Illustrators of the Future Contest

Illustrators of the Future Contest – 1st Quarter 2017 Winners

The judging results are in! And here are the winners for the Illustrators of the Future Contest—1st Quarter 2017


Congratulations to you all!


Bruce Brenneise from Washington

Duncan Halleck from Brussels, Belgium

Anthony Moravian from New York



Robert Blaylock from Virginia
Alan Gardner from Virginia
Natalie Knowles from United Kingdom
Gillian Maurer from North Carolina
Jieun Yu from Indiana


Illustrators of the Future Class of 2017

Writers & Illustrators Workshop Wrap-Up

At the beginning of the week, I had said that this was a contest like no other and that remains true today, as this is the largest on-going contest for Writers and Illustrators in Science Fiction and Fantasy. In 2013 I was a winner in Volume 29, it was my first entry and I had done many school projects that had become successful in their own right. But I had no business plan for myself. Coming here I was inspired by the guest lecturers and the Judges. I remember being overwhelmed by the generosity and felt obligated to make sure I was successful enough that I could do the same in the future.

Coming back I can see some of the faces have changed and the content has changed but the spirit stays the same. The hunger of the winners for the knowledge and the desire from the Judges to assist all the winners, those things never change. With a revamped business section, new experiences and fields of art to draw from have added a new perspective for the Winners. These changes can be seen throughout the days but it all builds from the same spirit set by L. Ron Hubbard and that is to “pay it forward.”

The seminar doesn’t stop once leaving the Contest. As an award winning Illustrator (and Writer), you have a network of working professionals that help support each other. Everything from paperwork and practices, to advice and contacts. As a winner you become part of the rising tide and along with each other, we all rise.

To those who have yet to experience this contest, I recommend it. If you are doubting your work is good enough, stop self-rejecting yourself and submit. If you have graduated and have found it is hard to get published and don’t know where to start, submit your work. If you think that you are living too far away to start a career in illustration or writing, submit your work. If you think you are too old to start, submit your work; then we will be waiting for you and will see you in the future.

Pictured above (L to R): Illustrator winners Hanna Al-Shaer, Michael Michera, Preston Stone (2016), Joshua Meehan (2013), Illustrators of the Future Contest judges and instructors Echo Chernik, Val Lakey Lindahn, Lazarus Chernik, illustrator winners Yader Fonseca, David Furnal, Rachel Quinlan, Anthony Moravian and Ryan Richmond.


Joshua Meehan

Joshua Meehan

Guest blogger, Joshua Meehan.
Joshua Meehan is a freelance science fiction and fantasy illustrator. He was an Illustrators of the Future winner in 2013 in Volume 29. His client list includes Paizo Publishing, Analog Sci-fi magazine, Fantasy Flight and Bethesda. Joshua’s illustration for Robert J. Sawyer’s short story “Gator” is in the latest Writers of the Future anthology, Volume 33.

Writers & Illustrators of the Future Awards Event 2017

This is, of course, the day of the achievement awards ceremony. It’s held at the Wilshire Ebell Club Theatre, which is an amazingly cool place.

At one point, a little later in the night, I found myself standing in the big room where the final book signing would be held. The gala event was over, but the winners had not yet arrived. The room, therefore, was fairly quiet. Just a few people milling around. In an adjoining room, there were several tables covered with newly released copies of Writers and Illustrators of the Future, Volume 33 all waiting to be signed. Other tables had drinks on them, and still, other tables were covered with trays of food. But the tables I was looking at were a large collection in the middle of the room, each placed together to form a rectangle.

Inside the rectangle, there were fourteen chairs (five to each long side, and two to each short side), facing out. Each table was covered in a tablecloth of pale gold, and in front of each chair sat a blue pen. The pens seemed to be locked and loaded, lined up in perfectly regimented order. In just a few minutes the winners would arrive, take these seats, and begin to use these pens to sign books. But right then everything was quiet and stable. A calm before the storm.

This “calm before the storm” is how I’m feeling about this year’s class of winners. Their book is ready to launch, as—for many of them—are their writing careers. I can feel that storm brewing within this group. I can’t wait to see what this gang does.

In the meantime, I suppose I should go back in time a bit. (Everything about the Writers f the Future is focused on science fiction and fantasy, right? I figure I’ve got some leeway to let time travel happen here, so I’m going to take it).

Earlier this morning, the winners had been quiet and subdued. I walked over to ASI, to take in the hair and make-up process going on. Along the way, I spied three of the guys having a quiet conversation in the hotel lobby. Two others were at a Starbucks, sipping coffee and having a quiet conversation. They all had speeches to deal with, and in the end, they would all deal with those speeches beautifully. But in the morning, it seems to be a little stressful.

I watched Molly Atkins and C.L. Kagmi get their makeup done. I chatted with Ziporah Hildebrandt as she was waiting her time in the seat. Family members of Molly and Ziporah came into town, and I got to chat with them for a while. This was great fun. After a whole week of watching the winners go about their work, seeing their kids, parents, and other significant others was a special treat.

Before too long, it was time to travel to the Wilshire. We piled into a bus and headed off. Conversation throughout the ride was lively. Jake Marley and Stephen Lawson chatted up a storm. I asked about their previous experience with speaking in groups, both had some but Stephen took the lead due to his work in the military. When we arrive, the winners got their pictures taken, and made their way down the red carpet, and had a series of fantastic interviews.

The thematic element of the event this year is the red dragon, painted gloriously be renowned artist Larry Elmore. This means the red carpet is decorated with the head of a red dragon and patrolled by a knight in shining armor. Families and visitors took seats, and the event began.

Bottom line: this ceremony was huge when I was last here in the late 1990s. It was loud and raucous, and a lot of fun. Those events paled, however, in relationship to what it is now. This is a huge presentation. Contest judges Rob Prior and Larry Elmore kicked off the festivities by painting a dragon together as a trio of fire dancers kept the audience entertained. Then came an overview of L. Ron Hubbard and the contest itself.

Mike Resnick received a lifetime award and give a speech about his writer children and how he has always nurtured new writers. As one of his earlier writer children, I can completely confirm this…watching Mike get this award was a highlight of my week. Mike’s efforts to help new writers over the years dovetail perfectly with this contest, a fact that was represented by the rows of past winners I was sitting with who had all been published in or with him. Of course, his speech was fantastic.

Then Pat Henry, co-founder and President of Dragon Con gave a lively dissertation about fandom, the convention, the value of fantasy and science fiction, and dragons as a whole.

So, yeah, the early part of the show was great fun, but the time had now come for the presentation of the awards. I could easily put myself in the winner’s shoes and realize that they were probably getting more nervous as time went by. As David VonAllmen said, there may well have been 1200 people in the building, but there were millions more looking in on the Internet. No pressure, right?

Anyway…the winners’ talks may well have taken forever to get here, but they started off with a bang when Anton Rose gave a fantastic speech for his story “A Glowing Heart.” From this point on, winner after winner came to the stage and made brilliant moments. Perhaps the most powerful speech came from a writer who wasn’t even here. Walter Dinjos, a Nigerian winner (for “The Woodcutter’s Diety”) sent a beautiful video from his home in which he thanked L. Ron Hubbard and the contest and went on to note how he missed being with his writer class and would be looking forward to finding them as their careers unwound. Afterward, Larry Elmore, who was presenting the illustrator’s award, paused, looked out at the audience, and said “That was a moving video. You can tell he has the same heart as the rest of us.”

Yes, indeed you could.

And, yes, there was moment after moment for the winners, culminating in the announcement of the illustrious “Golden Pen Award,” the top achievement in the contest in which the judges selected a grand prize winner from the top four winners of each quarter. This year the candidates were Dustin Steinacker’s “Envoy on the Ice,” Doug Souza’s “The Armor Embrace,” Andrew Peery’s “Useless Magic,” and Jake Marley’s “Acquisition.”

When Jake’s name was called, pandemonium broke out. There was screaming and laughing and joyous crying—and that was just from Jake! The rest of the crowd, including this fantastic set off on a round of thunderous applause as he bounded down the aisle, hugging his friends and receiving big claps on the back. To say the least, this was a very popular winner. Jake gave a beautiful acceptance speech. At one point the screen flash on his beautiful wife and daughter smiling, with tears in their eyes, literally unable to hold still. Later I would speak with one of them and she was effervescent. “I’m so proud of him!” she would say, literally glowing as she held a copy of the book to her chest. “He’s been gone at the Writers of the Future for so long and I haven’t seen him or hugged him until today and I’m so proud of him I can hardly even finish my sentences and I’m so ready to burst.”

Which brings us full circle to the book signing.

The winners arrive and take their seats. Books are purchased, and the signing commences. I wander around in the background, watching as the lines of people walk through and the writers talk to each of them as they personalize the books. It’s a long process. Past winners Megan O’Keefe and Laurie Tom are there, making sure the writers always have water, which is considerably more important than they might have thought before going through this. It’s hot there, you know? The lights are on, and the people move by, and you’re talking all the time, which means your voice gets dry. Water is a big deal at a signing. Consider this lesson number 10,058 of the Writers of the Future week.

Then it’s done.

The winners pile into busses, get back to the hotel, put on their everyday duds, and head to the after-party to chat, sign each other’s books, have a little snack, and basically just decompress.

It’s nearly 3:00 by the time I get back to the room and shut off the light.

But, who is minding the clock, right? This Writers of the Future thing is all about fantasy and science fiction.

Time is our plaything, and tonight it’s on the side of these 14 amazing winners.

For a glimpse of how the day transpired, click HERE.


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now. Find out more about Ron at

Bob Ciano

Illustrators of the Future Workshop 2017 – Day 5

Day 5. Portfolio day. The winners have been through the gauntlet. They pushed through their assignments and have the tools to succeed.

Larry Elmore started the day giving his advice to the winners. Listening to him is a special treat with his amazing wealth of experience. He spoke about how technology has influenced his work for reference gathering and about lens distortion when taking your reference. His tip was to use an 80mm lens as it will be similar to the human eye. Regardless of technology, he has used models for 40 years and gave sound advice for keeping everything legal to protect yourself. One of the beauties of technology is the distribution outlets for your projects. While many of the older publications are now gone, new outlets have evolved thanks to the internet. So the age of technology has really made it an incredible time to add revenue streams that make you money while you sleep. All this advice was really good, but the primary force of the talk was about how an artist sees. Not just look but to really see it, to the point where you understand the shapes and patterns. Cataloging your visual library is a lifelong journey but is vital to an artist’s visual vocabulary and once you understand the shapes and patterns you can manipulate them, distort, and make something new.

Bob Ciano, has worked as a Creative Director for Wired magazine, St. Mary’s College, Life magazine and the New York Times. He gave his lecture with the illustrators about their business plan and reinforced their usage rights as artists. He asked some great questions which the winners will need to ask themselves regularly. Questions like: What art do you make? Who is your target? What has the response been to your art? Are you getting work? Because if you are not making your living on your art you are not a professional. He talked about the invoice, the basics being: Who it goes to. When it’s due. How much. The most important thing he looks for in promotional material is to do something different, even if it’s something small. You must market yourself. This includes research on your other illustrators. You must be a good designer, and a good marketer using a website and social media. Make sure you are making projects that stand out, not just portfolio pieces. Don’t worry about the rejection letters as it usually takes 3-5 years to have enough clients to not work a day job, but it works that way in all industries. He discussed how to sell by targeting who you want to work for. Do you have a promotion piece and are you going to send it to them every month until they tell you to go away or give you a job. Art Directors and Creative Directors are busy people and it takes many tries sometimes to get the timing right and the right project to come along. The key is to never stop sending.

The Winners broke for lunch and then upon returning conducted round robin style portfolio reviews with each of the visiting judges providing a vast wealth of knowledge to draw from. Each Winner had 20 minutes for each session with their choice of Ciruelo, Larry Elmore, Bob Ciano, Echo Chernik, Lazarus Chernik, Val Lindahn and past winners. With so many biases and different experiences each Portfolio Review would be different and it seemed to be a pattern that after the timer quite a few artists and judges went over their time. That just speaks to the level of art that is winning the competition, each year builds higher from the year before.

Past Illustrators of the Future winner Ven Locklear came to talk and showcased his work and his experiences working at Liquid Development. He has worked on games ranging from Farmville to Halo 5, and with companies like WB Games, Zynga, Disney Interactive, 343 Industries, and Bethesda. Most of his presentation was how he entered into the industry and provided avenues for the winners if they would like to pursue a similar career path. In this case there were a couple winners who definitely have that style and they were able to converse further after the fact.

Most of the night the winners spent rehearsing at the theatre where the event is fast approaching, all anyone could talk about was the humongous dragon that wrapped around the stage. If you cannot attend the event personally make sure to catch the live streamed event to see all the winning pieces as well as who wins this year’s Golden Brush Award.

Photos from today’s workshop, HERE.


Joshua Meehan

Joshua Meehan

Guest blogger, Joshua Meehan.
Joshua Meehan is a freelance science fiction and fantasy illustrator. He was an Illustrators of the Future winner in 2013 in Volume 29. His client list includes Paizo Publishing, Analog Sci-fi magazine, Fantasy Flight and Bethesda. Joshua’s illustration for Robert J. Sawyer’s short story “Gator” is in the latest Writers of the Future anthology, Volume 33.

Illustrators of the Future Workshop 2017 - Day 3

Illustrators of the Future Workshop – Day 3

It was an early start for the winners and based on the look on their faces they didn’t get much sleep. They were busy working on their assignments. Some worked digitally and some worked traditionally. Lazarus began the morning early and presented the theme for the day: Portfolio Presentations. Each day there has been a recurring overall theme, “You are good enough to do the work, that is why you are here.” Today the winners would learn how to sell their portfolio to clients.

Part of selling to the client is making sure to hit all of the important parts within the brief. In the assignment “the Red Dragon,” handling client curveballs (where the client changes what they ask for) became a point of critique. This became a good example of how to communicate and take care of your client. Between critiques, the Illustrator winners had now proceeded to the reference gathering part of the creative process. Creating a good sketch is important, helping to ensure the gestalt or “the overall” is working well, as well as structuring the message for one’s eventual audience. Yet it is the reference that the artist can use to really sell the image. The winners took turns posing as each other’s references for their pieces, setting up lighting, using props. Anthony Moravian’s reference piece was particularly extensive and everyone was happy to jump in. With many expressive faces, we all gathered together to scream at the imaginary horrors. With each winner’s reference pack, they were able to flesh out their ideas and really tighten up the drawings for presenting later.

The winners were then gotten to “sell” their portfolio in a controlled environment. It really helped the winners work out the kinks and see the order of presentation and how to comport themselves. Each artist would present their work and for some, it was their first time in public speaking, yet all went full force and impressed the judges. For David Furnal, we all gathered around his tablet and really got into the great line work. Including his graphic novel “Another Girl, Another Planet.” After seeing each presentation we broke for lunch.

After lunch, the seminar continued with judges portfolios. Lazarus showcased his “Brand Management” portfolio. Echo had her many fantastic art nouveau works and many different styles. This was a way to specifically show how to organize your portfolio and how to sell it and showing how your clients will go through your portfolio. Winners were coached on what they should sharpen and fine tune for stronger presentations. One interesting point that Lazarus talked about was to “Walk the customer through” your portfolio instead of letting them walk through your work. Show the client what fits their need and sell your services to fix their problem. The artists began their one-on-one sessions on how to orchestrate their portfolio. Each artist had different approaches. And by the end of the day, they had strong portfolios and even stronger websites. The art was already good, it was just a matter of how they told the story through the portfolio.

The rest of the day was tuxedo fitting and fellowship … until when the surprise hit! As the tuxedo fitting was taking place, the writers’ room was completely filled with easels of each piece of art in the upcoming Writers of the Future Volume 33. As the illustrators stood by, writers entered the room, reviewing the art display to find their piece. Once found, their illustrator would come up to the writer to introduce themselves! As an artist, there is a lot of work that has to go into a cover piece. Reading the story multiple times to pick up on the minute details and tone. The artists and writers were thrilled to meet each other and instantly hit it off. A very cool moment that they will remember forever.

There were just a few more surprises. With such a full day, the perfect capstone to the night was the Salon Figure Drawing session. The artist gets to just relax and get into the heart of what the winners love to do—draw. Everyone had different styles, tools, and techniques. As a special treat, they could even sketch side-by-side with the judges, seeing their masterful strokes.

After such a great day the winners were sent off with a complimentary t-shirt featuring Larry Elmore’s “Crimson Dawn” from this year’s book cover!

Tomorrow the artists will be presenting their assignments, so look forward to that.

A ton of cool pics from today’s highlights can be seen HERE.


Joshua Meehan

Joshua Meehan

Guest blogger, Joshua Meehan.
Joshua Meehan is a freelance science fiction and fantasy illustrator. He was an Illustrators of the Future winner in 2013 in Volume 29. His client list includes Paizo Publishing, Analog Sci-fi magazine, Fantasy Flight and Bethesda. Joshua’s illustration for Robert J. Sawyer’s short story “Gator” is in the latest Writers of the Future anthology, Volume 33.

Illustrators of the Future Workshop 2017 winners and instructors

Illustrators of the Future Workshop 2017 – Day 1

Illustrators of the Future is a contest like no other. There’s prize money sure, but what is truly inspiring and unique is the week-long workshop where you will meet with many artists who have established themselves and learn the sage advice you didn’t learn in school. This investment into the artist is what paying it forward is all about and will make the journey for these artists one they will never forget.

This year’s winners, who came from all different backgrounds, would not yet realize the common bond they all share. Flying from all over, they arrived one by one at the Loews Hotel, where at 7 pm they all converged for the opening night kick-off of the Illustrators of the Future Workshop. Along the way, we grabbed the iconic group shot of all the judges and winners. Up in the hospitality suite, Joni started it off by getting the winners to introduce themselves. They were then introduced to the judges. With over 30 years experience as an artist Ciruelo Cabral, fresh off an 18-hour plane flight from Spain, provided his initial words of welcome. Echo and Lazarus Chernik broke down the week and showed what winners should expect, which includes learning the business side of their careers.

A lot of adventures will be had between this group of winners. The excitement is very real, as seen when Michael Michera was surprised in the lobby with his new article in the Polish News!

With so much in store for the week ahead… The reoccurring sentiment: let’s get started!

A ton of cool pics from today’s highlights can be seen HERE.


Joshua Meehan

Joshua Meehan

Guest blogger, Joshua Meehan.
Joshua Meehan is a freelance science fiction and fantasy illustrator. He was an Illustrators of the Future winner in 2013 in Volume 29. His client list includes Paizo Publishing, Analog Sci-fi magazine, Fantasy Flight and Bethesda. Joshua’s illustration for Robert J. Sawyer’s short story “Gator” is in the latest Writers of the Future anthology, Volume 33.

Illustrators of the Future Contest 3rd Quarter Winners 2016

3rd Quarter Illustrators of the Future Winners


Here is the list of our Third Quarter
(April 1 through June 30)
Illustrators of the Future Contest
Winners & Finalists


Congratulations to all!


Hanna Al-Shaer
from Michigan


David Furnal
from Oregon


Michael Michera
from Poland



Rania Emmanouilidou from Greece
Joana Ferreira from Luxembourg
Len Nguyen from Oregon
Jessica Wright from Utah

Click HERE for data on how to enter the Illustrators of the Future Contest.



2nd Quarter Illustrators of the Future Winners

Here is the list of the 2nd Quarter
(1 January through 31 March)
Illustrators of the Future Contest
Winners & Finalists


Congratulations to all!


Christina Alberici
of Pennsylvania


Vlada Monakhova
of Alberta, Canada


Bronwen Weger
of New Jersey



Ben Coombs of Utah
Jullilus Levi Granada of Ontario, Canada
Brandon Knight of the United Kingdom
Connor Magill of the United Kingdom
Vincent Williams of Texas

The 2015 Contest year is drawing to a close. It is not too late to enter the final quarter. Quarterly winners compete to win the annual Golden Brush Award and $5,000 cash prize. Contest deadline is midnight, September 31, 2015.
Click here for information on how to enter the Illustrators of the Future Contest.



Announcing the Illustrators of the Future Winners!

Here is the list of our First Quarter
(1 October through 31 December)
Illustrators of the Future Contest
Winners & Finalists


Congratulations to all!


Camber Arnhart
of New Mexico

Talia Spencer
of California

Maricela Ugarte
of Monterrey Mexico


Debora Campagnoli of Italy
Dino Hadziavdic of Bosnia & Herzegovina
Satoshia Spence of Missouri
Anne Tambe of California

Click HERE for data on how to enter the Illustrators of the Future Contest.


Now a National Bestseller Writers of the Future Volume 31

Writers of the Future Vol 31 a National Bestseller

Publishers Weekly bestseller list

Publishers Weekly bestseller list

The latest edition in the Writers of the Future anthology hit Publishers Weekly‘s Sci Fi bestseller list at #7 on their w/e July 6, 2015. This officially makes all 13 of our published writer winners and 12 illustration winners national bestsellers!

Congratulations to all our authors and winners here who made this a bestseller! Authors: Martin Shoemaker, Auston Habershaw, Tim Napper, Scott R Parkin, Samantha Murray, Kary English, Michael T. Banker, Amy H Hughes, Daniel Davis, Zach Chapman, Krystal Claxton, Steve Pantazis, Sharon Joss, Orson Scott Card, Larry Niven, Rebecca Moesta, Editor, David Farland and Illustrators: Tung Chi Lee, Michelle Lockamy, Emily Siu, Shuangjian Liu, Taylor Payton, Amit Dutta, Alex Brock, Quinlan Septer, Choong Nyung Yoon, Nyung Yoon, Megen Nelson, Megan Kelchner, Daniel Tyka, Greg Opalinski, Trevor Smith and Bernardo Mota.