Meet the Illustrators 2024

Introducing the Illustrators of the Future Winners of 2024

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 40

The Illustrators of the Future Contest presents these winners who are featured in Writers of the Future Volume 40.

For 35 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.

The Contest receives entries from around the world. Each entrant submits three pieces of science fiction/fantasy art. 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, the 12 winning artists are 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 the annual anthology and is entered into a second-phase competition for the annual grand prize Golden Brush Award.

Below are the art pieces that won the first phase of the competition. Get a copy of Writers of the Future Volume 40 to see their commissioned story illustrations.

These Contest winners were selected by the following internationally renowned artists who serve as Contest judges:

Steven Bentley was born in 1964 in the city of Leeds in the north of England.

He started drawing at an early age, at first on the walls with his crayons, then on any scrap of paper he could lay his hands on or that his father could provide. His love of art continued into school. If you would have asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would have said he wanted to draw and paint movie posters and book covers.

Life however took him in other directions, but he continued to draw and paint every day developing his work until the opportunity came along for him to attend art school. There he gained a degree with honors in animation art and design. His passion always remained in illustration, and it is there he has continued to concentrate.

He works almost exclusively in traditional media as he enjoys the process and having something tangible to hold is important to him. However, he has been known to dabble in the digital realm.

He currently lives in Portland, Oregon, where he hopes to continue to grow his freelance career.

Ashley Cassaday is a digital illustrator, educator, and painter based out of her hometown of Dallas, Texas.

Like many budding artists, Ashley developed a love for the arts at a young age, constantly drawing and honing her skills, while also being influenced by media such as novels, video games, and animated films.

Upon entering college, Ashley knew she wanted to engage in her creative pursuits professionally, and thus began her desire to work as a fantasy illustrator and character designer for the entertainment industry. Upon graduation however, Ashley’s career changed course and she turned to teaching, where she developed a love for helping young artists learn the stepping stones to becoming illustrators and designers, just as she once did.

Since then, Ashley has worked on and off as an independent artist and freelancer, creating her own stories and characters, all while traveling to conventions across the country to showcase her work and connect with fans and fellow artists alike.

Connor Chamberlain was born in 1993 all the way down in the southernmost point of the South Island of New Zealand—in the sleepy, wide-street town of Invercargill.

Growing up on a small sheep farm, Connor’s view of distant mountains and dense forests ensured that his imagination became a finely tuned instrument, always dreaming of the adventures that could be had over the next hill. So, what’s a kid to do with all that countryside and very little else? Pick up a pencil, of course, and never look back.

As a teenager, Connor fell in love with ’90s anime and Magic: the Gathering, which gave him ample material to obsess over. As well as this, Connor was lucky enough to have a cool older brother as an artistic inspiration and rival to spur him on.

Connor studied communication design in Dunedin, New Zealand, and worked for seven years as a graphic designer. He now works for a small New Zealand game company and seeks joy in drawing for his friends and family, as well as creating fan art of his favourite fantasy series (Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive). He now lives in Dunedin with his newly wedded wife and little dog Haku, and continues to hone his craft.

He dreams of one day seeing his art grace the covers of fantasy books and trading cards, and is—as always—pursuing his own unique brand of world-building.

Arthur Haywood was born in 1990 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Creating graffiti murals as a teenager with his teacher, Pose 2, inspired him to share his work publicly. Having a father who organized reading camps as a state senator and a mother who was president of the local school board showed him the influence of reading on the lives of students. Being an avid reader, who judged books by their covers, led him to sharing stories he loves with others through illustration. He is focused on making book covers, as well as murals for libraries and schools to engage youth in reading.

He earned a BFA in illustration from the Maryland Institute College of Art, before furthering his study of classical art at Cambridge Street Studios in Philadelphia and Grand Central Atelier in New York.

His paintings are seen in Space and Time magazines, on murals for the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, St. Joseph’s University, Elkins Park School, in the film Summer of Soul, and in his book The Great Library.

He is a recipient of the 2020–2021 Harriet Hale Woolley Scholarship at the Fondation des États-Unis in Paris. There he developed murals with students at Lycée Paul Lapie, Ecollectif, and André Malraux Elementary school depicting students of diverse origins reading, as well as the stories that engage them, to encourage learning and cultural appreciation.

He is a recipient of the 2022–2023 Tulsa Artist Fellowship and 2024 Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition Community Artist Partnership grant to continue his series of paintings for schools to inspire reading.

Born in 1985 in East Chicago, Indiana, Peggy Hooper is a versatile artist whose creativity knows no bounds. Known in the art world by her moniker, Gigi Hooper, she’s a child of the ’90s, drawing early inspiration from iconic pop culture. Simultaneously, Gigi was deeply influenced by the enchanting worlds of young adult, children’s, and comic books, which have fostered a love for sweet, fantastical, and mind-bending literature.

Gigi’s artistic journey began in her childhood, when her experimental nature led her to beautify and unintentionally destroy her mother’s personal property. However, throughout her life, Gigi’s mother remained a steadfast supporter, purchasing Gigi’s first set of art supplies, which only continued to encourage her creative process.

While her path took her through diverse careers as a United States Marine and a personal trainer, Gigi eventually returned to her true calling. She earned a BA in illustration from George Fox University.

Currently residing in Newberg, Oregon, with her husband and sister, Gigi specializes in digital art, collage, and pencil work, although her artistic palette embraces various mediums.

Today, she continues her artistic journey, pursuing independent studies while actively engaging in freelance work, bringing her captivating visions to life one creation at a time.

Jennifer Mellen was born March 2, 1988, in Salt Lake City, and raised in Magna, Utah. She has been drawing from a very young age and has explored every art medium she could find, including traditional, digital, and sculpture. She has also always loved all things fantasy, creating strange creatures and dragons in her artwork.

She earned her associate degree in illustration while raising three children with her husband Nathan Mellen. After working for some years in graphic design, she and her husband started SeaDragon Cove, producing and selling fantasy products at various renaissance festivals, conventions, and Evermore Park. That business has now joined with We Geek Together Entertainment.

At Life the Universe and Everything Symposium in Provo, Utah, Jennifer attended an Illustrators of the Future panel where she met Contest judge Brian C. Hailes. After several years of meeting artists at various venues, she was inspired to submit her work to Illustrators of the Future.

Just a stone’s throw away from the Efteling theme park in the Netherlands, Selena Meraki’s journey began. The wondrous design work, immersive experience, and magic of theme parks sparked a passion for art and design from a young age.

Originally drawn towards becoming a veterinarian, fate intervened when a challenging concussion left Selena with a persistent traumatic brain injury. This turning point prompted her to embrace a new direction, one that would allow her to unleash her creativity and imagination.

Fueled by her love for theme parks and captivated by the enchanting realms of fantasy movies and games, Selena found inspiration in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and her favourite game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Driven by curiosity about the creative process, Selena ventured to the UK to pursue a bachelor’s degree in game art and design, from which she graduated in 2022. There, she honed her skills in 3D and 2D art, but it was during a module on concept art and illustration that her desired career path became clear.

Her biggest dream is to become an Imagineer, a master of storytelling and design. Currently, Selena dedicates her time to building a portfolio showcasing fantasy card illustrations, splash art, concept art, and book covers. Determined to share her vision with the world, she aspires to embark on a thrilling journey as a freelance illustrator.

Born in Porto, Portugal, in 1986, Pedro Nascimento (Pedro N.) is a self-taught artist who started to draw at a very young age, inspired by the works of the great masters of illustration.

He carries out his work using traditional means of painting with special emphasis on oil painting.

Despite being versatile, he finds his comfort zone in fantasy and sci-fi themes.

A believer in hard work, he aspires to reach the same level of excellence as the masters who inspired him to embark on his journey and leave his mark on the art world.

Guelly Rivera is an eighteen-year-old Mexican American from Central Valley, California. Guelly was inspired to follow in her mother’s footsteps by watching her mother create beautiful drawings on any paper she could get her hands on. Her mother continues to be Guelly’s main inspiration and biggest motivation to keep creating artwork and to improve. Painting has been the media she gravitates toward most. Her bedroom walls have often served as canvas for elaborately painted murals; later to be painted over to do it all again. As Guelly’s art became more serious she switched acrylic for oils and bedroom walls for actual canvases, all while focusing on portraits with a surrealist style. She is motivated and excited to see how her art will evolve and where it will take her.

Tyler Vail was born in 1996 in Dallas, Texas. At a young age, Tyler was deeply inspired by fantasy and sci-fi media and would spend many late nights striving to bring his ideas to life in the form of drawings.

He would later refine his skills as an illustrator by joining every art contest he could find, actively participating in online communities, and getting feedback from anyone who would look at his art.

Today, Tyler continues his passion for art, dreaming of fantastic new worlds, characters, and creatures. He enjoys working with other creatives to share in a collaborative and positive experience and strives for excellence in all aspects of the artistic process.

Carina (Jiayun) Zhang is a US-based Chinese artist studying at the Rhode Island School of Design. Their expertise lies in interdisciplinary creative health works, encompassing projects for educational institutions, hospitals, galleries, and publications. Carina strives to improve cultural humility in illustrations, explore the therapeutic aspect of the art-making process in clinical use, and bring joy to the world through storytelling.

Best known for celebrating the whimsical minds and lovely imperfections of life, their artistic journey revolves around the core principles of play and therapy, employing a kaleidoscope of colors and diverse mediums to give voice to their emotions. As Carina grows alongside their art, they aspire for their art to resonate with the intricacies of the human heart and honor the beauty within its multifaceted nature. Through their creations, they invite you to embrace the joyful dance of life and revel in the magnificence of our shared complexity.

Helen illustrated “Under My Cypresses” by Jason Palmatier in Writers of the Future Volume 39.

May Zheng was born in 2003 in central New Jersey. She has been creating art for as long as she can remember, almost always centered around fantastical characters and narratives of her own invention. Searching for a means to fully realize her imagination, at the age of twelve she began attending the Art Academy of Hillsborough, founded by Kevin Murphy, world-renowned illustrator and portrait artist and founder of Evolve Artist Education. At sixteen, May began to apprentice with Murphy in illustration and portraiture. Although her apprenticeship applies artistic training and skills in oil paint, May also works digitally to create illustrations and fan art.

Her first book cover was published by kOZMIC Press in September 2021 for The Mad King by Rebekah Mabry. At age nineteen, she was recognized by the 16th Art Renewal Center Salon Competition in the professional tiers of Imaginative Realism and Portraiture. May has also worked with Evolve Artist Education to paint via livestreams to an international audience. Selections of her work are on display at Highlands Art Gallery in New Hope, New Jersey.

In addition to her apprenticeship, she is currently a full-time student at Rutgers University, pursuing a major in cognitive science, as well as minors in history and Russian literature. She is looking forward to working in art full time as the owner of an art school, a freelance illustrator, and a portrait artist.

Also featured in Writers of the Future Volume 40
A returning alumni from Volume 29

Growing up in a creative household, it was inevitable that Lucas Durham would pursue a life as an artist. He knew it was his calling as soon as he could hold a pencil. After receiving a BFA at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, Lucas honed his craft by painting illustrations for the tabletop games industry. He quickly developed a reputation for his impactful narrative illustrations.

Over the past decade, Lucas has had a varied career, working on projects that involved a diverse list of licenses and intellectual properties, including NFL, MLB, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars. His work has been showcased in multiple illustration annuals, magazines, and gallery invitationals, such as Infected by Art, Imagine FX, and the Maleficium Dark Art Exhibit. He currently considers his crowning achievement being invited to participate in the United States Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program for two years, where he had the opportunity to design a congressional gold medal that is part of a permanent exhibit in Indianapolis, IN, and is part of the Smithsonian Collection.

Also featured in Writers of the Future Volume 40
A returning alumni from 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 have driven him to follow his dreams to become an artist in these genres.

Chris was a former winner of the Illustrators of the Future Contest and was first featured in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 39.

We highly recommend following these artists, there is a tremendous amount of good work to come.

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