Sammamish artist and illustrator Echo Chernik

Sammamish illustrator gives back to next generation through ‘Future’ contest

Sammamish artist and illustrator Echo Chernik knows firsthand the challenges that young artists face when they’re starting out in the field.

“When you’re trying to make it on your own as an illustrator, it’s nice to have someone to talk to,” said Chernik, who boasts 22 years of experience working as a professional commercial illustrator. “I try to make myself available.”

Chernik gives back by lending her talents to help those up-and-coming artists. At the end of August, Chernik was named the coordinating judge for the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future contest, a contest started nearly 30 years ago by the science fiction and fantasy author Hubbard to discover new literary and artistic talent in those genres. The contest partners with the Writers of the Future contest, with the winning illustrator tasked with providing illustrations for the winning story.

The contest is free and open to any unpublished artist.

“It’s a really good venue if people want to discover a new author that is undiscovered,” Chernik said. “A lot of writers in Writers of the Future go on to have a really good career.”

Professionally, Chernik’s list of clients include Disney, Hasbro, Mattel, Proctor and Gamble, Random House and Penguin. One of her more notable projects is her design of the Celestial Seasonings green tea line. She also provides illustrations in the gaming industry and does poster and book cover design. She has won numerous awards — including a Sammi Award — both for her illustration work and for her efforts in community service. Chernik says she has an “awesome job,” but adds being an illustrator is a lot of work. It’s not easy to find out how to succeed in her field.

“It’s difficult to be an illustrator or writer and get a big break,” she said. “The point of the competition is to give them a step up, some notoriety and get publishing.”

What she looks forward to most is sharing her knowledge with budding artists. She tries to give feedback to the people who don’t get accepted for awards and hopes to “really encourage them.”

“The entire contest and idea of this is specifically about giving back,” she said. “As a successful illustrator, I enjoy talking to young illustrators and young artists. It’s really a good chance to actively give back. It meshes really well with what I want to do and what the contest is designed to do.”

That’s not to say Chernik doesn’t get something out of judging these contests herself. She says young artists have a level of excitement that is “refreshing” and that inspires her when she returns to her own studio in Sammamish.

“I remember how excited I was when I got my first job,” she said. “I can only imagine what the winners feel when they get the call to be a finalist or a semifinalist.”

For more on Chernik and her work, visit www.echo-x.com. For more on the Writers and Illustrators of the Future contests, visit www.writersofthefuture.com.