I just got back last Sunday, from one of the coolest experiences of my life.
It all started about half a year ago when my mom and I were looking for scholarships on Fastweb. We came across an art related contest called The Writers and Illustrators of the Future. There was no entry fee, and I've always had a love for fantasy and science fiction art, so I decided to give it a try.
Months went by, and I had almost forgotten about it, when I got a frantic phone call from my mother telling me that I was one of the winners and I was going to attend an illustration workshop and award ceremony in Pasadena California. I could hardly believe it at first. The nice people at Author Services and Galaxy Press were covering the expense of the hotel room, the flights and even a dinner. They treated me, and all the other winners of this contest like family. It was wonderful, and I can't thank them enough for their kindness.
At the workshop, Ron and Val Lindahn, (two very successful and talented illustrators) instructed me and the others about the illustration business. They were nice enough to take time off from their own work to do this for us. They weren't there to teach us how to draw, but they gave us valuable tips from inside the industry and strategies on how to handle art directors. It was incredibly helpful, and I will keep the list of hints that Val handed out by my side for years to come. We also had other successful illustrators come to show their work and give us advice like Stephen Hickman, Judith Miller, and Cliff Nielsen. (They were very cool, I might add ^_-)
Well, as the week of the workshop went on, I had the chance to get to know the other illustrators better. Not only were all of them great people, but they were very, very good at what they did. My roommate, Yuliya Kostyuk, is not only a professional texture artist, but one of the most creative digital artists I have ever met. Her work is as strange as it is beautiful, and I for one, absolutely love it. Check out her work here ---> [link]
I also met a really cool guy named Marcus Collins. Turns out he's a Pasadena local, and he was a total lifesaver when it came to finding good restaurants and shops. Not only was he awesome, he also had awesome work. I could hardly believe it when I saw his portfolio. This man is a true professional. Check out his site here ---> [link]
One person I was shocked to meet at the workshop was a fellow Deviant Art member. I have actually had a dev watch on her for a long time, because I really was impressed and inspired by her work. Her name is Amelia Mammoliti and she rocks like crazy. Her dev art page is here ---> [link]
The other winners were all fantastic too, i just can't remember their webpages right now. I'll probably update this entry when I do.
Randall Ensley was possibly the oldest, and coolest guy there. He really looked out for all of us, and he was hilarious to boot. Also, a brilliant artist, he took more to pen and Ink Work. He's also a fellow fan of my favorite music group, Danger Doom, which definitely gives him bonus points.
Lars Edwards was a really cool guy who works for adult swim on cartoon network. Lately he's done work on Squidbillies, which I assume he's quite proud of ^_-
Geir Lanesskog is a really good 3d digital artist, and a darn nice guy. He and and his wife seemed to have a great time during their trip.
Artem Mirolevich is a crazy Russian/New Yorker, who is a brilliant traditional artist, and very fun dude to hang out with. It's not possible to dislike this guy, he's just that awesome.
Bryan Beus is a very talented illustrator too. My heart goes out to him though because he seemed to be really busy with work during the whole workshop. He's very good at what he does though, and I was really impressed by his work as well.
To say the least, i learned more in that week from the other artists and the workshop, than i did in three years of art school.
Anyway, after the workshop, there was the award ceremony, and I was completely shocked and baffled that I won the gold award among the illustrators. This honor included a second, fantastically huge, red trophy, even more recognition, and a hefty sized check. I really wish that I had even considered that I might have been the gold award winner, because when I went up on stage to thank everyone, I babbled and almost fell over. Honestly, I was so freaked out at that moment that I don't remember much about it other than staring at my check with images of all my future tasty groceries dancing in my head. These are happy times. ^___^
To all my friends from the workshop (writers and illustrators alike), i have to say, thank you. I loved meeting you all, and it was an experience that I'll never forget. I look forward to the day that maybe I can collaborate with some of you to create a book we can all be proud of. Until then, I'll be hanging around the states, learning all i can and building up a career.