In April, Michelle Lockamy was invited to the 31st annual L. Ron Hubbard Achievement awards in Los Angeles. At the time, the illustrator from Brown Mills, New Jersey knew she was one of the 12 winning illustrators out of several thousand to enter the international competition. What she didn’t know was that she would also be named the winner of the Grand Prize award which meant her illustration would be published in the bestselling Science Fiction anthology series - L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 31 along with a cash prize of $5,000.
The Writers of the Future writing contest was initiated by L. Ron Hubbard in 1983 to provide a means for aspiring writers to get a much-needed break to give their career a boost. Due to the success of the Writing Contest, the Illustrators of the Future Contest was created in 1988.
Lockamy, who recently graduated from the Moore College of Art and Design with a BFA in Illustration, had never been in an airplane before her trip to the awards show. This was also her first time on the west coast, and, more importantly, her first time winning an international contest.
“The experience is kind of indescribable,” recalled Lockamy. “I’m very fortunate that I was able to make such a trip early on in my career, shortly before graduation. It came at the perfect time. To be named the Grand Winner was quite possibly the biggest surprise of my young life, but it was the icing on the cake compared to the wonderful week of events.”
The 12 winners of the contest were given the opportunity to attend a week long workshop taught by contest judges, including New York Times bestselling authors David Farland (Runelord series) and Kevin J. Anderson (Dune series), World Fantasy Award winner Tim Powers (On Stranger Tides, adapted as the 4th Pirates of the Caribbean film), multiple Hugo and Nebula award winner Orson Scott Card (Enders Game), multiple Hugo and Nebula award winner Robert J. Sawyer (Flash Forward and The WWW Trilogy), Hugo and Nebula award winning author Larry Niven (the Ringworld series), and internationally acclaimed artists, Cliff Nielsen (cover artist for Chronicles of Narnia), Dave Dorman (Star Wars character designs) and Larry Elmore (Dungeons & Dragons art design)—each one an experienced professional in the field providing sound advice based on hard-won experience.
“The workshops were fantastic,” said Lockamy. “I really enjoyed learning from the artists that volunteered their time to show us the ropes. Some artists were philosophical, some business savvy – we even listened to the perspective of an art agent, another first for me. By getting fresh feedback from professionals outside the realm of my classroom, it helped me see my work in a new light. I was also very happy to meet and learn from artists from all over the globe, since that is truly something not every artist has the luxury of, even in our digital age.”
Lockamy isn’t sure when art became her passion, but it has long been her favorite subject in school. She was introduced to digital tools as a medium when she got her first Wacom tablet in high school. The timing of the award has helped open doors for Lockamy by offering networking opportunities right as she seeks full-time employment after graduation.
“When others ask me how long I’ve been doing art, it always makes me smile, because I can’t really provide a straight answer,” said Lockamy. “To get more specific, illustration as a focus began freshman year of college, when it was first defined to me. Everything I had been in love with suddenly had a name. Disney movies? Illustration. Children’s books? Illustration. All the pieces came together in college.
“Fantasy art is my favorite genre,” she continued. “It’s where I feel most at home creatively. Children’s illustration, where I am headed now, merges with fantasy art seamlessly; just think of all the fairy tales that kids grow up with. My ideal career path is an extension of what I’m doing now. I’m working towards serving bigger clientele, and improving my work to get into well-known industry shows and publications. Eventually, I aim to schedule a steady stream of clients every month, sometime within the next three years. This is how I’ve decided to label my career’s success, because every illustrator has the freedom to determine what success means to them.”
The 298 past winners of the Illustrating Contest have produced over 4,500 illustrations, 356 comic books, graced 594 books and albums with their art, and visually contributed to 36 television shows and 46 major movies. With that sort of track record, there’s a good chance you’ll see more of Lockamy’s work in the near future.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.