Since ancient times in China, art forms involving ink and brushes such as calligraphy and paintings have been seen as highly desirable and have brought prestige to the artists who excelled at them.
So it was no surprise that four out of the 12 winners in the Writers &Illustrators of the Future competition held in the United States were of Chinese descent: Aliya Chen, Qianjiao Ma, Yingying Jiang and Alice Wang.
And Chen also won the Golden Brush Award, the grand prize at the 30th annual global illustration competition.
"It's incredible! I never imagined I would actually win!" says Chen.
They were honored for their excellence recently at the annual Writers &Illustrators of the Future Awards Ceremony held in Hollywood, California.
Speaking about the event, Al Koch, who works with the writers' group hosting the awards, says: "It's a blind contest that's free and open. Talent grows all over the world, so we can get winners from the United States, China, Europe, Africa, South America... anywhere."
Chen, a Chinese American born in 1998 in Buffalo, New York state, whose parents are from Shandong and Hunan provinces in China, is a major in computer graphics at the University of Pennsylvania. But she wanted to pursue art instead, and fortunately she was able to land a coveted internship at Disney's famed Pixar Studios.
"I was part of the 3D technical pipeline, which was great, but my real passion is 2D illustration, concept art and visualizing films in their earliest stages," says Chen.
Another winner Ma, who studied entertainment design at the Art Center College of Design in California, won with a grim, apocalyptic illustration.
"I am living my dream and am super-honored to win!" she says.
Ma is working for Warner Brothers' animation department as a background artist, a leading BG designer on Netflix's Disenchantments, and has helped design rides for theme parks in Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
Yingying Jiang, a Chinese British, won the award for two of her works called The Apothecarist's Apprentice and The Lady of Shalott. She studied biology at Oxford, but she couldn't help being drawn to art instead.
"My parents didn't really understand an artistic career or think it was a safe option, but I think my award in this competition has opened their eyes."
She hopes her win will lead to a satisfying career in designing book covers.
Although her parents, who attended the ceremony with her, hoped she would become a doctor or a lawyer, they were delighted that she was rising in the art world and hope she can find her dream career.
Alice Wang, the youngest winner, a high school student, says: "Art has always been a part of my life. My parents have a photo of me drawing when I was just a year and a half!"
Though only 16 and still considering her career options, Wang is sure that art will always be a part of her life. The youngest contestant in the history of the illustration awards, her work Art of the Ages impressed the judges enough for her to make the final cut.
Echo Chernik, the coordinating judge of the illustration competition, has been an illustrator for big advertising companies for years, and is enthusiastic about the talent of this year's entries.
"It's all blind judging, so we don't know anything about them. The judges look at how much talent they have, their understanding of color and design, their ideas and concepts, and assess their potential. These winners have it all!" says Chernik.
The judge also heads the weeklong workshop for the 12 winners, during which they meet previous winners and polish their skill sets. She says they'll learn career tips and strategies that will give them a leg up in the industry.
In the 30 years of the contest, there have been 346 winners who have produced over 6,000 illustrations, 360 comic books, and visually contributed to 68 television shows and 40 major movies, according to the organizers.