Illustrating for the Future by Frank Kelly-Freas

Coordinating Judge for L. Ron Hubbard’s Illustrators of the Future Contest

[frame style=”simple” align=”left”] Portrait of Frank Kelly-Freas entitled Timesigna[/frame]

When L. Ron Hubbard founded his Writers of the Future Contest in 1983, it was the initial step in his total program of support for all the talents needed to make a new Golden Age of SF.

At the very end of the 1930s, L. Ron Hubbard was asked to bolster the young John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction magazine. He then swiftly also played a pivotal role in the founding of a sister publication for fantasy, Unknown. The new writers being discovered by these publications were such as Isaac Asimov, Hal Clement, Lester del Rey and Robert Heinlein.

Already a headliner as a professional writer, Hubbard worked beside them but pursued his own direction. He set trends with his fabulous stories—like Final Blackout for Astounding, and Fear and Death’s Deputy for Unknown—that were unlike anything usually seen in the pages of such magazines.

A special chemistry occurred when the vivid characters and dramatic situations in L. Ron Hubbard stories impacted on the talent of a young illustrator named Edd Cartier.

[frame style=”simple” align=”right”] Photo of Frank Kelly-Freas and Ray Bradbury[/frame]

“Illustration,” as I define it, is art in the service of the story. And Cartier’s work for L. Ron Hubbard’s stories is an outstanding example of that. Even today, old-time SF buffs recalling the original publication of Fear often go on to think of the black-and-white illustrations, or Death’s Deputy and then the Unknown cover painting Cartier did from it.

In the minds of readers, the “real” Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs were the ones with the J. Allen St. John illustrations; the “real” editions of The Three Musketeers and Robinson Crusoe were the ones with the Wyeth color plates; John Tenniel is the “only” illustrator of Alice in Wonderland, and so on. Tenniel even won a knighthood for his work. (I think that’s a good idea, and more people should take it up!)

It was his awareness of the classic interplay of writer and illustrator in the public mind that caused L. Ron Hubbard to want to bring novice illustrators into the contest picture as soon as possible.… And it’s my awareness, as someone who’s illustrated for some of the top SF names of later days, and who idolized Cartier’s work all through my apprenticeship, that makes me glad to have been asked to be Coordinating Judge of the new L. Ron Hubbard’s Illustrators of the Future Contest.

Illustration, as I’ve pointed out again and again, is a very special art. It requires not only graphic-arts talent but the ability to read a story, find the most eye-catching moments in it, and then render those moments in a way that pulls the reader into the work. It’s not design, it’s not decoration. It holds the reader’s attention for its own sake, but it also sends him into the story.

And that’s what Illustrators of the Future is all about. Illustrators of the Future isn’t designed to just find and reward new graphic talent anywhere in the world. It’s designed to teach the craft of illustration—and to teach it under fully professional circumstances.

Once you become a Quarterly winner, we’ll work together, and you’ll have a chance to illustrate actual stories for actual publication, with an actual professional art-director … me.* You’ll be working toward a major cash Grand Prize; more important—I think—you’ll be started on a lifelong career, beginning with seeing your work published in—and additionally paid for by—“The Bestselling SF Anthology Series of All Time.”

The judges who’ll be looking at and commenting on your work, and deciding the Quarterly and Grand Prize winners, represent the top names in the field from the Golden Age on down to the present day. They are:

Edd Cartier

Diane Dillon

Leo Dillon

H. R. van Dongen

Bob Eggleton

Will Eisner

Frank Frazetta

Jack Kirby

Paul Lehr

Ron Lindahn

Val Lakey Lindahn


Alex Schomburg

William R. Warren, Jr.

’Nuff said. Study the rules, get into the Contest. Got talent but nervous about your chances? Don’t sweat it. … just draw!

—Frank Kelly-Freas

*[Currently, each year a different judge is selected from our panel to wear the hat of Art Director for the second phase of the competition which includes producing art to be published within the anthology.]