One year’s example of core faculty and attending guests, from left: Irene Gallo, Iain McCaig, Scott Fischer, James Gurney, Doug Gregory, Donato Giancola, Brom, Dan dos Santos, Rebecca Leveille Guay, Greg Manchess, Julie Bell, and Boris Vallejo

It has often been repeated that illustration is dead. That illustrators can no longer make a living in the field. That illustration as we’ve known it isn’t the same as it was.

That was forty years ago. Yet the echoes of the cave painters still resound within the hearts of the creatives today who want a life in the arts.

But old myths die hard and obviously the third-stage geniuses that love to make predictions of this sort haven’t spent enough time studying within the field. If they did, they would find that new generations of image-makers aren’t about to accept their inept attempts to appear foresightful.

If these wannabe Nostradamus’s could observe with a keener eye, they would find that illustration is thriving. There is one place where the process of building compelling images, constructing a viable career, and learning to become a part of the living, breathing force of illustration, and that’s The Illustration Master Class.

To summarize this rare annual event, a core group of eight highly experienced, highly rewarded, working illustrators at the top of the field and the top of their game gather each year for one long week of training in the extreme effort of focused teaching.

What’s incredible about this event is that attendees get to sit next to and chat with icons of the field and glean a personal appraisal of exactly what’s happening with their own work, while in progress. The instruction is positively poised to deliver accurate critique with an eye toward helping a student to zero-in on problems and successes, and encourages them to learn how to monitor their own progress.

Personal guidance by eight successful artists with decades of work behind them, bolstered by an amazing roster of guest artists from every walk of the field, is peerless.

Rebecca Leveille Guay: The mind behind the IMC. A phenomenal career from graphic novels and book covers, to Magic cards, Rebecca has successfully transitioned her beautiful, jaw-dropping conceptual work for the gallery market.




Scott Fischer: You’ve likely seen his popular time-lapse drawings on Instagram, amazing and colorful graphic novels, book covers and Magic cards, Scott is an unparalleled wizard with any drawing or painting tool.




Boris Vallejo: The legendary oil painter’s long career extends to every aspect of illustration art from movies to books to advertising. His agility with paint is awe-inspiring.





Julie Bell: A powerhouse with imagery that radiates life from her figure work to her fascinating animals, compelling a viewer to remember to breath.




Irene Gallo: Over the past twenty years, Irene has become one of America’s leading, and one of Illustration history’s most sought-after, most accomplished art directors, driving the look and feel of science fiction and fantasy design.




Donato Giancola: An incredible career working across multiple areas of illustration. Dan’s spectacular science fiction and fantasy masterworks engage the viewer with mind-numbing skill.





Dan dos Santos: Dan’s energy and enthusiasm reach new heights in painting after painting, driving a pathway of success others can only follow.




Greg Manchess: “…with versatile experience spanning all aspects of illustration, his prowess with a brush is fascinating to watch, chill-inducing for any would-be painter.”




The IMC’s outstanding list of attending guests over the years has included Mike Mignola, Charles Vess, John Jude Palencar, Iain McCaig, Brian and Wendy Froud, Sam Weber, Cynthia Sheppard, James Gurney, Greg Ruth…on and on


Attendees face failure, persevere indecision, discover opportunities, build working habits, and come away feeling a sense of community, for certainly we all are on the same path with differing insights, yet similar struggles. It has been described as a week so intense that the air fairly crackles with the sensation of being in the right place at the right time with the right teaching to learn the right process.

And the teachers at the IMC are all about the process.  Building compelling images. Images that create curiosity and wonder in the viewer. Images that tell stories, elucidate ideas, and pull the audience into our own personal visions and worlds.

The method for achieving this yearned for aspect is built from cold, solid, practical principles that never fade, no matter what the current aesthetics demand. They are taught and learned in simple ways.

With a program this successful some misconceptions and myths can arise. Some believe that one must be semi-professional, or carrying a degree, or clutching a much developed portfolio to attend the IMC.

This is far from the truth. Every level is welcome. In fact, Rebecca Leveille Guay structured the IMC on a first-come, first-served basis. It has been this way since the very beginning, eleven years ago. Like black belt classes in a dojo, new trainees are surrounded by the higher ranking students and teachers. Everyone learns the same valued principles which work at all levels. Within this type of intense coaching, the fresh student gains not only the critique of those who have traveled the road they’re about to embark on longer and more often, but they gain new perspective. Accurate perspective. About themselves, their skills, and their goals.

Students are guided along a realistic approach to help pursue, discover, and enhance their own voice. Our unique voice is deep within us and over the week the faculty work in concert to help draw it out.

As you know, I am part of the teaching core at IMC. If you’ve read my “10 Things…” posts here on Muddy, then you know my practical approach to training your way to a portfolio that expresses your ideas. If you haven’t read them, you’ll understand very quickly that within the atmosphere of intense teaching during the IMC week, surrounding yourself with people who are far more experienced than yourself, will help magnify your own eagerness to produce stellar images.

All of this energy of discovery can be personally painful as we face our own challenges. But you couldn’t be in a safer place to feel both failure and success. Everyday is tempered with laughter. We’re so serious about a student’s progress that none of us, including every attendee, need to act serious. I’ve never encountered a place with so many genuine smiles. Some artists have expressed to me that they’d found their people, their home.

In fact, the community that Rebecca has grown around this unique adventure continues to spread across the illustration field, creating micro-communities of artists gathering within their own areas after the IMC week is over.


And of course after all, Illustration did not die, as the computer merely enhanced its life expectancy and put it directly in the hands of the general public to be shared and observed by more people than ever before. In many more ways than any of us could have imagined. And it continues to grow in books, movies, television, games, toys, magazines, graphic novels, galleries. We talk about it all at The Illustration Master Class.

The opportunity that stands before you can be attained by simply delaying your fears, and training with the community of creatives that recognizes the desire to make great pictures. Pictures that compel, entice, and draw the viewer into your imagined worlds.

For certainly you are already a singular voice in the chorus of artists sharing a lineage that traces its origins to those ancient cavern walls.