Discover the Top Five Illustration Competitions to Boost Your Career

Your work deserves to be shared with the world, and one effective way to gain exposure is by entering international competitions for children’s book illustration. Not only do these contests provide a platform to showcase your talent, but they also offer valuable experience in presenting your work to a broader audience. Even if you don’t secure the top prize, being longlisted or shortlisted can enhance your portfolio and open doors to future opportunities. Navigating the world of children’s book illustration competitions and book fairs can be a game-changer for your career. These events not only offer a chance to showcase your talent but also provide an invaluable learning experience. 

As you start this creative adventure, remember these key steps to success:

  • Prepare Thoughtfully: Before you jump in, thoroughly read the competition guidelines and tailor your submissions accordingly. Make sure your portfolio aligns with the specific requirements of each contest.
  • Learn from Others: Winning is fantastic, but learning from the winners can be equally enriching. Analyze what sets the winning entries apart and try to incorporate those strengths into your work.
  • Connect with Industry Professionals: Social media can be a powerful tool. Establish a professional online presence to connect with art directors, publishers, and fellow creatives. Your interactive portfolio website should be your digital identity.

Getting Started

Before diving into these competitions, it’s important to make a strong impression. Thoroughly read the competition guidelines, follow any specific requirements they have, and tailor your portfolio accordingly to increase your chances of success.

Tailor your submissions to the competitions where your work is likely to resonate. Keep in mind that winning isn’t the sole objective; learning from the winners and understanding their strengths can be equally valuable. Persistence is key in this journey.

Prepare Your Portfolio

Establish a professional presence on social media to connect with industry professionals. An illustration portfolio is part of your identity as a creator. It’s what sets you apart and if someone were to ask you “Where do I find your work?” You can direct them to your fully functional, interactive portfolio website where they can browse your best illustration and contact you if they’re interested in working with you. From the perspective of an art director, publisher or client, a portfolio gives insight into the kind of work you produce as an artist to determine whether or not your style would make a right for their project.

Five competitions to get you started 

Without further ado, here are five illustration competitions to explore:

1. International Compostela Prize for Picture Books:

  • Prize: 9,000 Euros and publication in multiple languages.
  • Details: This competition, initiated by publisher Kalandraka, aims to promote children’s literature while celebrating tourism in Santiago de Compostela.
    Here are the rules.

2. Nami Island International Picture Book Illustration Concours:

  • Prize: Recognition on a global scale. Grand Price: US$10,000 
  • Details: This Korean contest welcomes artists worldwide to showcase their work on the picturesque Nami Island. Deadline 31 October 2023. More details here.

3. The Unpublished Picturebook Showcase:

  • Prize: An opportunity to present your work at the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Picturebook projects from our previous showcases continue to be acquired by publishers around the world.
  • Details: Unpublished picture books worldwide can submit their projects for review by an esteemed international panel of publishers. More details here.

4. The Macmillan Prize for Illustration:

  • Prize: First Prize: £1,000. Second Prize: £500.
  • Details: This prize is open to non-professional illustrators. The award has discovered many award-winning talents, including Emily Gravett, Lucy Cousins, Ross Collins, Bethan Woollvin, and Morag Hood. More details here.

5. Key Colours Competition:

  • Prize: The winner receives 7,500 Euros and the winning work will be published by Clavis Publishing. 
  • Details: International Award for the best Picture Book concept. This competition takes place in 3 regions: the US, Canada, and China. The winning works will be published by Clavis Publishing, and other entries may also be considered for publication. More details here.

Books Fairs

Now, here’s a bonus tip: Don’t forget to explore major book fairs that coincide with these competitions. The Bologna Children’s Book Fair (April), London Book Fair (March), Frankfurt Book Fair (October), and China Shanghai International Children's Book Fair (November).

Book fairs provide opportunities for portfolio reviews, meetings with agents and publishers, informative talks and seminars, and networking with fellow authors and illustrators.

Embrace the world of children’s book illustration competitions and book fairs to gain exposure, refine your craft, and make invaluable connections within the industry. Your journey as a children’s book illustrator is filled with endless possibilities, and these opportunities can be the stepping stones to success.

2024 holds a world of opportunities, and I can’t wait to see the incredible stories and characters you’ll bring to life. Keep illustrating, keep dreaming, and keep pushing the boundaries of your imagination.

Wishing you all the best for a year filled with creativity, inspiration, and, most importantly, the joy of creating. Happy 2024!

Nina 🌟

PS – Join me on Instagram! I’ll meet you there. I’m so excited to get to know you! 

The best place to dive right in is by visiting my website

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