying illustration at the Ringling College of Art and Design and working toward her dreams. She is thankful for the facilities and curriculum in RCAD that have allowed her to pursue digital art at school as well as her winning entry for the Illustrators of the Future Contest.
A returning alumni from Volume 34
Bruce illustrated “The Unwilling Hero” by L. Ron Hubbard in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
Bruce Brenneise is an illustrator known for building vibrant, epic, otherworldly environments. He’s best known for his work on games such as Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, Numenera, and Slay the Spire.
Fun facts: Bruce studied scientific illustration at the University of Michigan (BFA), lived in China for six years, buys his signature hats from the Amish, and has traveled thirty-four countries and counting. He lives with his wife, son, and carnivorous plants in the Pacific Northwest.
Bruce is a former winner of the Illustrators of the Future Contest and was first featured in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34.
A returning alumni from Volume 38
Nick illustrated “Constant Never” by S.M. Stirling in Writers of the Future Volume 39.
Nick Jizba was born in Bloomington, Indiana, in 1984, but he has spent most of his life living in Nebraska. He has always spent time drawing, but didn’t really consider art as a career option. Losing a safe construction job in the 2008 recession pushed Nick to develop his art into a career. He attended ITT Tech Institute for game design, focusing on 3D modeling and level design. In school, he ended up doing most of the concept art and sketching for group projects, and that developed into a passion for digital painting. Nick has continued to learn by taking a variety of online classes, taking on the occasional freelance illustration, and working on personal illustrations that he sells at conventions. He is currently working on his first book, The Sower.
We highly recommend following these artists, there is a tremendous amount of good work to come.