Illustration of the Year

The Speculative Literature Foundation announces an open call for a piece of original artwork combining fantasy and science fiction themes to be featured as its Illustration of the Year.

OPEN NOVEMBER 20, 2023 – DECEMBER 31, 2023

Award: $750 USD.

Winner announced Early January, 2024.


Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats. The winning artist will receive $750.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s seventh open call for an Illustration of the Year.

Submissions Open: November 20th
Submissions Close: December 31st
Winner Announced: Early January


  • Each artist (Artist) may submit one (1) Artwork for consideration.
  • The Artwork may be created digitally or by hand.
  • The Artwork may not be created by any AI programs like DALL-E, Midjourney, DreamStudio, and Firefly
  • The Artwork must combine fantasy and science fiction elements and incorporate SLF’s literary focus.
  • The Artwork may not have been featured in any other fantasy and/or science fiction genre prior to submission or pending the announcement of Illustration of the Year.
  • Artwork must be submitted in both jpeg and pdf formats.
  • Aspect ratio must work for the website banner, being at least 1,500 points wide and 400-500 points high.
  • Final resolution for print must be at least 11 inches wide and 300 dpi.
  • Files are limited to 10MB.


  • Artist must represent that the submission is wholly original art and warrant full ownership of artwork. In submitting art, Artist agrees to indemnify and hold SLF harmless with respect to any challenges or claims regarding ownership of the artwork.
  • If chosen, Artist grants SLF exclusive rights to print, publish, display, copy, distribute, and otherwise use the Illustration of the Year for the full calendar year.
  • On January 1st of the following year, the SLF relinquishes exclusive rights to the Illustration of the Year but reserves the right to continue to print, publish, display, copy, distribute, and otherwise use the Illustration of the Year in connection with any materials created during the year in which the Artwork was chosen, for historical purposes, and for an anthology of Illustrations of the Year.
  • For more information or questions about this Call for Artists or SLF, contact us at

Submission Instructions

Please email your submission to with subject line: “YOUR NAME – Illustration of the Year 2024”

In the body of the email please include your name, email address, phone number, name of your artwork (if any), and short bio.

Past Illustration of the Year Winners

2023: Cosmic Swimmers

Bala On Her Illustration:

“I have always thought of deep sea and deep space as two ends of a vast unknown; as above so below, compelling depths of boundless beauty that humanity has barely explored a fraction of. To an astronaut the vacuum of space is the frontier of setting sail, and in this piece, I imagine a lost astronaut, an untethered explorer and the awe of getting to hold the miracle of a star in your hands, to be one with the particle of possibility, to swim with the fishes. How long has the cosmic sailor been here? Caught in the undertow of a perennial wave? What lives in that shell of a space-suit? I leave the rest to your imagination.”

About the Artist

Sejuti Bala is a writer and a student of English Literature who spends their time arranging for and taking care of the older stray animals in their neighbourhood. When not busy tending to the whims of their beloved cat, they can be found reading graphic novels with a copy of Ancillary Justice tucked under their arm. They are an avid fan of horror stories with the hope of publishing their own science-fiction graphic novel someday.

2022: Through the River of Stars

About the Artist: Michelle Feng

Hoping to translate theory into policy and practice, Michelle’s experience revolves around working directly with traditionally underserved individuals and communities of color to bridge the gap between lived experiences and policy that fails to reflect the complexities of society on a universal scale. Through her dedication to public service, where she traveled around the country working in dedicated pursuit of localized projects with focuses on urban development, environmental conservation, disaster relief, and food insecurity in rural areas. Michelle has also spent time in Human Resources at the Department of Defense and has experience in social work at a small non-profit, which subsequently trained her in crisis de-escalation, conflict mediation, and trauma-informed care.

Feng On Her Illustration:

“I found inspiration for the piece through wanting to combine visual elements from traditional village living structures with futuristic elements of a modern city. I wanted to use a mix of mediums and textures to build a piece with collage-like elements that illustrated a layered approach to world-building. Imbuing realities that are grounded in something familiar, but still continue to live outside of our surface-level understanding of the world, define speculative fiction to me. 
As a first generation Chinese-American daughter of immigrants, I grew up hearing stories of my mother’s experience traveling to the rural village her mother grew up in, who always emphasized the importance of balancing education, literacy, and imagination as the key to upward mobility. The person climbing the wall of books on the left hand side of the image was inspired by my grandfather, a professor of contemplative literature who taught my mother that art is the highest form of expression. My hope is that those who see the piece can connect to both of its real & imagined worlds while exploring intersections between the built and natural environment.”

2021: A Far Off Desert

About the Artist: BARD

Originally from Nevada, BARD (Barbara Ayala Rugg Diehl) currently works and lives in Massachusetts. She brings her diverse backgrounds into her art subject matter and processes, having received her BA in Theater and English from Brandeis University and her MA in Sustainable International Development from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. Her attraction to mixed media stems from both her work as an environmental educator and a personal creative curiosity. By using found items and reusing her own objects and clothes, she both reduces waste and explores the tangibility of art. In many of her pieces she utilizes 3-D elements to redefine who can interact with visual art, adding Braille and durable interactive elements to allow blind and low-vision audience members to enjoy her work. Her art has been featured in solo and group exhibits in seven states across the country.