Of the more than 4,700 illustrations submitted to the Society of Illustrators National Student Competition this year, only 102 were accepted, including four illustrations from Brigham Young University students.
Justin Taylor, Nate Wilson, Jennifer Eichelberger, and Bryan Beus beat out the competition to secure a hanging space for their artwork on the walls of the society’s New York City gallery.
Against those kinds of odds, said BYU illustration professor Bethanne Andersen, it is wonderful to even have one student accepted.
“This is the most visible competition for a student in any illustration program,” said Andersen.
This is an enormous accomplishment considering the fact that students from 78 schools entered and only 86 students from 33 schools were juried into the exhibition, said Andersen.
“Not many universities get into the competition,” said Taylor. “Most of the people who are accepted attend art schools where art is the single focus. Here at BYU we have to take other courses and it can be difficult trying to juggle everything and come up with competitive pieces of art.”
Beus agreed that illustration can be a very competitive field filled with uncertainty.
“Knowing that I can compete with other artists gives me hope that I will be able to succeed,” said Beus.
Illustration students from all over the United States are eager to have their work displayed by the society. It is a way for them to expose their artwork to a large audience and hopefully catch the attention of future employers.
“Having our work shown is a great way to gain visibility,” said Eichelberger. “It gives us exposure to magazine and book publishers.”
Being included in the student exhibition also means being recognized by other illustration professionals.
“The Society of Illustrators is the most recognized and established illustration organization around,” said Taylor. “They have existed for a long time and all of the best illustrators are involved. Being in the competition is a great way to get recognized by these artists. Plus, just having your art hanging in New York for two months is pretty cool.”
In addition to having their artwork shown in the exhibition, the images are also published in a 36-page catalogue sent out by the society. The top award winners also make the pages of the society’s annual publication.
As if all the exposure wasn’t enough, 23 cash prizes totaling $45,000 was divvied up among the top award winners, with $5,000 going to the top-place finisher. In addition to that hefty sum, $10,000 is given out in scholarships.
Last year Taylor won $1,500 in scholarship money and hopes to walk away with a prize in this year’s competition.
Society director Terry Brown said that the student competition has been around for 25 years now and given away more than $1 million to the winners.
Students at BYU are not strangers to the annual competition.
“We have consistently had students in it every year,” said Andersen. “A few years ago we had seven.”
But the students at BYU are not taking all the credit.
“The praise should really go to the illustration faculty,” said Taylor. “They expose students to these events and if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t even be involved.”
Accomplished illustrators Bethanne Andersen, Robert Barrett, Richard Hull, and Howard Fullmer make up the list of illustration faculty at BYU. Taylor said it is with the help of these individuals that students have the opportunities they do.
“We get great internships because of the faculty,” Taylor said. “They have connections with some of the best illustrators in the country and help students through their established relationships.”
The student exhibit opens May 12 at the Society of Illustrators building located at 128 East 63rd Street (between Park and Lexington Avenues) in New York.
The scholarship competition will be held May 10.