Local artist takes winning designs all the way to Hollywood

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 28, 2016

 Rachel Quinlan, of St. Clair Shores, is a winner of the Illustrators of the Future Contest, from Galaxy Press.

Rachel Quinlan, of St. Clair Shores, is a winner of the Illustrators of the Future Contest, from Galaxy Press.

ST. CLAIR SHORES — A local woman’s drawings are taking her to Hollywood as a winner of a contest in its 28th year.

The Illustrators of the Future Contest, from Galaxy Press, awards winners a cash prize, a trip to Hollywood for an intensive workshop and awards ceremony, and the publication of an illustration in “L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 33.”

Rachel Quinlan, of St. Clair Shores, said she was really surprised to learn that she had won the contest. 

“It just seemed like a good opportunity. I’m trying to illustrate for science fiction and fantasy genre, so it was right in my field house,” she said.

Quinlan graduated in 2001 from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in fine art in studio art. Although she trained in ceramics and sculpture at MSU, it was harder to find access to the right equipment after she graduated, so she began painting and drawing to have an outlet for her creativity.

Quinlan is a web designer, but she began “aggressively illustrating” over the past year, she said, making it into something that was more than a hobby.

John Goodwin, president of Galaxy Press in California, said that Quinlan is one of 12 winners over the four quarterly periods that complete the annual contest.

“It is the only competition of its kind in the world. It is strictly a merit competition and has no entry fee,” he said in an email interview. 

He explained that submissions come from more than 160 countries.

“That Rachel is a winner is an immense testament to her skill,” he said. “And, as a winner, she will attend a weeklong workshop under these judges where she will not only get some incredible instruction as to her technique and style, but she will also learn about the business of art and publicity.”

Quinlan said she heard about the contest online and submitted several images for it, some from her own ideas and some in response to specific illustration challenges with assigned themes. She said she’s also been working to develop a tabletop board game, so some of her illustrations were inspired by that as well.

“All of these illustrators, the prompt is very vague. You get to see how they solve that particular prompt,” she said. 

She said she spends 20-50 hours on an illustration, although they are beginning to take longer as she gets more detailed.

“I intend to do it as long as I can, in addition to my current day job,” she said. “I’m hoping to get more possibly book covers and just kind of build up over the next few years. If it can become another career, that would be great.”

As a winner in the contest, Quinlan said she had to create a new image to be published in the anthology. The winner of the grand prize of $5,000 will be announced at the end of the workshop, she said. 

The Writers of the Future writing contest was created in 1983 by L. Ron Hubbard following the success of his science fiction novel, “Battlefield Earth.” It is meant to provide a way for aspiring writers and illustrators of speculative fiction to get a break into the industry. The 380 past winners of the writing contest have published 838 novels and 4,000 short stories, including 27 New York Times best-sellers. The 310 past winning illustrators have produced more than 4,500 illustrations, 356 comic books, created artwork for 594 books, and contributed to 36 TV shows and 46 movies.