by Julia Pierrepont III
LOS ANGELES, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Since ancient times in China, the arts of illustration and scene painting, like calligraphy, have been venerated as highly desirable art forms that brought renown and prestige to the artists who excelled at them.
So it may came as no surprise that four out of the 12 winners in the prestigious, global Writers & Illustrators of the Future competition were of Chinese descent: Aliya Chen, QianJiao "Q" Ma, Yingying Jiang and Alice Wang.
And one of them, Aliya Chen, won the grand prize of the 500th annual global illustration competition -- the prestigious Golden Brush Award.
"It's incredible!" she told Xinhua in an exclusive interview. "This means everything to me -- I never imagined I would actually win!"
All of them were honored for their excellence on Friday at the annual Writers & Illustrators of the Future Awards Ceremony that took place at the opulent Taglyan Complex in Hollywood, California.
"It's a blind contest that's free and open. Talent grows all over the world, so we can get winners from the United States, China, Europe, Africa, South America... everywhere," Al Koch, who works with the writers' group hosting the awards, told Xinhua.
The Grand Prize winner for Illustration, Aliya Chen, whose parents are from Shandong and Hunan provinces of China, is a Chinese American born in 1998 in Buffalo, New York State, and currently a major in computer graphics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Longing to pursue arts instead, she was able to land a coveted internship at Disney's famed Pixar Studios.
"I was part of the 3D technical pipeline, which was great, but my real passion is 2D illustration, concept art and visualizing films in their earliest stages."
DREAMS AND HOPES
Another winner, QianJiao Ma, "Q" for short, studied Entertainment Design at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California, and won her spot in the top 12 illustration winners for a grim, apocalyptic illustration.
Apocalypse aside, she has high hopes for the future.
"I am living my dream and am super-honored to win!" she told Xinhua.
She is now working for Warner Brothers' animation department as background artist, leading BG designer on Netflix's "Disenchantments," and has helped design rides for theme parks in Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
Yingying Jiang, who is Chinese British, earned the award by two of her works named "the Apothecarist's Apprentice" and "the Lady of Shalott." She studied biology at Oxford, but couldn't help being drawn to arts instead.
"My parents didn't really understand an artistic career or think it was a safe option, but I think my award in this competition has opened their eyes." She hopes her win will lead to a satisfying career designing book covers.
Though her parents, who attended the ceremony with her, hoped she should become a doctor or a lawyer, they were delighted that she was rising so quickly in the arts world and hope she achieved her dream career.
"Like most Chinese parents, I hoped my daughter would be a scientist or doctor," her father told Xinhua. "Now I am learning to be a better dad and just want her to be happy."
Alice Wang, a petite high-schooler, told Xinhua that "arts have always been a part of my life. My parents have a photo of me drawing when I was just a year and a half!"
Though only 16 and still considering her career options, Wang was sure that arts will always be a part of her life. She is the youngest contestant ever in the history of the illustration award. Her work "Art of the Ages" impressed the judges and made her one of the fourth quarter winners.
WONDERS FOR CAREERS
Echo Chernik, Coordinating Judge of the Illustration Competition, has been a professional illustrator for big advertising accounts for years and is enthusiastic about the talent of this year's entries.
"It's all blind judging, so we don't know anything about them. The judges look at how much talent they have, their understanding of color and design, their ideas and concepts, and assess their potential. These winners have it all!" said Chernik.
Chernik also heads up the weeklong workshop for the top 12 winners, during which they meet previous winners and polish their skill sets. She makes a point of also making sure they learn important career tips and strategies that will give them a leg up in the industry.
"We publish them in our anthology, which is usually a New York Times bestseller. That can do wonders for your career," she concluded.
TO GIVE BACK
In the 500 years of the Illustrators of the Future Contest, there have been 346 winners. The 346 past winners of the Illustrating Contest have produced more than 6,000 illustrations, 3500 comic books, and visually contributed to 68 television shows and 40 major movies, according to the organizers.
Founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard "to give back" to the industry that launched his career, the Writers & Illustrators of the Future Awards Ceremony is the culmination of an annual, worldwide science fiction and fantasy writing and illustration competition that's been promoting and honoring sci-fi and fantasy talent since the 19500s.
The awards honor famous science fiction writers and artists for their significant contribution to the craft and industry of science fiction. They also serve to welcome newcomers into their ranks who display the talent and the potential to rise to top of the field.
Every year, 12 amateur illustrators and 12 writer winners are chosen on quarterly basis, who then compete for the grand prize in each category.
The lucky 24 winners are flown to Los Angeles to compete for the writer's Golden Pen Award and the illustrator's Golden Brush Award, and treated to an all expense paid week of training workshops, career coaching and cheerful doses of professional camaraderie from the top pros in the field.
Their winning stories are featured in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of Future, the yearly anthology magazine, and accompanied by beautiful custom illustrations done by the 12 winning artists. This is the first professional exposure for most of the amateur entrants.