ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Animals, author J.R.R. Tolkien and “Star Wars” ignited the imagination of a young Jennifer Ober while she was growing up in Los Lunas.
The now 26-year-old has harnessed that imagination and pointed it in the direction of a career. Ober, who is getting her master’s in illustration, will slip into the national spotlight this April when she travels to Hollywood to accept an international award recognizing her talents as an illustrator.
The L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards committee recently named Ober as an Illustrator of the Future. Twelve winners were announced worldwide and the organization will name a grand champion April 5 during its 35th Annual L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards festive gala.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” she said. “There are not many fantasy competitions for beginners, especially for students.”
The grand prize winner will have their work featured in the 35th volume of the annual anthology “L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers and Illustrators of the Future” and receive $5,000.
Residents may also soon see Ober’s artwork around town. New Mexico BioPark Society officials have chosen Ober’s illustration as the official artwork for this year’s Run for the Zoo, an annual fundraising race that takes place in early May. The brightly colored image includes illustrations of baby animals born at or transferred to the ABQ BioPark, which includes the zoo and the aquarium. Some of the animals represented in Ober’s Run for the Zoo illustration are baby elephant Thorn, hyena twins Havoc and Ruckus, and sea otters Chaos and Mayhem.
Ober was born and grew up in Los Lunas where her first love was painting. Her parents, she said, helped nurture her love of art by connecting her with local artists. Her other passions were animals and immersing herself in the fantasy world of Tolkien and “Star Wars.”
Ober began her post-secondary education as an art student at the University of New Mexico and soon discovered her passion for illustration. She then transferred to Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver, where she graduated as valedictorian in 2016 with a bachelor’s of fine arts in illustration.
Ober is currently attending college in Atlanta at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Much of her work is centered around fantasy scenes that were born from her love of “Lord of the Rings” trilogy author Tolkien and animals. She said dinosaurs are one of her favorite things to draw and create because it allows her to use her imagination.
“We don’t have a complete idea of what they looked like,” she said. “It’s our best guesses. We have a bone structure and then we re-create what we think they look like.”
Rick Lovell, associate chair of illustration at Savannah College, said Ober’s nickname given to her by the faculty is Oberachiever because of her focus, work ethic, positive attitude and willingness to take criticism.
“(When she arrived at the school two years ago) she clearly had skills, but I wouldn’t have called her an illustrator at that point … it was mostly pretty pictures, not the kind of work that gets one noticed,” Lovell said. “But she worked very hard, focused on her goals and developed a skill set and a direction that is leading her toward a very successful career.”
Ober, he said, took it upon herself to learn animal anatomy and familiarize herself with paleontology in order to make herself a better illustrator.
“This is where her interest in animals and storytelling come together in wonderful ways; she has been creating a series of fantasy creatures that have all the attributes of actual animals but in unexpected and delightful combinations,” he said. “This skill is sought after visual development and character design for film, animation, games and book illustration.”
To view more of Ober’s work, visit oberillustrations.com.