Natalia & Jose at Awards Event 2022

Seeing Magic in Illustration

I remember my childhood, a shoebox filled with crayons and colored pencils, a small blue table and matching chairs, and sitting there with my sister, doodling whatever came to our minds. We grew up surrounded by books of every genre, but I preferred fairytales, fantasy worlds I could explore.

Stories made me feel full of life. I even created my own, and though I tried to write them down, I always felt more comfortable expressing myself through images. Because of this, I didn’t question my path, which led me to study Fine Arts. I also wanted to be an archaeologist like Indiana Jones, a journalist like Peter Parker and Lois Lane, and even a singer. Still, I didn’t really take any of those things seriously.

In college, I discovered that not everyone saw the magic I could see in illustration. I wanted to be like Brom, Elmore, Frazetta, or Lockwood, but I often ran into people who thought that illustration wasn’t art. When I finished my studies, I was tired and barely ever picked up a pencil. I ended up taking a “real job” and putting away my dreams of becoming an illustrator.

Then I met Jose, my husband, who encouraged me to draw time after time, saved every little doodle I made, bought me materials, and told me that every drawing I created made his life longer. With his support, I slowly recovered my hope. I started to wake up earlier to draw before leaving for work. I attended courses to become a professional.

But life takes many turns, and in 2017, shortly after my birthday, my mother told me she had cancer. That summer, she was hospitalized, and things progressed really fast. I lived between the hospital and the office for a couple of months. I told my mother I wanted to leave my graphic design job and become a freelance illustrator, and her answer still echoes in my mind: “Don’t be a fool. Do it.” I left my job to take care of her, and she passed away shortly after this conversation. Since that day, I have fought for my dreams harder than ever. I concluded that I didn’t want to wake up one day and realize it was too late.

I learned about Writers & Illustrators of the Future in 2018 thanks to Bruce Brenneise, a previous winner from Volume 34. I sent my work from time to time without much hope. On December 31st, 2020, right before midnight, I decided to send something for that quarter. “I have nothing to lose,” I thought. A couple of months later, I received a call from the US. I answered thinking it was my sister, who lived in Massachusetts. It wasn’t! It was Joni Labaqui who told me I was a winner! I was so astonished that I could barely speak.

This call and the support of family and friends helped me to continue promoting my work. The experience of illustrating for L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 38 with Meliva Koch and Echo Chernik was thrilling and challenging. I am very proud of having created not one, but two illustrations. They also helped me by providing references to an author looking for an illustrator for their book (and I’m now working on it!).

I’ve felt very supported by everyone at Writers & Illustrators of the Future. Being published in such a renowned anthology is amazing enough, but they also gave me the opportunity to fly to Los Angeles, meet wonderful and talented people, and learn from professionals who gave me the resources to continue this journey. AND I met Larry Elmore! I would love to be the one who helps future illustrators someday so that I can give back to the community at least a small part of what I’ve received.

Natalia & Larry Elmore

If I’d like anything distilled from my story, it would be that giving up is not the way. Perseverance is key: this is not a sprint but a marathon, and there is always something new to learn. You have to take every opportunity that comes your way, don’t close any doors on yourself out of fear!



Natalia Salvador

Natalia Salvador is a Spanish artist, born and raised in Granada, Spain, where she still lives with her family. Nature, folklore, and the life around her provide her inspiration. She enjoys creating illustrations that tell a story.

She is also a full-time mom and loves animals, singing, cooking, and reading.

For more information please visit her website at:

3 replies
  1. Cindia Hernández
    Cindia Hernández says:

    Wonderful people can only get get wonderful things in this live. Your own shine is the guiding light for the people around you.
    Don’t change, keep your light.
    Love, Cin

  2. Lauren Jessica Watson
    Lauren Jessica Watson says:

    As an Illustration student in their final year of study at University. The article, advice and words of wisdom were very inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing


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