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Belle Mead Artist Wins International Illustration Contest

Posted September 14, 2023


Belle Mead resident and Montgomery High School graduate May Zheng is a winner in the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Contest, earning her $500 and a trip to Hollywood for a week-long master-class workshop, an awards event, and her winning art will be published in the international bestselling anthology, “L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 40.”

Painting by May Zheng

Ritual, oil painting


Zheng has been creating art for as long as she can remember, almost always centered around fantastical characters and narratives of her own invention. Searching for a means to fully realize her imagination, she began attending the Art Academy of Hillsborough, founded by Kevin Murphy, world-renowned illustrator and portrait artist and founder of Evolve Artist Training, when she was 12.


At age 16, Zheng was apprenticed to Murphy and began intensive study with him in illustration and portraiture. Although her apprenticeship applies artistic training and skills in oil paint, Zheng also works in digital painting to create illustrations and fanart.

May Zheng

May Zheng


Her first book cover was published by kOZMIC Press in September 2021 for "The Mad King" by Rebekah Mabry. At age 19, she was recognized by the 16th Art Renewal Center Salon in the professional tiers of Imaginative Realism and Portraiture. May has also worked with Evolve Artist Training to provide painting livestreams to an international audience. Selections of her work are on display at Highlands Art Gallery in Lambertville.


Zheng is currently a full time student at Rutgers University, pursuing a major in cognitive science and a minor in Russian literature. She is looking forward to working in art full time as the owner of an art school and freelance illustrator and portrait artist after graduating from college.


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Princeton Day School

The Writers of the Future Contest judges include, Tim Powers ("On Stranger Tides"), Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert ("Dune" prequel series), Robert J. Sawyer ("The Oppenheimer Alternative"), Brandon Sanderson ("Mistborn" series, "The Stormlight Archive"), Larry Niven ("Ringworld"), Orson Scott Card ("Ender’s Game"), Nnedi Okorafor ("Who Fears Death"), Hugh Howey ("Wool"), and Katherine Kurtz ("Deryni" series). The Illustrators of the Future Contest judges include, Bob Eggleton (11 Chesley Awards and 7 Hugo Awards), Larry Elmore (Dungeons & Dragons book covers), Echo Chernik (graphic designs for major corporations including Celestial Seasonings tea packaging), Rob Prior (art for Spawn, Heavy Metal comics and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), Ciruelo (Eragon coloring book).

Into Starlight, oil painting by May Zhang.


Following the 1982 release of his internationally acclaimed bestselling science fiction novel, "Battlefield Earth," L. Ron Hubbard created the Writers of the Future in 1983 to provide a means for aspiring writers of speculative fiction to get that much-needed break. Due to the success of the Writers of the Future Contest, the companion Illustrators of the Future Contest was inaugurated five years later.


Hubbard is the same person who developed Dianetics and Scientology. He published "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health" in 1950 and later founded the church of Scientology.


The contest organizers say on their website that the contest was created to honor Hubbard as a writer of fiction. He enjoyed a successful two-decade career as a pulp fiction writer with millions of fans in the 1930s and 1940s. Hubbard was a prolific writer, authoring more than 300 short stories, novelettes, and novels under his own name and 15 pen names. His published works from that era encompass adventure, detective, science fiction, western and fantasy works. He also wrote a number of scripts for films in that same time period.

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