View Full Version : Meet the Artist: Feng Zhu

04 April 2005, 04:53 AM

One of the most important roles in the pre-production stage of games and films is that of the concept artist; the one who breathe life into a script, visualizes the ideas, and conveys style and meaning of the project. Feng began his career eight years ago, designing futuristic sets for Hollywood films. He then joined the gaming world, taking a position at Origin Systems, now Electronic Arts, in Austin, Texas. He was the sole concept designer, working on a successful series called Wing Commander.

After Origin, Feng became one of the original members to join the GT Interactive Austin studio. Here, he helped develop art assets and technologies that are still being used today.

Feng left Austin and returned to Los Angeles in 1999 as a key member of another start up studio: Liquid Entertainment. He was once again the sole concept designer, developing the over-all visuals for the game Battle Realms. His artwork for this game is highly recognized, and has been published in numerous books and magazines.

This exposure brought Feng into Blur Studio, designing for their feature film. However, his job responsibilities soon expanded outside of film production to include working with clients such as Landmark Entertainment, Disney, Sierra, MTV, the Discovery Channel, Bandai, and Universal. This work involved video game cinematics, television commercials, 3D rides, and music videos.

In mid 2002, Feng was invited to join the renowned art department at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch, to work on the feature film: Star Wars, Episode III. Feng worked closely with director George Lucas, presenting him with new artwork on a weekly basis for an entire year. He also worked with Industrial Light + Magic, providing the special FX studio with detail drawings and designs.

Returning from the Ranch, Feng took a position at NCsoft as a Creative Director. NCsoft is the world's biggest and most successful developer of massive online games. Feng managed all the art assets for NCsoft's studios, daily studio operations, and project developments. He also helped establish a new NCsoft studio in Los Angeles. He hired artists, helped the studio move into an office in Santa Monica, and aided in the design of NCsoft's corporate identity for E3.

Feng returned to films in 2004, working with director James Cameron, whose work includes hit feature films such as the Titanic, Aliens, and the Terminator series. Feng worked in a small art department, hand picked by the director, designing sets and vehicles for his next sci-fi film.

Besides working in-house for other studios, Feng has also established himself as a successful freelance designer, under his own studio: Feng Zhu Design. Some of his clients include Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Warner Bros, 3D Realms, Film Roman, Monster Garage, Epic Games, Sony Games, Wacom, and Microsoft. Furthermore, Feng is currently developing his own line of toys, to be launched in 2005.

Last year, in association with the Gnomon Workshop, Feng produced the first ever industrial design training DVDs. The launch of these DVDs was extremely well received and sold world wide. Many schools are now using these DVDs as additional teaching material. This success has brought in other designers to help expand the DVD series, including futurist, Syd Mead.

In addition, Feng has been teaching industrial design courses for the past four years; at both Gnomon and the Art Center College of Design. His classes have brought interest to Hollywood, including director Michael Bay, who worked with Feng and his class to assist in the design of his next movie: The Island. Feng's teaching experience has also attracted the attention of other schools and companies. He has spoken at many conventions across the world, from Asia, to Europe, to Canada.

Feng studied architecture at UC Berkeley and industrial design at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena.

Related Links
Feng Zhu Design (
The Gnomon Workshop (

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04 April 2005, 05:06 AM
I would just like to say .. that I love your work .. Like everyone does :)

What would you say is your most fav peace of work?

( I don't really have any questions I just really like your work )



04 April 2005, 05:09 AM
Feng zhu,
First I would like to say your work is amazing. I am inspired greatly by your art and skills. The DVDís you have are a pleasure also you are a good teacher. Now on with the questions :

1. You seem to have moved to a more digital approach recently. Does that help or hender or in anyway change your approach to design? ( cosiderating the more technical approach you have )
2. You Were working on episode III as a freelance artist ( correct me if I am wrong). How did you get the freelance opportunity in the first place ?
3. Now that episode III is done what is next?
4. Do you do any 3d modeling or have the desire too?
5. Any more future projects with ryan church? ( do you keep in contact? )
6. Any advise on how to get your foot in the door as a concept artist?
7. Just out of curiosity how old are you and how old were you when you first got into the industry ?
Ok that is all I have. I thank you for taking the time out to answer all our questions.
Good luck with all your future projects.

04 April 2005, 05:12 AM
Hello everyone,

I'm looking forward to this week's questions, and i'll do my best to get to everyone.

My schedule is tight, but i'll make sure to login every night and read every post.

Thank you for the great support. This is the best community out there!


04 April 2005, 05:12 AM
is concept design more attractive to artists than other realms in art? and what made you choose such a direction?

I love concept design.....

04 April 2005, 05:17 AM
Hey Feng ,love your style of work.

My question is, What is your work flow like?

as in when making a peice do you start off with a hand sketch, scan it, color + shade in painter/photoshop.

Or do you do something different.

I'm sure it'll be different for each peice but just in general.

anyway thanks for all the insipration, especially your work in the art of episode III book, though I wish there had been more. Also wish I could've gone to Celebration III would've been awsome to meet you.

04 April 2005, 05:18 AM
is concept design more attractive to artists than other realms in art? and what made you choose such a direction?

I love concept design.....

I am also interested in an answer to this question. I am in my first year as a full time art student and I havent completely decided which specific direction I want to take.

04 April 2005, 05:23 AM
Whoa. Cool. Those two words summerize my feelings of your awesome art. Its.. Wow. Cool.

1. Programs you use? ((This may be too broad, sorry))
2. So, any tips for the aspiring artist? Other than a spellcheck program?
3. ... .. HOW did George Lucas find your name, within the thousands of other artists out there? For your name to pop in there, get recgonized multiple times- its amazing. You have some insane skills, dude. How do you advertise yourself?
3. Where can I get your instruction DvD/CD in Canada?

04 April 2005, 05:26 AM
I am also interested in an answer to this question. I am in my first year as a full time art student and I havent completely decided which specific direction I want to take.

just thought i'd add my 2 cents... it wasnt till 3 art jobs later that i realized what i wanted to do ... good luck and have fun with the process

04 April 2005, 05:31 AM
Hi Feng

I am studying 3D animation but like to do concept art on the side and pondering which direction to go for.

My question is how much did you practise every day before you made your first job? How many A4's of sketches and studies did you fill up per day? (would be nice to have something to aim at.)

Second, what programme is best suited for character and environment concept art?

-All the best.

04 April 2005, 05:37 AM
How was the experience working with Lucas Films overall and did you learn anything from it? We all can see what talent gets assembled for these SW films but do all of you artists work together or seperately on projects?

04 April 2005, 05:48 AM
Hi Feng,

I'd like to know where you get your motivation from. What drives you to sit down each time and produce exceptional pieces of art?

04 April 2005, 05:58 AM
How long have you been doing CG and/or pencil sketches?
Why did you choose to go into art?


04 April 2005, 06:02 AM
Hello Feng,

I see that all of your images have very interesting perspectives and great color schemes. I would really like to improve these in my work. What would you recommend to someone struggling in these areas, especially color?


04 April 2005, 06:19 AM
I asked this to Scott Robertson too, so you can say "ditto" if you have nothing new to say after you read Scott Robertson's reply:

Do you think Industrial Design and Character Design are two different disciplines, or do you believe if you know one you should be able to do the other?

Such as if you train yourself to do anatomy, life drawing and character concepts, you should be just as able to do architecture and environments?

Basically, I'm asking this because it seems you can't do one without doing the other.....well a character generally needs an environment............however, an environment does not necessarily need a character.

However, I'm really interested in whether you'll teach at Gnomon again? I really really really want to take one of your classes.....I missed out on the Summer 2004 class due to it being full.


04 April 2005, 06:25 AM
Hey FZ!

It's cool that you're doing this - great opportunity to pick your brain!

As you know, the concept design profession is all about executing someone else's vision. I know you have some sort of Sketchgirl/toy venture going, but have you ever had the desire or inclination to create your own property? (As in a movie pitch, comic book story/character, game design, etc.)



04 April 2005, 06:36 AM
Hi Feng
Just wanted to say you are doing amazing work.
I hope you will keep up adding workshops to your new site, which is amazing btw :D
Also could you possibly release your painter brushes (like ryan church), that is, if you use any special ones :D
Anyways great work and hoping to see more :D Loved the demos you did on, but unfortunately most of the links are broken now :( Wish you could re-post then if you still have the image ? :D

04 April 2005, 06:46 AM
Hey Feng,

I was really wanted to know about the books and products you have coming out, can you give out any info on what will be coming out and when? Is the book still planned to be coming out? Are the posters on Gnomon the ones that were coming out(I got both already)..cause on your site there was some that were smaller size..this one...

are those coming out too?..maybe some more dvds?

I also wanted to ask about environment design. When you went to school what books or things did you study...or did you just study perspective? do you just study reference or are their books you had in school that taught you things about buildings? do you study like floor plans or just look at cool buildings?

Well it was great to see your art in the Art of Revenge book you're one of the artists I really look up to and get inspiration from.



P.S how was C3? looked like fun I wish I was able to have gone down there and meet the group.

04 April 2005, 07:01 AM
1. How important was your education [academic] on the larger scale, or it was just your drive that got you through?
2. You've worked on such great inspiring movies like STAR WARS, but what kind of movies inspire you? any favorites?
3. What's your favourite cheese? :applause:

may the force be with you!

04 April 2005, 07:18 AM
Hi Feng!

I love your concepts man! You have great talent in design, compositing, color...

You seem to be really at home in both traditional and digital medias-

What do you like about each (advantages and disadvantages from your perspective) and how do you decide which to use when you approach a project?

04 April 2005, 07:49 AM
Hi Feng, it's really great to have you here

I would like to know how long did it take you to reach this high level of sketching/painting etc.?

If you don't mind and if it's possible, could you post some older work that date from your late teen years/early twenties? I'm really curious about it.


04 April 2005, 07:59 AM
To add to the question of RudyOne: (Hoi Rudy :P)

How did you develop your skills? (certain teachers or some inspiring books or just keep on drawing and designing) How did you begin drawing and what did inspire you to keep on drawing/designing get to the next level? How do you look back on your development and what big insights did you get over the years?

04 April 2005, 08:05 AM
Hi Feng,

A couple of quick questions:

1. How many of your concepts for games ever reach the public domain? Do you find that many of your game concepts are hidden within the game developer's studios and don't get shown to the public?

2. Do you use much reference for your images? It seems from your tutorials that the majority of your images are drawn straight from your imagination. Is this because you have a stock of reference in your brain from the past that you use when composing images or do you use reference on the side (for details and suchlike).

Thanks! I really enjoy your work and find it very inspiring.

All the best.

04 April 2005, 08:25 AM
Hi Fengh

many many 3d artists all over the world, no matter which software they use, love your concept art and so its often used as an inspiration and as a "blueprint" for private work (training or just-for-fun projects).

i'm a big fan of the manga/anime super-stylized look and the movements in anime-movies.

my question: are you inspired my manga/anime work and/or the anime/manga style itself (not nessecarely from japan or any eastern country)?

04 April 2005, 09:04 AM
hey Fang, its awesome to interact with you.
heres my questions

#1 where do you find your inspirations from? any perticuler artist?

#2 why did you start concept drawing? what motivated you?

#3 what type of designs do you enjoy the most? environmental/character/machine?

thats about it from me... i'll be waiting for your reply

04 April 2005, 09:35 AM
Hi Feng
You're one of my favorite artists!
I've just one question: where do you find your inspiration? How do you concept such designs? Only in mind, or do you re-use already existing things?

04 April 2005, 09:42 AM
Hey everyone,

Thank you for all the great questions. Okay, here we go. Iíll try to keep the answers short, so I can get through all this in a timely fashion =)


I donít really have a favorite piece of work. Usually, my favorite tends to be the one I just finished. I always try to push myself with every new image. Even if I improve 1% on my new piece, then Iím happy.


1. Yes, for the past 2 years, Iíve worked exclusively in digital; no paper at all. I find digital to be much faster, simply because of the undo button. It allows me to experiment with new shapes, without worrying about messing anything up. My approach has changed slightly. I no longer do a lot of thumbnails before starting. Now I just start sketching, and refine the design as I go. Again, all because of the undo function.

2. I actually worked full time at Skywalker Ranch. I did do freelance for about one month from Los Angeles in the beginning. This is because they had to see how well George responded to my sketches before moving me up there (the Ranch) full time.

I got the Ep3 job like any other job. I submitted a portfolio, waited, and finally got the call. I heard about the recruitment from Ryan Church (a friend of mine from school). It was a long wait though, since George wasnít hiring at the time. I got the call from Fay (our lovely office manager), after about 2 month of submitting my portfolio.

3. Iím working on a broad range of projects right now. Iím currently doing work for EA redwood, EA Los Angles, EA Florida, Epic games, Digital Extremes, ROBOT, and 3D Realms. I might go back to working with James Cameron soon as well.

4. I actually know 3D MAX somewhat well. However, I donít use it in production. I taught myself the program so I can communicate with 3D artists better; to understand the language. I do enjoy 3D, and plan to work with it more in the future. Not doing it myself, but rather, to team up with other 3D artists to work on projects together.

5. Iím good friends with Ryan Church. We see each other often for dinners and such. Heís actually down in LA now, working on another movie. We might be working on something in the future, but thatís pretty hush hush at this point =)

6. Portfolio, portfolio, and portfolio. Thatís all! Your portfolio is everything. If you do good work, companies will notice you. Word of mouth travels extremely fast these days. Post a few images on CGtalk, get noticed, and youíll be working in a few days =)

7. Iím 28 now. I started working at age 20 (first job was with EA actually). I feel much older though, probably because Iíve been working for almost 10 years now, without much of a break. Iíve also worked in so many studios, instead of one steady job. Time is a blur to me now.


Well, concept design appeals to many people because of the end result I believe. Movies, games, theme parks, products, etc are seen / used by so many. It feels good to be responsible for products that many people on this planet will have contact with.

I chose this career path because I love games and films. I grew up with movies such as Star Wars, Bladerunner, Alien, etc. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to work in this industry.


My work flow is pretty standard. I start with a rough sketch; refine it till I like the design. Then I do an overlay and clean up the sketch. From that point, I paint/render it in both Painter and Photoshop. Since I work digital now, I no longer need a scanner.


Make sure you truly understand what concept design is before going into it. Concept design is about expressing your imagination via artwork. Clients are paying you for your ideas and designs. I often run into many students who donít really understand concept design. There are many artists out there who are skilled at doing art, but not at design. Painting a photo-real picture of your dog, or a lighthouse is nice, but itís not concept design. You have to have a great imagination to succeed in this field. You need to be able to come up with new shapes, designs, etc, with nothing in front of you except for a piece of paper or a blank canvas.


1. I use both Photoshop and Painter at the same time. I switch between the two depending on what Iím doing.

2. The best tip: there is no secret to drawing. The more you do it, the better youíll get. Itís all about mileage. A lot of people try to look for shortcuts, but there arenít any. Just bite the bullet and do the work. There is no easy path.

3. I answered this question above.

4. Iím sure you can order the DVDs in Canada. Check with the Gnomon Workshop website.


Well, I went to design school first, and they made us do a lot of homework. Art Center gave us so much work that I didnít have time for any social life. I pulled many all-nighters, and worked through every weekend. The point of this is to build mileage.

Donít compare your speed to others, this will only frustrate you. A professional whoís been drawing for 10 years will be much faster than a student starting out, so itís not a fair comparison. Just draw at your own pace and youíll get faster over time.


I had the best time in my professional career working at Skywalker Ranch. George provided us with an awesome work environment, like no other on this planet. The team we had is some of the best designers on this planet. I couldnít have asked for more. I learned a lot from the artists there. Everyone was super talented and willing to help each other.

Most of us work in small teams on projects Ė ranging from 2-5 artists per project. This industry is tiny, especially when it comes to films. We pretty much know everyone in this industry, and end up working together on most projects.


I get my inspiration from everything. My biggest influence is nature. I love animals, plants, land formations, etc. Concept design is never ďoriginal.Ē Itís about bring shapes and forms from this planet together to create something new.

Producing new designs is always stressful. Since 1977 with Star Wars, so much has been done. Itís very hard to be original these days. Iím always doing research, reading books, watching movies, etc to get inspired for project. Itís going to be interesting to see what the next ďbigĒ influence is. We had Star Wars, Matrix, LOTR,Ö.whatís next? Itís getting harder and harder.


Iíve been doing this for 8 years now. I went into this industry because I love it! I remember watching Star Wars for the first time, and thinking, ďthis is what I want to work on!Ē I also remember playing some early video games and thinking of the same thing. You guys remember The Legend of Kyrandia (sp?) by Westwood? That game really impressed me back then, because it was all hand drawn and painted. I knew I wanted to be part of this industry from an early age.


Perspective is a set of rules. If you want to learn it, just take a few classes and read some books. Itís not easy, but once you get through it, it becomes second nature. However, because itís so hard, many people decide to skip it. Perspective is like math. If you donít know it, you canít fake it. If you know perspective well, youíll always be a step ahead. Most artists, I say up to 95%, do character and creature design. Rarely can someone do hard-surface designs such as environments and vehicles. Studios are always looking for good ID (industrial design) guys. They are rare.

Learning about color/lighting just takes experience. Study other painters and see how they approach their work. Take on photography to learn about lighting. And always be observing the environment around you. And practice a lot. Start painting with big shapes; donít worry about details or refinement. Get used to working with values and light, instead of line work.


Well, speaking from experience, those who can do environments well can usually do characters okay, but rarely the other way around. If you read my answer above, youíll see that perspective is a set of rules. If you donít know it, you canít do it.

Character design is hard, but I think itís a lot more forgiving then doing perspective heavy environments. Just look around CGtalk. Youíll notice 90% of the 2D posts involve characters or creatures. You rarely see artists posting perspective pieces.

If you want to be an all around concept designer, get to know both subject matters well.

I donít plan on teach for a while, because of my busy schedule. But perhaps sometime next year?


Hey Francis! Yes, the toy designs are almost done. They should be on the market in a few months. I do have many other projects in the works right now.

You are correct. We do a lot of work for other companies, and they always own our ideas. However, Iíve learned from this, and so Iíve been trying to work on my own projects. Besides the toys, Iíve got a book in the works, some possible script ideas, and even game development. =)


The brushes I use in Painter are all default ones Ė nothing special. The best way to learn painter is to just experiment with a few brushes, and expand that brush library as you get used to the program. I mainly use the camel hair brush and the standard airbrush.

Iíll try to put the old tutorials back on my website soon.


The book wonít be out till 2006. Iíve been working on it, but itís a lot of work. I donít want to give out too much information on it yet, but itís not going to be an ďart of Feng ZhuĒ book (filled with random drawings). Rather, itíll contain a story element along with paintings and sketches.

The only posters available at this point are the ones from Gnomon. If they spark an interest, we definitely plan to expand the series. Weíll just have to wait and see I guess.

Your perspective question is answered a few questions above. Basically, no, you canít really learn perspective by looking at buildings. You have to sit down, learn the rules, and follow it. For example, you canít do complicated math until you know the basics of 1+1. Perspective works the same way; the rules are simple, but it can get very complicated when applied to the real world.


1. Education is very important. However, that said, it is not necessary. You can teach yourself everything, but I wonít recommend that. When you are learning on your own, there is no one around to tell you about mistakes, or give you advice, or the most important, pressure you to work hard.

Schools basically accelerate your education, and direct you in the correct path. It also puts you into an environment surrounded by peers interested in the same subject matter. This friendly competition will aid you in many ways.

2. Many movies inspire me. I donít have a direct top 3 list, because movies effect in different ways. Some inspire me purely for design, other for story. But some of my favorite movies are: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Alien + Aliens, Bladerunner, The Shawsank Redemption, The Iron Giant, Gladiator, Toy Story, Forest Gump, and Brave Heart. There are many more of courseÖ.

3. SwissÖhahah


I work purely digital now. For production, digital is much faster. The undo-key is the main reason for this. With traditional mediums, you are pretty much locked in once you start inking or painting. Digital allows you to change anything at any point, without fear of messing anything up. Itís also faster to work with (not paint to mix, dry, etc). And since everything is pretty much digital these days, it allows me to integrate my work with 3D artists much easier.


Well, Iíve been doing this for 8 years now, but I am no where close to where I want to be; skill wise. I have much to learn.

Iíll try to dig up some old sketches and post them up tomorrow..

Okay, too tired. Will continue this tomorrowÖ.=)


04 April 2005, 09:46 AM
Hi Feng, I had the pleasure of attending your seminar at the 3D Festival in Copenhagen. I almost didnt make it there from my hotel room due to urr.. a late night, but I'm so glad I did.
Until then I had not considered doing concept art, but I was so inspired that I've been one track minded since. I've had lots of freelance work which I've learnt from greatly... Thanks!!

My question is... do you think a degree is paramount? I have the option of doing a degree in Animation (which covers illustration and concpept art), or a fine art degree. In your experience, which would be more benificial. Also, I am pushing 29 and have worked as a graphic artist for over 10 years... is it ever too late to start?

Thank you so much! - Jez

04 April 2005, 09:51 AM
Hey Feng :)
The studio I work for recently bought your gnomon tutorial CD on perspective in landscapes, it was brilliant. I just wanted to thank you for creating that, it was really inspirational to watch and made everything very simple and easy to understand. For someone like me who never quite got it, you finally helped me understand the basics of perspective and how to use it. One of the things I love most is being able to watch other artists draw, from the basic building blocks up, and it was a privilage to see your working style like that. Thank you for lending a hand to us budding concept artists.

04 April 2005, 10:36 AM
read all of your answers, and they were good! but I'm afraid I'll have to go with cheader [cheese] [not to sure about the spelling [or my English :banghead: ]]

what's George [Lucas] like? Is he picky in designs and concepts? does he makes you redo same work over and over until he gets the right reflections 'nd stuff or is he a' ok-guy [or maybe you don't meet him at all, just by mail]? Is work at Skywalker Ranch hard or sort of layd back?

04 April 2005, 10:52 AM
Feng -

you have been an inspiration for me for many years. Thank you.

a simple question(or two). When you used pencil/ink, did you use a ruler for your straight lines? Now what do you use in digital?

Thank you once again. I am already purchasing your Concept Design 2 dvd from Gnomon.

04 April 2005, 10:55 AM
hi feng zhu,
its nice to have the chance to ask you some questions so iīll begin:

im finishing school this month and planing to study industrial design next year. im very interested in design and till today i designed some furniture and smaller things wich where produced in small number. the only problem that is that im not the best in drawing, ill try to get better and learn it but i think i have to learn a lot. so what would you say, is it really really important to be perfect in drawing before studying or will i learn this when i study.
or are inspirations and the idea behind something more important? im not sure what i should do and it would be nice if you could tell me how you handled it.

i really like your pictures and its a pleasure to me,
thanks for your answer!

greetings from germany

sorry for my englisch.... i know its not the best

04 April 2005, 11:06 AM

Some of your character designs have labels all over them describing elements of their design (such as clothing, weapons etc) while many of your designs do not bother with them. These days what is your favourite method of communicating a concept to 3D artists?

Huge thanks for giving us your time.

04 April 2005, 11:11 AM
Hi Feng Zhu. I love your concept artworks a lot.:thumbsup:
On your website it's written that you studied architecture at UC Berkeley. I'm 19 and I'm now at the point where I have to decide if I should study architecture at ETH Zurich or visit an art school to improve my skills in painting and concept art. Im very interested in both. But as an architect I can't use my imagination as if I work as concept artist or for movies or games. On the other side, architect demands me in diffrent ways and it has a stronger connection to the reality. So my questions are, what can u use from architecture study as concept artist? Why did you studied architecture? Why did you choose to work as a concept artist and why not architect? If you could choose today, would you do the same way like you did, or what would you do diffrent?
Hehe, anyway I think you choose the right way because now you are one of the best concept artist. What are positively and negatively sides of architect and what of concept artist in your opinion? If you could give me some hints that would be great and very helpful for me. Opinions of people that have a lot of experience may make that decision easier for me. Here are examples of my work >> (

Thanks a lot !!! :)

(sorry for my bad english...)

04 April 2005, 11:21 AM
Hi, Feng!!! I've been a HUGE fan of yours for several years now. Love your work... inspirational as always.

My questions:
1. Ever have a creative roadblock? If so, what things do you try to overcome it?
2. I know it's easy to become 'pigeon-holed' for doing just characters, or just vehicles, or only environments... how do you push yourself creatively to avoid this?
3. IF you were accepting portfolios, what are some of the things you'd be looking to see?

Thanks so much for taking the time for this Q&A... I really appreciate the rare opportunity. Oh, can't wait for the book and toys to come out!


04 April 2005, 11:32 AM
Hi Feng,

Like everyone here I think you are the King of concept art ;)
So with that out of the way, here is my question.
I apologise that it might seem a bit left field..

I know you said you have'nt been working on paper for a while but I was wondering what type of pencil sharpener you used to get that really fine point on the Prismacolor pencil?

Again sorry about this, but it is driving me crazy I have checked every sharpener in the north of england :)

Thanks in advance dude!!!

04 April 2005, 11:33 AM
Yo Feng,

Just wanted to say that I think your work is amazing and you are one of my biggest influences as far as workflow goes, I purchased your training dvds a few months ago and my work has increased in quality and decreased in turnover time by a large margin.

I also think that you are an excellent teacher and it is very easy to listen to you and your teaching experience comes across the screen amazingly well (compared to some of the other lecturers from Gnomon, who seem rather uncomfortable speaking into a mic) - I'm actually using your dvds to help get our new in-house artists up to speed.

I just recieved your New Empire poster - which although looks like it was damaged by the gnomon staff (grrrr!) is an awesome piece.

I too noticed that you have shifted away from your analog traditional media to more digital these day especially with your new tutorials, and I think now would be an awesome time to release a few new dvds covering the same topics as done previously but done digitally as obviously the workflow will change - I know I'd spring for them!

Keep on teaching,


04 April 2005, 12:00 PM
Interesting stuff so far.

Feng you talk about the importance of perspective. Do you see this still being vitally important when working digitally? Its pretty easy to set up block models in a 3D application to act as a guide when creating images. I suppose it would be faster doing things in 2D if you can do it well.

Are there are good reference books you would recommend on learning perspective. I come from an industrial design background as well but our tuition was not as thorough as it should have been and its been a while. I would really like to brush up on this stuff to an advanced level.

Also, now that you are working digitally do you still do a lot of line work up front, or do you tend to block in shapes and then refine?

04 April 2005, 12:01 PM
First I just want to say that your work is amazing. Wing Commander is actually the first computer game I played. Its why I bought a computer! And Aliens is one of my all time favorite movies.

1. Since you work totally digital now, how do you handle perspective? Do you simply draw loose freehand or do you have a method for being more acurate?

2. If you do use a more acurate method, how do you deal with the fact that vanishing points are often kept well off the page to avoid distortion?

3. Often different projects require a person to create architecture from different time periods. What sort of reference books do you use to help you create acurate time/culture specific buildings?

4. I was wondering. Since you work totally digital, how do you get past the "disjointed" or "disoriented" hand eye feeling you get when drawing on a Wacom but having your work show up on the monitor. I find it difficult to draw fast/well when I can't actually see the results on the surface that I am working on. How do you manage?

5. Do you do anything special to your tablet so that it feels more like a natural drawing surface? I find that the surface of my Wacom is bit smooth and it makes it harder to maintain tight control of my lines.

Edit: BTW, you wouldn't happen to know of any Gaming places in Toronto Ontario that take on Student Interns? Happy to work cheap or free.


04 April 2005, 12:11 PM
hello feng...
wow...your art is just amazing ... it's so incredible what you did and let me mention that I love your work since I found your site on the internet years ago!

well ... I would know :

-are you still teaching at gnomon school?!and would you recommend this school?!

-is there a possibility to get a signature of you?

thx so much!

04 April 2005, 12:43 PM
Hey Feng, just to start off. I love your work. Its so inspiring. I am more into the 3d realm but wouldl ike to get better in 2d. When I was younger, I drew alot more than I do now. I've noticed that Im not as good as I used to be. But anyway, on with the questions.

1) Are there any games or movies you will be working on in the near future?

2) When you actually have spare time, what do you do with it?

3) Are there any other ways to get good contacts with the industry besides classmates from college?

4) Whats the average salary of a Concept Artist?

5) Do you have any good contacts (2d and 3d related) that you can share with us?

6) Can you buy me a Wacom? lol j/k (PM if your up to it :D)

Well thats about it for the questions. Please continue making your incredible art, as it helps me get out of major creative blocks. Wish you well in the future.

04 April 2005, 01:20 PM
Hi Feng!

I admire ur designs and pics very much! Besides they inspire me, they also push me further to learn more and try new stuff. Thank u very much for sharing ur work and ur time at the moment!

And I have a question, which I think it wasnt posted before...

Is it possible to make just 2d art today? I mean being hired just because of ur 2d skills and live from that salary? Or clients (in gaming and film industry) hire mostly people with both skills (2d and 3d) coz its obviously cheaper for them.

Thnx again for ur time and keep up ur marvelous work!

04 April 2005, 01:26 PM
First I would like to thank you for all the inspiring artwork you've made. I am new to the concept art world and was wondering how many pieces of work do you produce a day at the level of quality that the ones at the start of the thread are made. I know different people work at different speeds and it depends on the subject of the piece, I'm just looking for a generalization and something to shoot for. Once again, thank you.

04 April 2005, 01:28 PM
Hello, Feng

I'm wondering what is the influence of music on your art. Some great artists find little inspiration in sound, others put it simply as a background for the process. There are also some people that actually put much attention to music and, for instance, let the music-born feelings paint pictures and ideas in their minds, which are later weaved into the creation.

How does it work in your case?

And what are you listening to? ; )


04 April 2005, 02:26 PM
Awesome thread! Like everyone else here, I've been a fan of your art for a few years. I think one of the main attractions to your art, besides being well designed, is the fact that its so clean and, in my eyes, perfect.

Stephan Martiniere was on G4TV last night and he was showing off some of his work on Episode III. Amazing work. Whats your take on his concept art?

Thanks for your time. I'll be following your progress for many years to come. :thumbsup:

04 April 2005, 02:45 PM
Hello, Feng

I would just like to first start out by saying thank you, your web sight came up on a search of concept artists once along time ago and since then I have wanted to express my idea in a quick well composed fashion. Any who enough about that I ready most of the answers you gave others so I only have a few questions, and Iím sorry if I repeated a question.

Weíll my first question relates to the topic of architecture, Im a 3 years 2nd sem arch student at RWU and I am interested in getting into the game and entertainment concept industry and im wondering if you think that arch will help or just be an extra.

I also heard word that you had started off in arch and then switch out to design, and my question is do you think arch helped you in any way toward your design meathods.

Im also wondering what made you leave arch was it studio or all the annoying extra classes? (guess that question is a little one sided)


And hope to see more inspirational work


04 April 2005, 02:49 PM
Hi Feng!
thank you for taking the time to answer so many questions! your work is realy nice, im currently studying your Gnomon dvd's...very cool :thumbsup:
my questions:

1, how much free time do you have if you work for so many clients?
2, could you post a pic of your workspace? =) (if you dont want to post it public, then pm please) :)

thats it thanks, good luck for the future!

04 April 2005, 02:53 PM
Hi Feng

What a chance great chance to ask you a few questions also!

I have your dvd's and have watched them many times and my skill has improved leaps and bounds.

2 things i have problems with,

I feel confident I can draw from life pretty accurately, be it portraits, still life etc BUT like you said earlier some people cant actually CONCEPT stuff...thats where I fall, I just can't imagine some of the stuff you have done and I get really frustrated staring with a blank page. Any suggestions?

The other thing is that most of my work I do with a pencil as i feel confident HOWEVER I struggle with colour. I know some of the principles like stuff gradually going blue towards the distance etc but adding lights to a characters face and knowing what colour to use i find difficult ?? Any books worth looking at or shall i just "go for it" and see what I get blocking out colours, rather than details like you said.

Thanks for your time Feng,


04 April 2005, 02:56 PM
Hi Feng, I just wanted to ask you, you've started out with product design yourself.. how do you feel are the possibilities for product designers in the concept field? You mentioned studios are always on the lookout for people with skills in hard surface objects, vehicles etc... but often those same designers have problems when it comes to characters and people..
Anyways, it probably comes down to practicing at what you are lacking at right?
Also wanted to mention (it's getting repetitive right ;) ) how much I like your work.. You're cranking out awesome work at great speed! (your new site is full of it! wow!)



04 April 2005, 03:01 PM
feng i've been a huge fan of your work ever since i've seen your posts on the forums. congrats with all your success.

my primary question is about your sense of lighting - it always appears perfect. it's hard for me to guess how light should fall and bounce and react in my drawings when the scene is complex and there are multiple light sources. do you have any tips for understanding it better? do you sorta just "guesstimate" how all of the lighting should look based on experience, or do you have a more precise method for knowing/doing?

i've been considering rendering very rough versions of my scenes with 3d primitives, setting some basic light sources where they should be, and using that as a light reference for my drawings...would you recommend this, or is there some easier and more natural way of creating light well?

04 April 2005, 03:05 PM
Hi Feng,

Recently I’ve been trying to organize my drawing environment. How do you organize your references, art supplies, and artwork?

You've inspired me with your art, I never thought drawing could be so much fun until I saw your artwork. Good luck with your career.


04 April 2005, 03:36 PM
Hello Feng, I love your work and your willingness to share your knowledge and educate the community is truly an inspiration.

My question is a liitle off the topic, but I'm hoping you can shed some light on it. I mainly do storyboard art and occasionally concept design for TV commercials (Trying to break into movies and games). Can you give me an inside view of the importance of storyboard artists within the production process? It seems to me they're looked at as just wrists while concept designers gain more respect.

Thanks for taking the time with all the questions. Again, huge fan of your work!! :applause: :applause:

04 April 2005, 03:44 PM
Hi Feng :) i love ur work too much, thanx for the inspiration. KEEP ROCKING :thumbsup:

04 April 2005, 03:52 PM
Hi Feng, many thanks for sharing your amazing concept art and doing this Q&A
You are not only inspiring the concept art community, but also the industrial design community. Speaking as an industrial design student I have some questions:

- How does the Industrial Design world inspire you?
- How much do you deal with ergonomics/technologies/materials in your concept art?
- Have you been invited to do ID work?
- Since you have Chinese roots... are you interested to do concept art for the Chinese growing movie/game industry?

I need to thank you again, because you and many other great artists motivated me to draw my ideas faster and better. :bounce:

04 April 2005, 04:30 PM

I bought your vehicle design DVD and it was awsome! Thanks a lot for doing those, i hope you do more in the future.

I was wondering if you could tell me a little about what the work environment was like on skywalker ranch? Would you be willing to work there full time again if they asked you to? I would realy like to work there someday and if there is any advise you could give me on how to persue that it would be very very helpfull. Im currently a concept artist for a video game company called The Collective, and i Have a portfolio website (that desperatly needs updating).

If you could take a look at my site (Link bellow) I would be thrilled to have you give me a short crit on what you think i should focus more on to make my work more attractive to the folks on the ranch.

-Adam Richards

04 April 2005, 04:55 PM
Hi Feng, I love your stuff.

A while back I had the opportunity to meet concept artist Peter Chan while he was in Portland. (I even drew him a little characature of himself) Anyway, have you worked with him in the past?
When working with multiple concept artists on a project, are there ever times that you end up doing concepts for the same thing or are you always working on seperate projects?
Do you ever find that there is a underlying layer of competition between concept artists on a project?

Thanks for your time.

(edit: good lord that's a lot of questions! you poor fellow.)

04 April 2005, 05:04 PM
Hi Feng, thanks for taking the time to do this Q/A!

I am currently working on a portfolio that I hope might get me a job in the entertainment design field. I have an Industrial Design education (in progress) but am self-taught in design drawing.

I have only one question:

1. The pressure to be original often slows me down. Aside from constantly being aware of new and exciting things to integrate into concepts, how do you manage to clear your mind and come back to the job--especially after you have been doing it for so long? What inspires you to find originality in your clients' assignments?

04 April 2005, 05:14 PM
Hello Mr. Zhu,

I was delighted to see you doing a Q&A here at the CGTalk Website. I always read the stuff here but never really posted. However when I saw the chance to get you to answer a few questions for me, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to finally register.

1. As a veteran concept design artist, do you think that it is wise to just jump into the mix right after graduating, (ie submit to big name studios with what portfolio you have) or is it better to wait a little?
I am a university undergrad and some people say to start out small. Either go to grad school, go to a small production company or even hold back to gain certifications in programs and various other skills.

2. In your opinion, do you think school of origin makes a difference. You and Mr. Church both come from the Art Center, but did that ever help you land a job?
I ask this question because I am currently in a large university which doesn't have as big impact of a name as say... the Art Center or Ringling School of Art or even the Art Institute.

3. You always stress in all your Q&As that nothing beats just drawing... no shortcuts... just doing it. Do you think that Concept Design is an innate ability that you're born with? As in, anyone can learn how to draw but only certain few have the ability to 'concept'...

4. One last question (sorry for the amount), do you swear by High-Tec C's? Because I know I do! Best pens ever created. Do you recommend any other pens that you use on a daily basis (other than Prismas).

Thank you very much Mr. Zhu. I would just like to say that people like you are an inspiration to college guys like me and I hope that you will keep displaying the little artwork that you are allowed to show because of NDA regulations. I know it is a longshot but hopefully I will get to meet you some day.

Lloyd Romero

04 April 2005, 05:17 PM
Hey Feng,
You have alot of questions here, I almost feel bad for posting but I do have one question for you.

I see that most guys in the ID field tend to use "non-drafting" software to express their ideas like Painter and Photoshop. Are Illustrator or CorelDraw not the right tools to do hard surface renderings? Do you see an advantage in using rastor as opposed to vector software(s) to create a final render? Thanks so much for your valuable time!

04 April 2005, 05:49 PM
Hello Mr. Zhu,

My name is Sun, and I would like to be a Concept Artist.(I really like your Environment Design.) Thank you very much for taking the time to reply all the questions here. I know that you are very busy, but if you have time can you please take a look at my artworks at ( and give me some feedback.(and what I need to work on) I would really appreciate it! Thank you very much!


04 April 2005, 06:28 PM
hey feng hi there
I've been looking at your art for some time now and I really like the idea of you newest color sketches, your enviroments are awesome, as a matte painter I can see you are really good at drawing,concept, color etc, you have an excelent eye, have you ever thought of the idea of becoming matte painter?? I BET YOU WOULD BE ONE OF THE BEST AROUND THE GLOBE !!
maybe you should try some day and make one .

04 April 2005, 06:54 PM

in your painting video you mentioned that you keep changing your opacity setting for your brush in PS.. what about the flow do you keep it at a set % or do you keep changing it as well?


04 April 2005, 07:04 PM
Hey Feng, great advice here, thanks for answering so many questions. I just have one for now, I've been curious about this

About your perspective work:
How do you manage to get your basic structural lines set? You usually need a LOT of extra room for your vanishing points and it would be hard unless you have a 5 feet tablet with a 98 inch monitor.

What hardware do you use for that and how do you keep your structural lines to follow so nicely?

Thanks, great work man.

04 April 2005, 07:38 PM
Hey man!

Just a quickie for ya.. :)

Do you think everybody can reach your level of technical skill, or does some people just doesn't have 'it'?

Watching your first DVD I'm starting to doubt. :)

Keep on inspiring!

04 April 2005, 07:42 PM
ive been seeing your work over the past years... was really inspired.. i am currently an aspiring concept artist and would like to thanx you for it.. i have converted many of your concepts into 3d and it was great learning.. but i never knew how to show them to you..i can understand that you are a busy person but if your still intrested please see this..
and im not a pro like you so please dont expect much.. its made for personal use only..

04 April 2005, 07:44 PM
Sorry if this has been posted earier, but how does a 2d artist/ concept artist break into the games industry when conpanies never open a position for concept artists on their websites.. Everytime I go to a company's website, they are always looking for a 3d/ 3d texture artist but no 2d artist spots are ever open.

And could you put some free tutorials or W.i.p. on your site. That would be nice.

I saw your starwars designs on g4 a while back and I was inspired a little.

04 April 2005, 07:55 PM
As a huge fan of your art I really appreciate the chance of asking a few questions to you personally, Feng!

Since I am seriously trying to get deeper into the field of concept art and take on paid jobs I was curious about...

...1. whether you think it would be absolutely neccessary to study architecture or industrial design or anything else in order to be able to work on a fully professional base like you do.
2. Do you know of people who haven't had an educational background and made it among the top artists?
3. What's the usual resolution and dimension of your digital artworks?
4. Do you, as an overly skilled person actually have 'bad days' in your everyday's work when you absolutely can't get certain things right (which is exaggerated :-P and I don't believe you do have...)?

I know you are very busy and seeing all the flood of questions I don't really expect an answer but would of course appreciate it immensly!

Thank you Feng!
(you were the person who continuously inspired me the most among all the pro artists!)


04 April 2005, 08:39 PM

on your painting video you mentioned that you allways keep changing you opacity level.. what about your flow. do you change that as well. or dose it stay pretty concestent also do you use the airbrush icon at all?


04 April 2005, 08:59 PM
HI Feng,

your work is really wkd,
k heres my question,

im really good at art, but when it comes to concept art/desgin i often
get a artists block, and cant think of what/how to take it on, at the same time i wanna get into the gaming industry.
is there any help for me :(

04 April 2005, 09:07 PM
Hi Feng,

How much of reference do you use? How much of before compared to now? How much of using reference is important and how much is it "cheating/copying"? Do you study architecture? Animals? History? Or do you get inspiration and then look up reference? Any advice is appreciated.
Take care.

04 April 2005, 09:20 PM
Hey Feng,

1). Your first portfolio what kind of art did you have in it? Was it all environments or characters too? How many pieces did you have in it?

2). Do you have a favorite architect designer or one certain book that you really enjoy of architecture?

3). Out of all of your work do you have some favorites? If so which ones?

4). Do you think you could share some pics of your studio at home?



04 April 2005, 10:19 PM
Hey Feng, thanks for giving us some of your time, I'd like to ask you a few things:

1. How much time did it take you to master perspective, and be able to draw all the complexe mechanical shapes so fast, without mistakes (like in your quick sketch videos)?

2. Do you visualise the concepts in your head before drawing, or do you just draw without thinking?

3. So you work 100% in digital now.. I suppose you still do sketches "on the road" on paper - don't you find paper more "comfortable" to draw on, due to the stronger friction, precision and speed? Or did you get so used to digital that it makes no difference? If you weren't in a production environment, and had a lot of time, would you still use digital?

thanks for reading,


04 April 2005, 11:06 PM
U got any Thin Lizzy MP3's ?

04 April 2005, 11:21 PM
You do great work Feng, you are an inspiration. all of my question have been answered by your first post. Hope to meet you one day.

04 April 2005, 12:50 AM
Thanks for replying Feng.

If you can't afford Art Center, would you recommend going to California State University Long Beach to learn Industrial Design?

Is some training better then no training?

What do you feel are the advantages of Art Center as opposed to CSU Long Beach for Industrial Design?

[Note: I can hear the snickering, but I'd rather hear snickering from Feng Zhu.]

Actually, it might not be such a bad idea since one of the teachers teaches at Otis Parons as well as CSU Long Beach:

David Teubner
BS (Industrial Design), Cal St Univ, Long Beach. Animator for educational films. Graphic designer and illustrator in advertising and marketing. Political cartoonist with a syndicated cartoon strip. Videographer for industrial and educational films. Screenwriter, film set and prop designer.

04 April 2005, 01:08 AM
Hey Feng!

I've taken some graphic design courses at a trade school here in LA and planning to continue my education in ID. What is your opinion on Long Beach States ID program?

04 April 2005, 01:11 AM
Hi Feng, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Looks like you have a boatload too!

Now onto the questions:

I have worked as a comic artist and production artist in advertising for the last few years and I am now 30 yrs old and my career path has sort of hit a dead end both advancement-wise and inspirational-wise (is that a word? heheh). Comics in the US are in the gutters and being a web production artist just bites, heheh. So I am considering a career change to concept design for games and/or film and tv.

1. As for people breaking into the industry that you see, what are the age groups? Younger, varied, am I too old at this point? Only because I have already seen practices (at least in the gaming industry) where people have been passed over only being 30, in favor of a young guy whom has just graduated. I know its a common thought among creative industries in general that the younger crowd has the fresh ideas, yadda yadda etc....whether it's true or not, Id be interested in your perspective on that.

2. With the people youve worked with, do you tend to work with alot of graduates from the Gnomon School? As part of my change I was considering attending the Gnomon Program to help accelerate the learning and boost the competitive creative spirit.

Thanks a million Feng! Keep crankin' out those great ideas!


04 April 2005, 02:36 AM
Heya Feng, just want to let you know that you give me hope in some way. I'm currently an archy at Berkeley too, graduating this coming May. To see someone who've graduated from this school (and going to Art Center... which I want to as well for transportation design) and become so successful in his realm brings nothing but joy that anything is possible when you put your mind to it. Thanks and I wish you continuous success in your future.


04 April 2005, 02:37 AM
>1. As for people breaking into the industry that you see, what are the age groups? Younger, varied, am I too old at this point?

I am 31 (Industrial designer) and am also intereseted in your comments regarding the previous posters question.


04 April 2005, 02:54 AM
Or for pete soon as I find a young'n that can kick Syd Mead's ass I'll take this Logan's Run paranoia seriously.

I'm sorry, but there's plenty of people under 30 that are in the industry that are no where close to Syd Mead's ability.......or Neal Adams, or Jim Lee, or Bay Raitt, or Ian McCaig.....need I go on?

04 April 2005, 03:10 AM
U know when i first saw your ART years ago in internet. I spent hours to download ALL OF UR SKETCHES from the site. Yesterday nite, i pop-in the CD & analysis your art again. YOU ARE THE FIRST ARTIST i d/l ALL OF THE SKETCHES... SO I HOPE YOU WON't MIND! (Dun worry, i won't use it for personal purpose.. I am All for originality wannabe too)

Everybody keep asking professional questions bout working flow or techniques. I know the answer is from Books, Practise & patience. This is all the ANSWER.

So, i would like to ask..

HOW IS YOUR LIFE OVER DER? CAN YOU SLEEP WELL? DOES THE IDEAS KEEP POPING OUT every night until u can't sleep soundly?!! You are born to be my inspired Artist.. I am so proud to see a talented Chinese emerge to Rule the WORLD!

Yes, btw..i haven't see any of your EASTERN ARTWORK? Do I missed it?


04 April 2005, 03:11 AM
hi feng zhu,

your works is always amazing and stunning.
do you have any plan like changing course?
maybe like full time toy design, comic industry, car design or even open your own
art school?

which digital tool is always be with you when you are working? ( if not mind i ask )
wish you all the best. thank you.

04 April 2005, 03:21 AM
Hi Feng

from your answers I would say that you consider perspective as one of the most important qualities in a good ilustration.
but when it comes to designing characters, What do you consider more important? anatomy, proportion, gesture, perspective?

have you considered teaching at CGWorkshops in the future?

one final request for advice

when i work from multiple references I generally have problems trying to match the lighting, eventhough I do not try to copy the lighting from my references, it just seems that it is really hard for me to come up with an imaginary lighting setup, any suggestions on how I could improve on that?

by the way, thanks a lot for posting your tutorials on your webpage
they are really helpful and I really think your tutorials section is one of the best on the web.

thanks for sharing some of your knowledge with us

04 April 2005, 03:49 AM
Hey Mr. Feng,

My name is Robert and i'm a just got interned at Ritual Entertainment as a concept aritst and my question to you is that I tend to think to much when i draw. Sometimes i need to warm up and get in a groove before actually having to do something for a client or for myself. Sometimes i don't think and sometimes i do, and when i do, i get stuck or pause for a moment and then draw. I think i know what your answer is going to be but I was wondering if you had any suggestions for my personal "Thinking" process, any tips or tricks would be great to help me.
another question, what type of music do you listen to? Thank you very much!

-Robert Gonzalez

04 April 2005, 05:22 AM

Wow, it's great to have an opportunity to ask a question with you. I really appreciate that you take your time like this to listen to what we have to say.

I've only been drawing serious for about 2 years now, i've chosen art as my path in life and love doing what i do at the school i'm in now. Before that i had no idea who you are or how any of this business worked.
My question to you is, because of my great inexperience with art and such a huge talent pool that has been practicing more of a lifetime than i have lived so far to compete against for a job, can you recommend anything that could help boost my confidence? Should i be taking on freelance jobs yet? I believe in what you say about not cutting corners, I practice drawing everyday but i'm no where near any kind of confidence level yet.

Also, i'm about to graduate soon, any sound advise you can give to someone who's looking for a job or wants to get into the industry who's in my situation?

To add on to Rob's question above, do you listen to music while you draw or have any kind of backgound noise going on? just wondering.

Thanks for your time,


04 April 2005, 05:29 AM
Hi Feng, thank you so much for taking the time to do this.

One question, what is the general rule for line weight, where and when should I draw a line thick or thin.

Thank you

04 April 2005, 06:18 AM
really like your work...
like your dvds too....have them...actually 2 of the industrial art....really cool

i like your style and i am really very intrested in concept art

04 April 2005, 06:31 AM
Hey Fang,

I just to start off by saying i'm a huge fan of your work, from your characters to your enviroments. My question is, I have a pretty good talent in drawing, along with the rest of the people in here, but with all the ideas in my head, it's hard to get them all down on the pad, any suggestions? Thank you.

04 April 2005, 06:49 AM
Hello Feng Zhu,

You've heard it a million times, but I enjoy your aesthetic far more than any conceptual artist that I know of. Your work has inspired me to take up digital conceptualization and painting. Soon enough, I'll own all your training DVDs (hope that helps your wallet, lol). Brown-nosing aside, I did have a few questions.

1.) I don't have a school anywhere near me that teaches industrial design, and I was wondering if you would suggest online courses, or if you had any online resources for that field of interest.

2.) When you're doing game concept artwork for environments, characters, vehicles, etc. How much creative freedom do you normally have?

3.) Are any of your works inspired by movies sometimes, just for the fun of paying homage? Or are there "easter eggs" hidden in any of your works?

Thank you for your time, and keep on rocking out loud. We love you for it.

-Tyler Drinkard

04 April 2005, 07:13 AM
Its easy to see that Feng is easily one of the most popular concept artists around, and well deserved too, this thread is already 5 pages long and feng has only had time to answer once - its gonna be 20 pages long when he's done! Heh.

04 April 2005, 09:04 AM
Hey everyone once again,

Thank you for all the positive feedback! I really appreciate all the questions.

Okay, letís get to it. Sorry for the delay here, but Iím super busy during the day. I donít get a break until 10pm or soÖ And I apologize in advance for any bad grammars; itís the only way to get to everyoneís questionsÖ writing sloppyÖhaha


A degree is not necessary. The only thing that matters is your portfolio. However, as I mentioned in a previous answer, going to school helps you accelerate your skills much faster than learning on your own.

If you want to pursue concept design, then you should get a degree that covers both industrial design and illustration. A fine arts degree is not much use in our industry. Remember, we are designers first, artists second. Of course there are cross-overs, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

You are 29? Not a problem! Itís never too late to get into anything. Hereís a little story that might inspire you. If you have the Art of Episode 3 book, look for an artist named Sang Jun Lee. Believe it or not, he didnít do any drawings (and I mean none), before attending college in the U.S. After he got an internship at ILM, he drew like crazy. Within only 2-3 years, he has reached the level heís at nowÖ.which is pretty amazing! He draws like a seasoned pro. What a great inspiration huh?


Thank you! Glad you found the DVDs helpful. Itís great to hear positive feedback about them. I truly appreciate it!


George was great to work with. Heís a pretty normal guy, and really funny at times. Heís always cracking jokes, telling us little stories, etc. He doesnít make us re-do things to the n-th degree, but he does get picky if we donít give him what heís asking for. Most of the time, he just goes with our idea, and thatís it. Other times, it might take a few changes before he stamps the OK. I remember working on Grievousís bodyguards; it took me about 4 tries before George finally approved them; same goes for the bodyguardís staff weapons (he actually drew me a sketch to show me what he wanted..haha).

Working at Skywalker Ranch was one of the best experiences in my life. I worked with some of the most talented and nicest designers on this planet. The Ranch itself is truly magical. Itís located in the middle of nowhere, but since George owned all the land around us, we were free to go hiking in the woods, or up to the hills to get a view of the sunset. It was great to just take a break in the middle of work and go hiking around the Ranch. No other studio can provide you with this experience.


I actually never used rulers much during my ďtraditionalĒ days. I learned from early on that the ability to sketch straight lines was crucial in industrial design. I always found rulers to be constricting, same w/ French curves and such. However, I did use tools when I had to do a clean sketch.

Iím still doing my lines freehand on the Wacom tablet. It takes a bit of practice to get used to it. One thing that helps a lot is by having a big Wacom Tablet. I like both the 12x12 and 9x12 sizes. I canít use anything smaller, because my wrists will lock up doing freehand lines.


Great question! I get this a lot from students often. The truth is, great drawings always win over great designs (if presented in front of non-artistsÖwhich is most of the time). For example, take two designers and give them a task: design a spaceship. The first one draws something very generic, but does a beautiful, photo-real, action packed rendering of it. The second guy canít draw that well, but he has a great design idea. So he/she makes a bunch of roughs, with notes and call outs everywhere. However, if both of them pitched in front of a bunch of suits, the better drawing will win. This of course wonít be the case if you are presenting to other designers, but it still holds true to some degree.

You will learn to sketch better as you progress through school. It is their job to teach you on how to communicate your ideas through drawings. Donít stress about it too much, itíll come to you. But sketch A LOT! You will get better with mileage.


I usually put notes down on sketches to reinforce the idea. Remember, sometimes the drawing you have is THE only piece of communication between you and the client. You have to make it very clear on thatís going on. Notes and such help greatly.

It also depends on the clients. What you see on my website is about 5% of my total portfolio (or even 3%). You donít see all the other sketches that are shown to my clients. Sometimes I have a very good understanding of my clients and what they need. So notes are optional. Other times, the clients might not be that great at reading sketches, so I have to add notes all over the place.

M. Baumann:

I actually studied architecture because of my parents. Like most people, they donít understand what ďconcept artĒ is. So I decided to attend Berkeley for a while, and see where that leads me. Iíve actually always loved architecture, and to this day, I still want to be an architect (maybe down the road Iíll study for another degree).

I found Berkeleyís architecture program to be very restrictive. I was basically taught by T.As. Even though I was a freshman at the time, I knew I was still better than my T.As. This really frustrated me. They were not good designers in my opinion, and only copied others in design. Architecture is a highly respected business, regulated by many rules, and these T.As followed these rules religiously; that left little room for us to explore (Iím sure you know what I mean). The projects they assigned me were very boring and never creative. Eg: A church down the street needs to be re-designed: You can not change it much, and the technology is limited to only 2 years from now. What???? How can we push our imaginations with restrictions like that? I do understand the real-world aspect of these lesions, but I knew it wasnít for me.

I decided to leave Berkeley after one year, and enrolled at Art Center. It was one of the best decisions Iíve ever made. Art Center really pushed us as designers, allowing our imagination to go beyond any borders. Itís a logical path to becoming a concept artist.

With all that said, I still love architecture. The cool thing is, even though Iím working in the entertainment industry, I still get to play architect on some projects. These buildings might not exist in the real world, but they do have a life of their own, either in a movie or a video game.


1. Oh yeah, I used to get creative blocks all the time. Iím better these days; probably because Iíve dealt with so many projects under tight deadlines. When you are working professionally, you donít have time for creative blocks. I know that sounds weird, but itís true. The deadline forces you to not even think about creative blocks. I usually just get the project and start cranking.

If I do get a brain freeze, itís very easy to get out of that mode. Just pop in your favorite movie, or listen to some good music. We are surrounded by creative energy.

2. Yes, you can get pigeon-holed easily. The best way to avoid this is to diversify your portfolio. My personal portfolio has everything in it Ė characters, vehicles, environments, etc. And do your work with different styles and mediums. Basically, cover all angles. Also diversify your subject matter. On environments for example, make sure you cover fantasy, sci-fi, real-world, and some period pieces. By having a diversified portfolio, you can walk into any job and meet the demands.

I enjoy drawing everything. I prefer environments, but I also love doing character/creature designs.

I tell my business manager to pick jobs that are very different from each other; so I can keep myself interested, and at the same time, build up a well rounded portfolio.

3. Portfolios need to communicate a few ideas: good drawing skills, and good design skills. Itís also good to see some rough sketches. You can always judge how good someone is by looking at their roughs. Finish sketches are easy to ďfakeĒÖbecause you have no idea on how long it took the artist to do it. However, you canít fake quick roughs. Take Iain McCaigís sketches for example. They might be quick and rough, but you can tell right away that they are drawn by a seasoned pro. That kind of skill level can not be faked in a portfolio.

The Flux:

Wow, old school questions! =) I havenít drawn on paper for a long time. The pencil sharpener I had was made by Panisonic. It was top fed, which allows me to have more control. Side fed sharpeners tend to break the tip sometimes.

Magic Man:

Thank you for the great compliments. I might be doing more DVDs in the future, but thatís up to Gnomon. They havenít asked me yet. =(


Ah, another question I get often. Perspective is important, no matter if you are working traditionally or digitally. Remember, itís just like math. You canít fake it. Iíve had students who blocked out environments with 3D shapes. However, since they didnít truly understand perspective, they didnít know how to apply those shapes. For example, when they were adding details such as windows and street signs, all those elements were out of perspective. I catch students doing this all the time. When I do, I always tell them to go back to the basics and do things by hand. The computer is a tool; it will not make you into a perspective king.

Once you understand perspective well, then sure, use 3D or anything you like. At that point, you are doing it to save time.

There is no way around perspective. Too many people try to cheatÖbut you just canít.

I donít know any good books off hand about perspective. But just do a google search. Itís not that hard. And since you have an ID background, you should be able to pick it up quick.

I still do some line-work before refining my designs. Take a look at my new tutorials on the website. Thatís the way I work.


1. I still do my perspective lines freehand. You get used to it after a while =)

2. I just eye-ball my vanishing points. Again, the more you do it, the more you have a ďfeelĒ for it. If something is out of perspective, I can usually sense it out.

3. I have a huge collection of reference materials. My bookshelf is over-flowing with every book imaginable. I also have gigs and gigs of reference images on my hard drive. For any new project, I always go through my reference images to understand the subject matter(s).

4. Yes, this ďdisjointedĒ feeling is very weird at first, but you get used to it. It took me about 2-3 month before getting comfortable with the tablet. Now it feels second nature to me. Just keep sketching on the tabletÖitís super fustrating in the beginningÖ.but youíll get over it.

5. No, donít do anything special with my tablet. However, I know friends who taped a piece of paper to their tablets to give it more friction. Again, itís just something I got used to.

No, I donít know any studios in Toronto. But across in Montreal, thereís EA and Ubisoft. EA uses interns all the time. Iím sure Ubisoft as well.


1. No, Iím not teaching at Gnomon right now. But I might go back later this year, or next year. I have to work out my schedule first.

2. Signature? =) Sure. Come to a place where I amÖ.and Iíll be glad to sign something. Currently Iím contracting in-house over at EA Los Angeles from Wed-Fridays. Stop on by.


1. Oh yeah, Indiana Jones 4 baby! Hopefully thatíll go into production soon. For games, I really want to work on the Morrowind series (I got addicted to Morrowind while working on SW3) But I donít know anyone there. Someone please hook me up! Hahaha.

2. I love to travel in my spare time. Iím heading off to Cancun after E3. Canít wait! I did a lot of traveling last year Ė all over Europe, Canada, and AsiaÖand of course Maui, one of my favorite places to relax in. I also like to just sit around and watch movies. My favorite past time is hanging around with friends. LA is a fun town for hanging out. =)

3. Contacts are everything. School is a good resource. Try to meet people at conventions, such as E3 and GDC. Be polite, and just approach them professionally.

4. This is a tough question, since itís strictly skill based. For full-time jobs, starting salary is probably around 45-50k a year. If you are experienced, it hovers around 80-90k. For art directors, youíre looking at around 100-150k. Creative directors can go up to 200-250k...depending on the company. But the cap is around 200k for most studios. Of course you can get more by negotiating your stock options and bonus plans. And if you work freelance, you can take on multiple jobsÖ.so time everything by 2 or 3 =)

5. Well, I donít think my clients would like me to post up their contact info on a public forum. The best way is for you to contact them yourself. It is highly unprofessional for me to share client info in the public.

6. Nice try!


Well, I make a living doing only 2D art. So iíll have to answer yes to your question. All my concept artist friends work strictly in 2D, and they are doing well also. We are all freelance artists however. Companies tend to hire people with 2D/3D skills for full-time positions (but mostly in the game biz).


There is no average time for my sketchesÖ.it all depends on the subject matter. Some sketches take no time at all to do, while others can take days. Again, it all depends on what the client is after, and what the subject matter is (eg: a empty bed-room set is a lot easier to draw than a crowded, high-tech, sports bar).

But in general, I try not to go over one day with any of my pieces. I can usually fit a few line drawings per day, or at least 1 painting.


My music selection is all over the place. Iím not ashamed to say that I listen to EVERYTHING. No joke. Sometimes I listen to soundtracks, other days I listen to 80s music. I even listen to stuff like Brittany Spears. I also like heavy metal, country, jazz, you name it. Seriously, my Mp3 list is all over the place. I have a few Hilary Duff songs in there tooÖ..yup, no shame.

I have to say that music is not a big influence in my designs. I can do without music when designing. I listen to music more to keep me focused from outside noises and such.

Iím listening to the soundtrack to Bladerunner as I type this. But soon Iíll move to Beck, then some Brittany! Haha

During the day, I actually listen to NPR more (check out (


I love Stephanís work! Iíve been a big fan of his for a long time. Heís actually in town right now, but I couldnít make it out to dinner tonight. Bummer.


1. Architecture can help, but you have to understand so many other subject matters in order to succeed in concept design. Study the human anatomy, biology, ecology, you name it. The more you know about our world, the better your visual vocabulary. Understanding architecture is only a small part of it.

2. Architecture is the root of industrial design. What I do in games or films is very similar, except my designs are not aimed for the real world. The skills I learned in architecture can be directly applied into my field.

3. Iíve answered this question alreadyÖ.dig around in the answersÖ


1. I donít have much free time =) I work pretty much 7 days a week. I try to relax on Saturdays though. However, I do take breaks between projects. Iím off on a 1 week vacation after E3. The thing is, I love what I do, and it doesnít feel like work. So even though Iím working, itís still fun. How can I turn down gigs if the client is paying you to design some spaceships or aliens??? Itís every kidís dream.


1. Yup, coming up with new designs is hard. Copying from life is a different skill; you can actually learn it without understanding a single thing about perspective or anatomy Ė just copy whatís in front of you. You canít do this however, when thereís nothing in front of you.

The best way to get your brain going is to fill it with a huge visual library. Read books, watch movies, travel, play with toys, etc. Concept art is about taking elements from the world around you, and combining it to make new things. Itís how you do this combination, and the understanding of proportions thatíll make you into a successful designer.

I answered a question about learning colors. Check out the answers on my first question sheet.


Yeah, I come from a product design background. It definitely helped me in getting into the entertainment design field. Once you have perspectives down, teach yourself about character design. Take some life drawing classes.

Like you said, practice your weak points. A good concept designer should be able to handle any job.


Most of the time Iím ďscientifically guesstimatingĒ the lighting. hahaha. However, since I learned about lighting and shadows at Art Center, my ďguessingĒ is not random.

Hereís a tip Ryan Church gave me: think of light as water. First paint your scene without any strong light sources. Then imagine taking a bucket of water and pouring it into your scene. Where would the water go? Which surfaces will it hit? If thereís a floor, how will it bounce back onto the walls around it? This tip helped me greatly. And donít forget about shadows. The best way to describe form and space is with shadows. Play with pushing the light in and out of your scene.

Keep things simple at first. Use only 1 major light source, and a secondary bounce light.

Roughing things out in 3D is helpful, but thatís just too slow for my taste. Itís easier to just get some good reference pictures of similar subject matters.

***Okay, getting tired, so grammar is about to fall-apart big time***


I organize my digital reference images by folders. I have a ton of different subject matters. For example, I have: Interiors, exteriors, abandoned, characters, vehicles, NASA, landscapes, etc. I have about 20-30gigs of reference images.

For real books, I keep everything on a huge shelf. =)

Since I work digital, I no longer require a big workspace. I just have a PC with a few monitors. Iíve gotten rid of all my art supplies as well.

Cameron Gardner:

What you say is somewhat true. There are a lot of super talented boarders out there, but few people know of them. Their job is very important, but I think because the sketches are often loose and quick, none-artists types donít value it. People only care about the end result. Right now, 3D animatics are taking off. Even though 3D will never replace 2D all-together, thatís just another thing thatíll keep the traditional 2D boarders from getting any respect.

I love storyboards, and I value their importance. A few companies out there really value it as well. For example: Pixar =) or any other animation house.


1. I love industrial design, especially hardcore stuff like military vehicles, or aero-space related things. I get inspired all the time by real-world subject matters, such as NASA, or products from Japan and Europe. I get all exited just watching machines at a work-site. I guess I just love the way products work.

2. I donít deal with this much in my field, since none of my designs are actual products. However, I try to bring in many new things as possible, even though my designs are ďvirtual.Ē I love working with new materials and technologies. If I see some new thing NASA is doing, Iíll try to incorporate that into my next designs.

3. You mean real product ID work? Not much. I havenít designed any real-world products yet, though Iíd love to. I actually want to design furniture in the futureÖweíll see.

4. I thought about this often, and it might be in the works. I traveled to China twice last year, and Korea as well. Like you said, there is a huge market for this stuff right now in Asia. Iíd love to work in Asia for a while, but that opportunity hasnít presented itself yet (most Chinese companies donít have funding for this kind of stuff).


I sort of answered the ďworking at Skywalker RanchĒ question already. But moving onÖ If they asked me back, yeah, I might do it. However, it depends on the team. What made the Ranch experience so magical was the team.

My advice, like any other advice: build a strong portfolio. There are no other ways around it. Good work = more choices for jobs.

Yes, I know the Collective. Since you are already in the industry, just keep at it. If you get bored at one job, just move on. I love moving from one project to another. This is why I work freelance.

I will check out your site after doing these answers.


No, I havenít worked with Peter Chan before, though Iíve heard of him.

Yes, when working on a team, we often work on the same thing. Each concept designer would present their own version of the idea. However, other times, the work is divided up. Again, it all depends on the job.

Competition exists, but barely. We are all professionals, and thereís little jealously going on. We all love what we do, and have fun doing it. I could care less if my design was rejected, and someone elseís got picked. It just doesnít matter. The more you work in this industry, the less you ďfall in loveĒ with your designs. At the end of the day, the client(s) own all your stuff. So competition between each designer is sort of meaningless.


Ah, tough question. Finding originality can seem difficult, and it is at times. However, just look at the world around you. I have a little secret when I get a brain freeze. Just pick 2 different subject matters, and combine them. Or 2 different time periods, and combine them. For example: Deep Sea Fish + Modern Tanks = new! Or: 1930s New York + 1400 Empyreal China architecture = new look fun huh?

Sometimes the clients donít want originalityÖwhich makes the job easy. I remember when the Matrix first came outÖ.every client wanted the ďblack trench coat dudes with black flying machines with red eyes.Ē Haha


1. Well, it all depends on the company. My first job was with EA Ė a huge mega company. However, the team I got assigned to was great! It was small, friendly, and I was the only concept artist. I had a great time working there (and having a cute office-mate helped tooÖ.hey Kerry!). So yeah, it depends on the company. Iíve heard from students who took jobs at a big studios, and hated it. But same goes for smaller studios.

Generally, if you go to a smaller company, you can wear more hats. Bigger studios tend to tight-cast you.

2. No, itís all about the portfolio. Art Center does have a name, and it helps if the person reviewing your portfolio is from ACCD. But at the end of the day, the content of your portfolio is 100% of it.

3. I have to agree with you there. Yes, I believe anyone can be taught to draw, but few can be taught to ďdesign.Ē Drawing and designing are very different things. To design, you have to have a great imagination and creative energy. Not all artists have this skill. The ability to draw is largely a technical skill, where as concept design is almost mental.

4. Well, for traditional sketching, I love Hi-Tec-Cs. I also use ball-point pens. I think they are called Jimmy-Zs or something (Japanese made).


I donít know anyone who uses vector programs to create concept art. The truth is: itís too slow, and thereís no need for it. Photoshop and Painter also give you an ďanalogĒ feel when working. I think vector programs take all the life out of a drawing. I never liked vector art much - they usually look dead to me; though a few artists out there can pull it off.


I will check out your website after answer all these questions! =)

04 April 2005, 09:06 AM
***** Okay, even more tired than before. Expect sentences to start falling apart ****


I love matte paintings. I actually want to try doing matte paintings, but the opportunity hasnít arrived yet. I might try to learn it on my own. You matte artists are amazing! Thank you for the compliments btwÖ


I donít mess around with the flow setting at all. I keep it at 100% at all times. I think the pressure of the Wacom controls it for me.


I actually do all my perspective lines by eye-balling it. Itís probably not super accurate, but most of time, it doesnít need to be. Iíve done this for a long time now, so eye-balling is a bit easier. I had to plot out everything by hand when I first started.

I donít use any special hardware. Just the Wacom tablet.


Thank you for the kind words. Iím no where near the skill level of where I want to be. I have so much to learn. As far as technical skills go, I think anyone can reach a high level. But design is another story. Iíve taught students who can draw really well, but they have no clue when it comes to design. For example, if I asked them to copy or paint a still-life, theyíll come back with a gorgeous image. But if I asked them to design a new police vehicle for the year 2080, theyíll come back with a sketch worse than a kidís drawing. Itís pretty weird.


Nice work! Glad you like my work. =)


The best way to get into the door is to send your portfolio to every company you want to work for. You are right, concept jobs are rarely posted. However, send your portfolio anyways. Companies wonít turn down talents. Even if they are not hiring, they might either 1. keep your portfolio on file, or 2. forward your info to their contacts. Bigger companies tend to have ďfreelanceĒ pools Ė basically, a list of artists they keep on file for contract work. So send your stuff in, and you might end up on that list (they never advertise these jobs).

Iíll try to get more tutorials up on my site. Thanks!


1. No, you donít need to study these subject matters. But the thing is, the more you know, the better your visual library. Itís a good idea to take a few classes on ID though; itíll help you greatly.

2. Oh yeah, there are many artists out there who are successful, and never went to school for it. It seems I get this question a lot. I think a lot of you are trying to skip school and just jump right into the fun stuff of working. Itís true, you donít need an education, but I highly recommend it. Read my other answers to find out why =)

3. I usually start with a lower res image, around 1k x 1k, 75 dpi. Once I start working, Iíll keep up-resíing it. My final images tend to be around 3-4k wide/high.

4. I sort of answered this question already. But to add to it: tight deadlines donít allow me to have bad days. Iím being super serious here. When clients are paying me per day to work, I canít just say at the end of the day ďsorry, I had a bad day.Ē It just doesnít work that way. One of the things that make you a pro is to be able to handle ďbad daysĒ and turn them into productive days. If Iím super stressed or donít want to work, then Iíll put the work down for that day and take a break.


Well, if you are good at drawing, then you should be able to find a job. Not all studios want pure concept artists. Good illustrators are needed too. Once you get into a studio, learn from the in-house concept artists, and pick up their skills. Itís much easier to move around once you are in the company.

Or try to find some internships or take some classes. Again, if you say you are good at drawing, then making the next jump wouldnít be as hard.


You pretty much answered your own question. I use a lot of references, even for subject matters that I understand well. Reference is key; all designs in this world comes from something else.

Cheating/Copying is a question that usually comes from students. Thereís a big difference between copying, and getting inspired. For example: designing a new PC based off of 1920ís architecture <- this is inspiration and using reference. However, designing a PC by ripping off of Appleís iMac <- copying.


1. My first portfolio was filled with my art center stuff. I think I had some crappy character designs, some vehicles, and just a few environment sketches. It was about 20 pages, bound at Kinkos. I made it like a little book, with a hardcover and all.

2. Man, I love so many different architects. I donít have one favorite. However, I actually love ancient architecture, especially Egyptian and South American influenced.

3. I think I answered this one already. But I can add to it. I love the new sketchgirls Iím doing. Hopefully those will be online soon.

4. Definitely. Iíll post some images of my studio soon. But I donít have much stuff. Basically, hereís what I use:

a fast PC with 1.5 Gigs or RAM. A 9x12 Intous II Wacom Tablet. Two Apple 23Ē Cinema Displays. Wireless MS keyboard/mouse. Thatís it.


1. I say it took me at least 4-5 years to get comfortable with perspective (basically, no longer afraid of it). Iím still learning more and more everyday, but itís getting easier.

2. Yes, Iím a huge thinker. Most of the time, when I start sketching, the design is about 60-70 percent finished in my head. I think about designs all the time. I have pretty good memory, and I can actually fit in days of work/design in my head. This also leads to much stress though, since Iím always thinking about ďwork.Ē

3. I still sketch in my small notepad. I love the feeling of paper. However, for production, digital is much faster. Iíve gotten used to the feeling of the Wacom, so it doesnít bother me much.


Since Iíve never attended Long Beach, Iím not qualified to comment on their school. However, I do know a lot of artists who came from that school, and they are all very good. Hey, Joe Johnston went there! So there you go!

Yes, some training is better than none. Art Center is expensive, but have you thought about taking their night classes? Those are less expensive, and you can take them at night. Art Center is a good school, but itís definitely not the only one. Hey, Gnomon is available too!

Okay, been at this for 3 hours. I need a break. Be back tomorrow.

Thanks again everyone.

If you want more specific answers on things, just let me know. Iím trying to keep answers short for now, but yeah, I can expand on them if you wish.

Man, we need to turn this into a voice/MP3 Q/AÖ.itíll be easier. =)


04 April 2005, 09:36 AM
Hi Feng Zhu,

I'm16 years old and i want to become a conept artist just like you... i see you are very succesfull and very talented, but i was wondering if you have a drawing from when you where 16 :) just so i can see if I have any chance... I really respect youre style an I look up to youre position as concept artist. I hope one day ill be where you are now


04 April 2005, 10:12 AM
Im reading it all. Inspiring! Thanks!

04 April 2005, 10:23 AM
First of all thank u for replying on my first question! I much appreciate it!

Working hard as u do, do u have a personal life despite of ur "digital"?? hahaha... Im asking this coz Im also busy 24/7 working for 5 clients at the same time and studying as well. So I find it hard to see anything else than my computer these days. However, Im happy and enjoying like never before in my life but Im asking u if thats the way of living for us artists? :) How do u deal with that?
And my second question now would be (i didnt notice ur answer before and I read all of ur posts - respect for doing that once again!), how many sketches do u draw per day? How many finished pictures do u produce?

Thnx again for ur time!

04 April 2005, 10:31 AM
:) Thanks Feng for your answers truly Inspiring..

Youre a wonderful artist :) and one of my favorite artists := D!
Sincerely thanks for your time

04 April 2005, 10:32 AM
Christ Feng, you are a ****ing stud, I just read through all of that even though I didn't ask any questions thinking that most of the ones I had to ask would be answered anyway.

But I will ask a couple now and hopefully you can answer these before this thread is archived - now for questions that are NOT about creativity heh:

1. You freelance, and I was thinking of possibly doing this in the future as well as I'd probably prefer the freedom rather than being stuck 9-5 everyday - I'm currently contracted so I'll see what happens when it reaches the end. So in essense you basically run your own business - what types of people do you use to help you run your own business? Obviously concept design is a field that you rarely get other people to do the technical skill - unlike say accountancy where you can hire someone else to do the work. For you its like the other way around - do you have secretaries and gig managers and that sort of thing to run the "business" side of things for you so that you can do the work which you love and reduce the amount of time taking care of accounts and chasing new design gigs?

2. Are there any specifics to look out for when freelancing? With regards to say benefits and remuneration levels and that type of thing - for instance at the moment I get a base salary + a percentage of games sales at the end - is there any particulars that freelancers need to look out for in regards to contractual agreements? Do you go over contracts with lawyers etc?

04 April 2005, 10:45 AM
ok, lost my questions, starting again

When designing, how far do you go when it comes to practicality?
For example, when viewing a what seems to be an awsome design at first I often start to see bits and peaces all over that are extremely impractical. Even if it is some futuristic space ship using technology that doesnt need explaining, it just works, there are often parts that just make no sense, but look good. What is more important to you when designing, final look or practicality?

And on a different note since you have such an interesting background ;) . In modern day design and architecture it seems that everything is getting simpler and simpler compared to 100+ years ago where attention to tiny details were very important. I'v been trying to see why this has happened but the only possible explenation I have come up with is that designers are under a much much tighter deadlines which dont allow for detail. The detail that I feel is missing from real life designs I often see in concept art and other imaginative art forms. Do you think this trend in real life design will continue with simpler and simpler designs or is this just a phase?

The last one. I'm from iceland and the only big thing coming from us is Eve Online :P, have you looked at it and if so what do you think about their design work?

and good luck in the future, always a pleasure seeing new artwork from you

04 April 2005, 01:12 PM
Hi Feng, congrats for your work.

I'm a videogame concept artist working in Europe, sometimes it's hard for me to decide between freelance or in house job. More freedom and different projects vs crazy deadlines and a salary.

When you do freelance work for a certain project, do you work full time in house for some months or you stay in your studio with your set up and work from there? Seems that you mix frrelancing with in house job.


Pablo Valbuena.

04 April 2005, 01:26 PM
Hi FengZhu, i admire your work alot! I read all you previous answers above. I need some help and guidelines from you, below are my questions:

1. Whenever i want to design or draw something from scratch when i have free time, i can never end up something that looks good. But when i have another job or something else to do, i get bored so i go do some drawings and design and in the end it come out something really nice!
It's really weird, do you ever encounter this sort of problem before? How do i overcome this weird problem?

2. I can draw vertical straight lines free hand well but not horizontal, i don't think turning the paper all the time is not a good idea. Do i just need more practices or is there a proper way?

3. I can't draw living objects(e.g. characters) well, is it still the same solution, draw more?

Thanks in advance!

04 April 2005, 01:33 PM
hey there feng,

first off, if anyone was to say who is your favourite concept artist, your name is the answer i always give, enviromental, character etc, all of it, simply amazing.

Ok so my question, im a modeller, currently building up my demoreel. I love modelling, clay, 3d you name it i love it :). Ofen i download tons of images to come up with ideas an such. And here were alot of characters that i really liked that you drew.

I notcie people doing WIP's of 3d creations based on your work, and i was wondering would it be ok if i modelled one of you character put it on my reel, i would make sure it was clear that the concpet art came from you. I think that migt be a bit of a bonus seeing how i can create something based on a smallish image, not side views or anything etc.

I have one of you characters modelled out already, if you want to see it, just let me know and ill uploaf d an image.


You are a great inspiration to 2d and 3d aritst around the world. Look forward to seeing more of your work on the big screen.


04 April 2005, 02:38 PM
I'm a fan of your work, long time ago.
I have just 2 simple questions..
You looks realy young, so how old are you and when you started with drawing/digital painting?

Sorry my bad english :D.


04 April 2005, 03:31 PM
Sins all the questions i had were already asked and answered earlier. i would like to say.

Dude, you totally rock, are the greatest inspiration (for Me) around and i would say keep up the awesome work man.

Ohhhh. one questions though. sorry.

are you planning to to more training DVD's????

i don't know if someone already asked this before but do yah?????

Harry D'Amour
04 April 2005, 04:19 PM
Hi FengZhu, what languages are you able to speak? Are your roots Chinese or American or both? Thank you for your tremendous inspiring work!

04 April 2005, 05:03 PM
Hi,Feng,you are wondful!my question is :are you from China?
my web is (
wish to make friends with u .
I'm in Xi'an ,China

04 April 2005, 05:44 PM
simple question,what books do u suggest i buy on perspective.

any really good titles u have on ur shelf that maybe u think i cud pick up?

04 April 2005, 05:45 PM
Thanks for taking time to answer so many questions!

Here's another one:
1) Do you start in PS or Painter and why? I ask because I wonder if the ease of rotating the canvas in Painter is good for starting the sketch, or is the "natural media" aspect better for finishing?

04 April 2005, 06:21 PM
1. generally speaking, whats the usual way of 'transfering' your enviroment sketches to 3d, do you work closely with ppl who do 3d models and are your sketches done from more than one viewpoint for such production enviroment? (or: how many intermidiate steps there usually is from sketch to 3d scene)
2. and same question for creatures?

04 April 2005, 06:30 PM
Thank you Feng for answering my question earlier. Another one.

What do you recommend to become better at designing and design drawing? Any exercises? I know Scott Robertson has a great DVD on Perspective Form Drawing. What sort of tips/advice and exersice could you recommend to do in order to be better at design/form perspective drawing?

Thank you

Serious Samm
04 April 2005, 06:32 PM
Hey Feng, you artwork i just incredible. I love the images on your site and used them alot for pc desktop backgrounds! Everyone that looks at them are always left in awe!
Anyways i have some questions. You mentioned that it is good to have a degree in illustration and industrial design. I thinking about attending the art institue here in miami, Florida but not sure where to start first, Illustration or industrial design? Can i both at the same time? And what are these cross-over classes you keep mentioning? How do these work?
Thank you for this Q&A.

04 April 2005, 07:41 PM
Your work is an inspiration to all of us. :buttrock:
So much work talk here, what about your personal life? do u have kids? are u married? what religion are u? what is your favorite food? The nicest place u have visite? what is the stranges thing that u have at home I dont know for exemple a samurai sword that belong to some ancient samurai :D or do u colect something special? where did u were born?

04 April 2005, 08:12 PM
Hi Feng,

Similar question to Cman above, I was just wondering if you could be more specific about what you do in painter and photoshop. For example what is it that you prefer to do in photoshop rather than just do it all in painter?

Thanks for taking the time to answer everybody's questions!

04 April 2005, 08:29 PM
Hey Feng,

1). I was wondering about something you said about uprezing earlier, I was wondering if you could go more indepth about that. I read so many posts about this and I still don't get it. I watched Ryan's DVDs and the whole time he paints it at 72dpi and finished the painting at 72dpi yet the size of the picture gets bigger, but when he has to print does he just put it to 300dpi? Doesn't it make the art blurry if you just uprez or blow it up, wouldn't you have to repaint everything to make it sharp/clear? It seems everytime I do this things get blurry. I don't know if you could explain this in steps or something.

2) In the making of book or maybe the art of book(I don't know I've read them both 5 times already) for revenge said that you guys had to do 5 pieces of art week like as a requirement. Was that like 5 pieces he had to "okay" stamp or just 5 total? Is that a lot or is that about how most jobs are? I'm sure it varies but is that close to how many you do a week?

3). Is there one thing on Revenge that you can say like you totally came up with I mean as far as design. Like I know Warren Fu came up with Grievous but you all worked on him, but is there like a environment or scene that you were like the sole one to come up with scene or prop? like if you saw the movie and could say hey that part there was all mine.

4). If you get a chance to talk to Iain McCaig can you tell that guy to get his website going..that front page has just been teasing me for way to long. Maybe help that guy out cause your site is sweet.

I wanted to say thanks for answering my earlier questions and also for the story about Sang, I really think that story got to me and makes me want to really get going and get to where I want to really only took him 2 years to get that good? man his pencil must have caught on fire.



04 April 2005, 08:36 PM
wow, I can't believe that I missed this QA thread, we accually have someone who knows more in the Game industry, Feng Zhu :thumbsup: your work is great and inspiring, I know have a sketch book and am drawing.

Iím super busy during the day.
I can't wait to be in that environment, busy, busy and busy :buttrock:

I have few questions, I appologise if this have been answered but

Do you think the games industry is getting harder that it'll reach a place where if you can't draw you can't join regardless on which art position you applying for?
What is the best place in the Game art section that involves creative?
How fast can you sketch a character? simple figure?
and finally, is it possible to find someone whose doing many places in the game art, e.g. Someone is Modelling, texturing and concept designing, 3 in 1:)
How would you define Concept design?
I must ask this, do you have secret brushes in Photoshop?

Thanks, Wish you the very best of success

04 April 2005, 09:10 PM
Hi, Feng
Awesome that you're on board and answering all the questions!!! Very nice. :) Greatly appreciated. :)

For film design work I've been informed that "you need a SAG card to work as a concept designer in film, but not for animation." (Screen Actor's Guild,S.A.G. for folks that don't know ;)) Since you're in L.A. and working in both film and games how did you attain your SAG card? Is the process the same for a concept/production designer to apply as it is for an actor?
This is another thing that's got me boggled, if the SAG card is required for concept/production is it that artists can be brought in from outside the Hollywood area (by outside, I mean outside California, outside the USA) to work on films? Disney, Warner Brothers, LucasFilm, etc.

Maybe things have changed,because I got my answer about 3 years ago in regards to a brief introduction to the Screen Workers and Actors Unions when I visited south of the border.


Ismail Matovu Wamala (

04 April 2005, 09:28 PM
Awesome Q&A Feng thanks for taking the time . Ive met you before a few times one thing that most people might not know about you is that you have a really awesome sense of humor . I hope I get to work with you sometime in the future .

Question : Who do you think is the best concept artist you have ever seen/worked with. It's funny probebly the best guy ive worked with was a fantasy painter who tried concept art for a bit . His imagination was out of control he had probebly the best sense of design ive seen and of course his art skills were phenominal. Ian McCaig would probebly be on the same level as that guy . Just curious about your opnion you probebly worked with a lot of people who never even show there work in the public. It's really kind of a silly question so I hope you'll humor me .

Question 2: What do you think is the biggest diffrence between doing concept art for movies and concept art for games ?

Question 3 : Now that you have done a project like Episode 3 do you have any other DREAM projects ? Or is it all down hill from there ;-)

Question 4 : You a very established concept artist but do you ever get intimidated by a project or say a producer or director ? Like when you worked with James Cameron . Are you ever afraid of not being able to make them happy with your designs ? On that note have you ever had a client that you just could'nt make happy no matter what you tried ( Like they did'nt like your style or approach ..etc etc )

Question 5 : Is there a subject you won't design for ? Like for example I have a hard time designing highly technical envioments like say something you would see in Doom 3 because I have a fantasy art background . Do you ever find yourself straying from a subject or projects ?

04 April 2005, 09:47 PM
I have only one question... Coke or Pepsi?

Keep up the inspirational work, and continue to enjoy the success!

04 April 2005, 10:21 PM
Hi Feng! I loved the few concept pieces you did for the Starwars visionaries TPB. Did you have a story you were thinking of for the book, and just lost the time, or were those few pieces just for fun?

See New Worlds!

Do your Part. SERVE!

Fly for the EMPIRE! Join Today! :D

04 April 2005, 10:29 PM
OMG,..... question, Feng,... you want a cup of coffee :-), poor guy!

04 April 2005, 10:48 PM
Hi Feng,
You're amazing and your art is perfect, very inspiring.
Thanks for your time and this Q&A. I have two short questions.

1) How you find time for: work, making interviews, playing games, watchnig movies and many more things? Are you a robot? ;-)

2) How long takes you to do this awesome artwork, from start to end. For example,
when you draw a design of human character, robot or environment. Meaby you can tell,
how long took you to do this "Charge" painting?

Thanks, i wish you all the're the best!!! :wavey:

04 April 2005, 10:49 PM
Hi Feng!

First of all here comes some fan talk: Respect, and Thanks for being so cool to do this whole Q&A session:

I'm a bit interested in Feng Zhu the "human being" and not the design prodigy, so here goes:

1. What was your goal in life when you first defined it as a goal? What do you think your mission is? Are you on a mission? Or is it always what the client wants? After all you're in an art related...BUSINESS

2. What are your motives? Do you ever go thinking that x years from now you'll just devote yourself to fine art, or something totally different than what you're doing right now, like collecting exotic herbs in the search of an aid for cancer or such (just an example)...?

3. What were your first dreams as a kid? How did you see yourself back then?

4. Time management (meaning work) and relationships with the opposite sex. I'm interested in how the pros solve these delicate time management issues. I respectfully don't want to invade your private life, so a generic answer will do fine! ;)

5. Has anyone ever called you a workaholic? I know you love your job, but sometimes that just makes it easier to get "too involved" with your work. And you mentioned mileage as an important ingredient, but that just means even more work, so how do you balance that out? I also love drawing and designing, but have to get away once in a while from the desk.

6. What are your non art related hobbies? Were you good in maths and did you like maths? Do you ever doodle with your non dominent hand?

Sorry for being so hungry for that golden info on you...but that's Q&A for ya!
Thanks once again...

respect you lots !


04 April 2005, 11:00 PM
Sup Feng,

On submitting a portfolio for work on a certain project do you tend to fill it full of art that would pertain to the subject or the current project of the development team. I.E. If you were applying for a sci fi game/movie do you fill your portfolio with sci fi themed stuff or do you have just a portfolio cut and dry no matter what thats what you send.

Also how many skecthes do you recommend for a good portfolio so it doesnt seem like a novel but doesnt resemble a flyer.

Do you also get inspiration from any other field of artist such as painters, comic artist, sculptors, etc...

Thx for the time

04 April 2005, 11:12 PM
Craziness!! I can't believed you just answered all of those questions. buff! I woulda tapped out long ago... but much thanks for all your efforts so far with our questions. short, fast answers, good communication (even at 2am!), would recommend anytime. A++++. haha. good stuff though for real.

onto more torture:

+ I've always thought of myself as a 3D Generalist, but would you suggest in specializing in a certain area? (ie. modeling, or animation, etc.) I know bigger studios perfer more specialized people, as oppsed to small houses where you do everything, but what if you're unsure of where to specialize? I love doing everything, and I'd like to learn and become good in everything... games, feature, commercial, you name it...but I'd also like to be at a bigger studio someday in my career.

+ so would you say that showing diversity in your portfolio in different subject matter would be better than showing copentency in a few? for example, when looking at a portfolio, which has the advantage: the portfolio with many examples of environments, characters, and styles that are pretty good? or a portfolio with 1 or 2 models/drawings of great, well visualized, superior work?

+ I've drawn a lot less ever since college, and even less now that I've picked up 3d. coming from a 3d guy, who pretty much sucks at concept art, decent in graphic design, and fairly good at 3d, how could I get back into drawing... for fun actually..rather than for a client, or for a project? well its still fun, but i mean drawing for yourself. I'm guessing you don't draw much either since you're working digitally? or is your sketchbook pretty much all digital now?

+ any tips on how to get off WoW?? hahaha. maybe you can write something i can stick on my monitor to motivate me to work harder and stop playing WoW!?! hey..its my stress reliever :)

+ is that a steelers beenie you have on in your picture?? love pittsburgh.

thats it for now. NPR rocks btw! especially This American Life. I'm all about the Prairie Home Companion, and of course Fresh Air. Thanks for your time. You are still pretty young...and to be where you're at is an inspiration. i'm going on 25 strong here. hope to be somewhere near where you are in the near future.

I'm down for the voice mp3 q&a as well. record your answers, and post an mp3. that would be nice. we would be able to archive it as well. great idea! why not?

until the next post. take some rest. later. sorrie so long.


ps. no shame for britney as well :P

04 April 2005, 12:05 AM
How does it feel to have inspired so many people? (I'm sure only a tiny fraction are even able to post, or know about this thread)

Oh, and that you mentioned Morrowind ... have you seen the screenshots for "Oblivion", the sequel? Oh my my my, it looks like a dream of technology.

04 April 2005, 02:31 AM

What is your extent and knowledge of anatomy as it applies to charater design? Do you use a great deal of your knowledge of anatomy or do you have a feeling for what you are drawing if it were say a character that you wanted to make more femme or masculine. A creature perhaps that doesn't exist. I've seen many artists have a feeling for it, but when it comes down to the mechanics of actually animating these things it presents challenges if things aren't thought through clearly. One's designs might have to change because the anatomy doesn't make sense.

04 April 2005, 03:13 AM
Hi Feng, your work is really inspiring. my uncle showed me your portfolio a couple of weeks ago and i bookmarked it right away. Your tutorials up there are really great.
i think this q&a thing is really cool, hopefully we're not killing you with all of these questions :)

I have one question. Since you've been involved in some movie productions have you ever met any famous actor/actress? and if so how where they?
probably a stupid question, but I'm curious + you've already answered pretty much everything i was going to ask anyway. :)

keep up the amazing work.

Serious Samm
04 April 2005, 03:22 AM
Do you think it is still nessesary to have all of those art materials like markers and pens for concept art? Or can you just use a computer and do everything digitaly?
Because i've been thinking about going to an art supply store and buying a whole bunch of materials. I need those markers and pens but don't know what brand and what types do i need. What would you recommend?

04 April 2005, 03:24 AM
Feng Zhu answered one of my questions on CGTalk...

If I may:)
Feng wrote,
I don't know anyone who uses vector programs to create concept art. The
truth is: it's too slow, and there's no need for it.

While I agree that at first it may seem "too slow", the fact is that with time
it can be just as quick of a technique and more precise. Another advantage to vectors
is that if drafted properly and precisely, the data can be imported into a 3D app. and
extruded, thus giving some time back so... It's hard for me to imagine that
there's no need for it.

Feng wrote
Photoshop and Painter
also give you an "analog" feel when working. I think vector programs take
all the life out of a drawing.

This is probably true...
But the question was aimed more for hard surface renderings and not so much
at character or enviromental design. I find that alot of painted pieces capture
the spirit of the shot, color schemes and camera angles but leave the hard surface
elements looking a little soft and not refined enough. Importing the vector art into
a paint type program remedies the analog issue a little.

Feng wrote,
I never liked vector art much - it usually
looks dead to me;

This bummes me out a little, as there arn't too many mediums that I don't like.

Feng wrote,
though a few artists out there can pull it off.

I'm so trying!

Thanks for your time to comment. You are my favorite concept artist as well as
one of the industry's most noted and I
could not help but rebuttal with this one in a million chance. Later!

04 April 2005, 03:58 AM
I'd like to ask you about
1. The ratio between the length of frame and the v.p. length.
2. What ratio of frame space do you offen work with ?
Thank you

04 April 2005, 04:06 AM
Hi Feng.

My question is what do you think about realisim in concept art, specifically in designing military stuff? In my opinion (I'm a serious military history enthusiast), most often it is totally lacking. Is it an issue with the concept artists themselves (lack of enough inspiration/knowledge for instance) or is it an issue with the people who actually pay for the stuff. Please allow me to elaborate a bit.

By saying realism I don't mean adhering to the laws of physics, but rather things that are common sense. From what I see on your site, you actually try to make things that would work. But very often I see military concepts which are obviously made just to look cool and don't look at all like they could do their jobs, they are too fragile, have prominent weak spots, locomotive systems that make no sense, weapons which can hardly operate, etc. Not to mention overall tactical issues. Since I just rewatched some scenes from SW II, I'd like to give specific examples: The clone troopers and their flying gunships were both very cool designs and a tactical combination that would be very efficient, think of a Mi-24-like flying infantry fighting vehicle. But dismounting on an open field and charging head on like a medieval peasant mass was totally pointless (infantry is always very vulnerable in the open and it is essentially tank ground). The walkers were obviously inefficient, slow and with a very vulnerable locomotive system. The "artillery" was enormously cool, except that its small leg locomotive system was ridiculous and it was incapable of providing indirect fire support (which would be what a proper artillery system would do). From a tactical point of view, the republic army should either simply have bombed the hell out of the droid mass, or, if we want a ground battle so hard, launch a combined arms armoured assault and dismount the troops only at their tactical destinations (i.e. don't make them run all the way through the battlefield). The only piece of hardware the droid army had that made sense to me was the hailfire droid - very fast expendable and simple attack vehicle which did it's job - stay alive long enough to deliver its warheads to the enemy. And its design was way cool too. But altogether was we saw was medieval style chaotic clash of two masses of folks with laser weapons instead of clubs and swords, but not a "battle" in the proper sense.

Ok I hope this rant wasn't too boring but I always wonder who decides these things. In short, do concept artists (and you specifically) think of these issues, and is it really up to them or they just have to follow the wishes of those who pay. Did you ever respond to a request idea with "I don't think this would work / make sense" (in a more polite/professional manner of course :) ) Thank you for your time.

P.S. It is not my intention to put down anybody's work. The SW designs are very very cool, often mindblowing. But why not take things one step further and design things so that they can work :)

P.P.S. If I may ask, how many hours do you sleep every day? :D

04 April 2005, 04:17 AM
Hi Feng Zhu,

i'm just a behinner to computer graphics and looking for a path to follow.

i really like 3d arts but dont wants to become an artist or spend my time on making animations, just wanted to know enough so i can make my ideas that i can draw on paper becomes colored pictures :)
so here is my questions:

- i have many things in my mind but i cant simply pin them down in computer, my sketch on paper is not bad and i wants to know what software do you suggest for beginners to draw cg's with?
- i'm about to learn painter, it's interface is lovely, but is painter enough, is there any easier software you suggest?
- does painter having weaknesses that made you use photoshop too or theres some works easier/faster done with photoshop and some with painter?

thanks lot.

04 April 2005, 06:08 AM
Hi Feng Zhu, I'm Alex from Begium.

Words are weak at expressing how i admire your work and the way you've build your professional way.
Also, i'd like to thank you a lot for your fantastic DVDs, it does help me so much !
I'm actually a 3D student in Belgium (Luke Longin from ILM visited my school; maybe u know him ?)
I'd like to ask you a few questions :

-What is your opinion on 3D artists/animators ? especially the place they hold in a huge movie production such as star wars, and the space given to their own creativity. how are 3D animators considered in that field ?

-My dream is to work in the movie field; what advice would you give to students like me to get to it ? what should I concentrate/work on ?

-I'm working on perspective, and anatomy right now (ouch, that hurts so much.).Do you have any everyday exercise to work on so to improve drawing skills ?

Again, thank you for sharing your precious time answering our questions.It is very noble and generous from you.

04 April 2005, 06:41 AM
Hi feng just wanted to show my suport you are my favorit artist and have been for awhile im really glad your getting out and noticed alot lately .

Just wanted to ask what was your biggest inspiration and what got you started concept art .

04 April 2005, 07:18 AM
I'd like to ask you about
1. What frame ratio do you work with for designing the scene?
2.For perspective topic .About ratio of frame length and distance between vp1 and vp2?
3.Do you set any brush specially in painter?

thank you

04 April 2005, 07:36 AM
wow.. so many questions, and so many long ones. why don't you try and scale 'em down a bit and think of his health?

04 April 2005, 08:59 AM
Hey everyone,

okay, here we go again! Thanks for all the great questions btw...


I just answered this question yesterday. Joe Johnston went to Long Beach State I believe =)


1. The age group varies a lot in this industry. Most concept designers working in the industry today started around their early 20s. All my close industry friends are in their mid-30s right now (Iím 28). It's never too late to break into this business, but it also depends on your background. Our visual library is build over time, and since we've been doing this stuff for a while, our mind is filled with all sorts of images and ideas.

I don't agree with the "younger the better" notion. Like I said above, our mind is constantly being filled with ideas. The more we do this, the better we become; and the faster we draw. For someone fresh out of school, they most likely will not have this mental experience. Companies usually hirer younger artists because they are cheap, not because they are experienced. Once in a while, I do come across super talented young designers, but that is very rare: usually only 1 or 2 from Accd a year.

2. No, I haven't worked with any gnomon grads yet. Gnomon is mostly a 3D oriented school, and I usually work with 2D artists. However, Iíve come across a few 3D guys, including some from Skywalker Ranch's animatic department.

The mike:

Thank you! Good luck at ACCD!

Pixel Vampire:

Your question is answered above.


I live a pretty normal life. Even though I work a lot, Iím not ALWAYS working, as most people believe. I go out to dinners, hang out with friends on weekends, go watch movies, etc. I'm pretty good with time management, and I don't get distracted when Iím working. I know this may sound lame, but when Iím in work mode, I get things done. If you really add up the hours in a day, you can get a lot of things done if you just stick to it. When I was younger, I was terrible at time management. I'd keep putting projects off until it was the last minute. Then the pressure equals to stress, and you start believing that you are always stressed and working hard. NO! Just relax, manage your time, and things will flow along nicely. Try not to put yourself in stressful situations. When you get a project, schedule it out, and just do it. Don't put it off (now I sound like your parents...haha).


I plan to do a lot in the future. I'm in the process of producing my own toy line, writing/illustrating a book, and I want to start taking film classes. I want to eventually direct my own movies, as well as edit them. Doing concept design has helped me greatly in understanding the film industry. These are big plans, but Iím just taking it one at a time. You'll never know what the future holds, so I don't dream too far into the distance =) Hey, when those scientists invent a visual-mind reader, we'll all be out of a job.

Digital tool? Well, I need Photoshop, Painter, and a Wacom in order to work....and a nice big monitor (I prefer Apple Cinema displays).


Doing character design is like any other design work. It's about the forms, proportions, flow, etc. All those points you've mentioned are equally important. It's like saying "which part of the car is the most important?" There is no one answer. No engine, no movement. No wheels, no movement. Etc. The package only works when it's whole.

I've answered a question about learning lighting. Also try to take some photography classes; they'll help you greatly. Or just go buy a nice camera and starting taking pictures at interesting times. You'll soon appreciate how light works. Lighting is everything in a painting. Without light, you won't be able to see anything. =) So put it on your high priority list of things to learn.


I used to do a lot of warm-ups and "thinking" before starting a sketch. Now days, I just start as soon as I sit down. Part of this comes from experience, the other is the deadline. I guess another factor is confidence. At my first job almost 9 years ago, I was so nervous about drawing. Even though I knew I can do the sketch, I was still scared to start. These days, the confident factor kicks in, and Iím no longer afraid of the blank, white paper (or screen in my case). Some artists get over this at a very early stage, but it took me a while to build this confidence.

My music taste? haha, Iíve answered this already. =)


Confidence comes with experience. The more you do it, the better you'll become, and therefore the more confidence you'll gain. Since you are a student, don't get stressed out about anything yet (read my answer above). Just do your best and let your experience level build up. If you get offered freelance projects, then take them! If someone is paying you to draw, then you are moving into the professional realm.

I usually always have some kind of noise on when Iím working. Most of the time it's either music or a DVD. I can just have a movie on loop in the background, simply for the noise factor (but I do gain or learn something new each time I watch them). I've "heard" Gladiator about 20 times now; same goes for Bladerunner, Alien/Aliens, and even dumb stuff like Tomb Raider the movie. I also have Tivo (get it! it's awesome!). So when I come home from the studio, I can just load up my tivo shows. I love Modern Marvels, and anything on the animal channel (I love animals! Except for cockroaches and big-fat flies).


Line-weight: every artist will tell you different things. Here are my 3 tips about line-weight: 1. objects that are closer to the viewer should have heavier lines 2. Lines that are undercuts can have heavier lines (i.e.: where the shoe meets the ground) 3. To separate one object from another when they overlap. Heavier line goes to the object in the front. Try to avoid doing a heavy line around your entire drawing. This can make the image look a sticker.


Well, I like to carry a mini-recorder with me at times (got this idea from Ryan). If you ever get a great idea, just record yourself. You can then recall that idea at a later time. I also carry a tiny sketchbook with me. The doodles I do in there are always super rough, meant only for myself. It's my thoughts on paper.


1. Sorry, I don't know of any school that offers good online industrial design courses. I do believe CGtalk has one now? Not sure.

2. Creative freedom is different for every project. Most of my clients give me a lot of creative freedom. Think of it this way: why would someone hire you if they didn't trust your design skills? Clients are paying me to have creative freedom. If they limit me, then why hire me in the first place? They can go and hire a "wrist" we call it in the industry. Of course there are limits to my creative freedom. Every project has a goal, and I need to stay within those boundaries and meet my client's needs. Most clients would like to see me go "too far" before pulling me back. This includes Mr. George Lucas himself. He pushed us really hard in the beginning: we had to use much creative freedom as possible.

3. Oh yeah, I try to pay homage sometimes in my design work. But it's rare. In our industry, homage is often read as copying. In concept art, you don't have time to explain the difference; where as you can in a movie (i.e.: the entire movie of Shrek 2). When I first started out, I used to hide my initials into drawings. But Iím too busy these days for that. =)


I started drawing as long as I can remember. I don't have any "kid" sketches with me right now, but Iíll dig around and see what I can find.


I answered this question already, dig around (it talks about having good time management skills). Basically, I do a lot of other things besides doesn't consume my life. As I mentioned, I love to travel, go rock climbing, hang out with friends, etc. I make time for these events, even if Iím busy. I'm a very social guy, so I need my daily "play time." Teaching was actually fun, since I get to meet new people, and see some cute girls from time to time =) hahaha hope my g/f isn't reading this.


Thank you!

Magic Man:

1. Yes, I have a business manager who handles all the non-art/design side of things. Sheís great! Without her help, there is no way I can in business. When you are freelancing, there is so much more to take care of than just doing artwork. You have to handle client meetings, invoicing, taxes, phone calls, etc. My only task these days is just drawing. She does all the rest. She actually works harder than me, running in and out of the office all day long.

2. I usually donít sign any crazy contracts when working freelance. The only document I sign is a NDA. The client knows ahead of time about my rate, and thatís about it. I do the work, and my business manager invoices them. No, I donít negotiate any ďbonusesĒ or such. A lot of ďstudiosĒ offer back-end pay instead of upfront. I never take any of these gigs; not because I donít trust them, but because 95% of all start-ups fail. The likely hood of them ever making a profit is next to none. I think a lot of younger kids who are starting these ďcompaniesĒ donít understand this. Iíve been around the block, and have worked with many start-ups. Itís not easy to start a company, even for a bunch of seasoned pros. Yes, I have lawyers, but they are not involved with my daily operations; they handle all the paperwork related to my business (Iím incorporated).


1. The short answer: the most important factor is Ė does it look cool? We are entertainment designers, not engineers. Our job is to entertain, to make the viewer say ďwowĒ when they see our designs. With that said, a lot of us come from an industrial design background, and understand how many things work. So when Iím designing something, I always try to make it look ďreal.Ē Of course theyíll never function, but you can give the illusion that they do; this is where good references come in. Another factor when you are designing is what we call ďfirst readĒ or ďfirst impression.Ē Most designs appear on screen (Iím referring to films here), for less than 2-3 seconds. Thatís not much time! However, the audience needs to understand right away on whatís going on. So if itís a spaceship design, they need to know ďis it a bad guy? Good guy?Ē ďWhich way is the front? And back?Ē ďWhat kind of weapons does it carry?Ē Etc. All this within 3 seconds! So sometimes you can have to design for easy readability. Not everyone on this planet are designers Ė in fact, most arenít. So you have to make the designs easy for everyone to understand. I know this sounds corny, but we deal with this issue all the time.

So to sum up, 1st read and coolness overpowers ďfunctionality.Ē

2. I donít think simple design in architecture is due to the laziness of architects, or tight deadlines. Itís just the sign of the times. Back in the days, kings and queens had thousands of slaves working for them, with time lines of 100s of years. They also build crazy buildings to show off their wealth. Religion was also a huge factor. They make monumental structures to make a statement. If you look at how the general population lived, their buildings are pretty plain and normal Ė not much details at all.

3. Sorry, Iím not familiar with Eve Online. I think some guys at EA play that game, but Iíve not seen it up close.


Itís a mix of both. Sometimes I go in house and sometimes I work from my studio. Currently Iím working 3 days a week at EA Los Angeles. The other days Iím working from my studio for other companies. Again, it all depends on the company. Even though Iím might be working in-house, Iím still a contractor, not a full-time employee.


1. What you are describing is the classic ďmy roughs or doodles are better than my final drawings.Ē This is due to your mental state. When you are just sketching or messing around, your body and mind are relaxed. You tend to do your best work in this mode. You have to learn to keep this relaxed mental state when working on ďrealĒ projects. Drawing to me, is 50% mental, 50% physical. The more relaxed you are, the better your work will be. Your line work will have more life; the composition tends to breath, etc.

2. Actually, just turn the paper. Thatís what most of us do. This is why I use Painter, because you can rotate the canvas. Our elbows are designed to swing in an arc. So most of us can only draw a straight line at a 45 or 90 angle. For all the other angles, just turn the paper to match it.

3. You got it. Practice and experience equals good results.


Yes, you can model one of my designs. No problem. Good luck!


I answered this question already, but Iím 28. I started drawing since a very young age. But I started my professional career at age 20. I didnít start working 100% digital till about 2 years ago.


Thank you! Glad you like my work =) And yes, I plan to do more DVDs. But I want these DVDs to be a bit different from the others. Iím still working on it. Ryan Church and I have some plans in the worksÖ

Harry DíAmour:

I can only speak English. However, I do know Chinese just a bit. I canít read Chinese though.


No, Iím from the US. I visited China (Beijing) twice last year. I might go to HK in the summer for business. What part of China are you in?


I actually donít own any books on perspective! Haha. I learned it all at school. I canít think of any right now, but do a google search. Again, the rules of perspective are not that hard. Any book that teaches you about perspective should work. The rest is up to you to practice and learn it well.


1. I use Painter to sketch, and Photoshop to paint and render. I love the brushes in Painter; they feel and behave like real materials. For quick paintings, I like to stick with Painter. If I need to do more photo-real type work, I have to use Photoshop.


Generally, once I turn in the sketch to the client, I no longer over-see it. I have no idea what they do with it in order to turn it into 3D. However, when I worked in house, I sometimes work with the 3D artists in order to transform the design. In most cases, I donít need to do any additional sketches. 3D artists are really good, and they can figure things out on their own. I might do a few really rough sketches to show hidden objects and such, but nothing fancy. For character work, the clients would sometimes ask for a turn-around sketch. Remember, clients usually pay us by the hour or day. Additional sketches on the same design costs money. If one illustration gets the point across, thatís enough information.


You are asking two different questions. One is about design, the other is perspective.

To learn about perspective, just practice drawing a lot of man-made objects. BUT, and this is a big BUT, donít draw what you see, draw whatís really there. What I mean is, donít just put a cell phone or something in front of you, and draw it like a school exercise. Really break down this object and figure out all the forms. So if you are drawing a cell phone, look to see where all the shapes are. Itís probably got a rectangular body, radius corners, and symmetrical down the center line. Now start your sketch with that center line, and build the shape out from inside to out. Draw the sides that you donít even see. Your sketch should look like a 3D wire frame. By understanding the true forms, you will learn about how perspective works. Now go outside and draw some buildings the same way.

Design is a hard one to teach. Itís a mental understanding of shapes and forms. A lot of it has to do with how much you know our world. Observe all the objects around you, especially nature. Look to see how proportions work. Read up on the golden rectangle. Even though most artists donít use that rule anymore, it still applies to many designs.

Serious Samm:

If you want to do what Iím doing, then Iíd recommend a degree in industrial design. I work mostly on ďman-madeĒ objects, so knowing ID is essential. However, if you enjoy doing characters and creatures more, then consider illustration. What I meant by cross-over class is that you can take classes from other majors, so you can learn the best of both worlds. For example, if you are an ID student, then try to take some life drawing classes from the illustration side. And vise versa.


Hahah, good question! No, Iím not married or have any kids (that I know of, haha). Favorite food? Hmm, Iíd say sea-food. I love sushi. I have too many top places to visit, but I love Maui and Paris. Maui is purely for vacation, and Paris is just beautiful. That city has so much history.

I own some weird stuff, but no samurai swords. I used to collect a lot of toys, but it just made my place look messy. They are all boxed and packed away now. My g/f and I are in a simple mode these days. No clutter. My favorite stuff is my private collection of original artwork. I love my sketch from Iain McCaig.


I use Painter mostly for the sketching part. Itís my digital version of paper and pen. Once I have the sketch done, I switch to Photoshop. Photoshopís digital tools are much more powerful than Painters, especially when it comes to the lasso tools, or any image transformation tools. Once I get the painting to about 50% in Photoshop, I go back to Painter to add the details. And when itís 90% done in Painter, I switch back to PS for the finishing details. Itís a complicated process; maybe Iíll do a DVD on it. =) I love both programs, and I can actually do a finished piece in just one of the software. But since I have both, why not use it.


1. No, I never change the dpi. I stick with 75 the entire time. Iíve never had issues with printing, not even for magazines. However, I do work in high resolutions: 3000 x 3000 pixels for example. You must be working in low-res, which might be causing the blur. Also, Ryan works 100% in painter. Painter has a really good up-res / low-res function. For some reason, it doesnít get blurry at all. I think painter keeps more information during resolution change. Next time, do a file size compare in windows/OSX. Draw something in painter first, and look at the size (make sure you save it as a PSD). Now load that file in PS, and resave it using a different name. Youíll notice a huge difference in file size; painterís version being much greater. Iíve had painter files at 150 megs, but once saved in PS, it goes down to 20. I think much of this is due to painterís way of storing information. PS gets rid of a lot of info, thus the blur effect when you up-res a low image.

2. No, we never had requirements at the Ranch. We get assigned something, and we do as many as we can. Sometimes you do 15 sketches, other times you do 4. It doesnít matter as long as you get the design done on time. And it has nothing to do with Georgeís OK stamp. The work load we had there is typical of most studios. We got assigned a lot of work, but it wasnít super demanding. They scheduled it so we had plenty of time to get it done. Again, you can never compare one job to another. So many factors are involved. For James Cameron, we did only 1-2 pieces a week, because Cameron wanted super finished, photo-real, paintings.

3. Yeah, there are a ton of stuff. Most of them are sets though. I can name a few: The landing platform on Mustafar. One of the meet rooms in Mustafar. The structure Obi/Ani fights on outside on Mustafar. The droids/platforms Obi/Ani rides on in Mustafar. Most of the Wookie weapons. Bailís office and his gun. Grievousís weapon and those staffs. Jedi temple rooms, hallways, basement areas. Escape pod room on the cruiser. Emperorís room on the cruiser (where that Dooku fight takes place). Etc etc. Too many to list =)

4. Yeah, Iain knows. But heís way way way too busy these days to worry about a website I think. =)

Yeah, Junís story inspires me all the time. He is a super nice guy, quiet, and just does his work. I run into so many people who rather complain or find excuses, rather than just draw and practice. Jun is the person they should all meet. He has reached a level many dream of, but he did it with hard work, not by complaining.

04 April 2005, 09:06 AM

1. No, the game industry is expanding like crazy right now. The best time to join is right now! Drawing is not a requirement for all art positions. You can be a 3D modeler, a texture artists, etc.

2. Being a concept art director or creative director gives you the most creative freedom. But if you want total control, then become a producer. Hahahha j/k

3. I never answer the ďhow fast can you drawĒ questions. This is because it all depends on the situation. Iím much faster if Iím drawing on my own for fun. When working with clients, I have to follow certain restrictions, which can slow you down. But in general, most concept artists are pretty fast Ė itís part of the job requirement. The faster and better you are, the more marketable you will be. Speed is very important.

4. Yup, just ask any concept artists at Blizzard. My friends there do the concepts, builds the models themselves, texture them, and sometimes even animate them. Youíll most likely be doing 3D and 2D if you work full-time at games studios.

5. Big question. But simply put, concept design is coming up with new designs that fit the requirements of the projects. It can be for the entertainment industry, the product or auto industry, or anything that requires a design.


You are getting a lot of things mixed up. I donít know where you got your information, but its way off base. Concept artists have nothing to do with SAG (we are not screen actors). Hereís basically how it works:

Films are either union, or non-union. Films are also divided into live action, or animated. Most animation houses have their own union (Disney and Pixar for example). So if you get hired at Pixar, you are automatically in their union. If you are fired, you are no longer in that union. ILM works the same way. Those unionís rules only apply within the company.

If a film is funded by a non-union studio, then itís a non-union film (no duh right?). For example, Star Wars is a non-union film, because George Lucas funds these movies himself (except for New Hope). Final Fantasy wasnít a union film, because Square funded it.

If a studio such as FOX or Paramount funds the project, then the film turns union. Once it goes union, only union people can work on it. All Spielberg movies are union for example, because Universal and Dreamworks are union studios.

There is a separate union for freelance concept artists. Itís not SAG. Itís the illustratorís union, which covers concept artists, some sculptors, and a lot of storyboard artists. You must be in this union to work on those union films.

Outside help can be brought in, if all union members are busy. But this is usually not the case. Everyone working on union films are union, otherwise the studio can be fined. And once you are in the union, you can work on non-union jobs, but not the other way around.


1. Man, Iíve worked with so many talented artists. I donít have any particular favorites, but I have to say, all the guys at Skywalker Ranch inspired me greatly. Most of the guys are recognized by the art community. Only a few remain ďhiddenĒ from the public. Look up ( Iím sure youíve seen his work, but his matte paintings just awesome. He made Ep3 look real!

2. Man, another loaded question. Generally speaking, they are similar, especially now days. The difference comes in the production pipeline. Films are out to tell a story, and you design according to that. Since every frame is locked, and locations chosen, you donít need to do a lot of over-design. For example, if you need a bedroom set, all you have to do is design that room. You donít have to worry about the hallways, or other rooms, etc. For games, you have to design everything, because the player is the camera. He/she can look at whatever they want, and go where-ever they want. They are the directors in your set. Thus, you have a lot more work to do. In films, each shot is basically a still picture. This allows you to lock the composition and lighting. You canít really do this with 3D games.

I think this is one reason why games sometimes lack emotional strong points (though some games can achieve it). Watching a film is like reading a book. The director shows you exactly what they want you to see. They control your emotional waves. In games, everyone plays differently, and thus experience the game on different levels. I find older games actually draw me in more (like the classic Nintendo or GBA games). Because these games lack 3D, they make it up with good game play and story. Itís just like watching a movie, and you are part of it. These days, too many games are focusing on technology, rather than game play.

Iím going off topic here, but look at how games and films are made:

Films: Script is written. A director is brought in. Right off the bat, concept paintings are generated, and storyboards drawn. From day one, itís all about telling the story.

Games: Script is written. Concept paintings and such are generated. However, it might take 1-2 years for the engineers to write the engine. In the mean time, everything is always in ďtest mode.Ē Game play is usually implemented at the last year of production. So much time and focus goes into building the technology. But at the end of the day, itís a game! It should be about fun.

Of course Iím generalizing here. There are a ton of original and fun games out there. But hopefully the old school days of fun games will make a come-back. If you ask any gamer, their fondest memories are usually from retro gamesÖ.such as Zelda, or Final Fantasy 3, or even the first Wing Commander. Newer games tend to lack these memory points. Maybe Iím just getting too old? Haha.

Okay, back on topic.

We are bridging this gap however. These days, many game studios are hiring film concept artists (take EA for example, every studio has someone from ILM).

3. Iíve answered this before, but Iíd love to work on the Indiana Jones 4. On the game side, I want to work on Morrowind II, if they ever make one.

4. I used to get intimidated on big projects. But now, Iím pretty used to it. At the end of the day, itís still a job, and people are people. I just do my best, and hope the clients (whomever they may be), will like my designs. I actually get inspired, rather than intimidated, when working with big time directors or producers. Remember, they are just human beings like you and I.

5. I enjoy designing on everything. Though Iíll probably avoid any cartoony stuff, since I canít draw in that style.

Skeen: Coke! But I donít drink soda muchÖI prefer Aquafina water..haha


I actually just wanted to draw some girls with a Star Wars theme! Hahahha. I did eight in total, but they only printed 2. I still love you guys at Dark Horse! No feelings hurt...haha.

Here are two more. Iíll try to post the rest up later.

*edit* my favorite part of this drawing....her choker...haha...=)


Thanks! Iíll take mine with 4 sugars and 1 cream.


1. Yup, Iím more machine than man! No, hahha. I find time. Read my early answers to time management. And also get yourself a good manager. Mine is great! She schedules everything out for meÖso I can make time for other activities besides drawing.

2. Iíve answered this a few questions above. But that charge one took about a day. The final poster version I did took an additional day to finish.

Okay, Iím tired.

Iíll be back tomorrow to answer the rest. Thanks guys and gals.

*edit* okay, two more Star Wars babes for you guys =)


04 April 2005, 09:14 AM
Ha those are awesome and thanks for answering my questions !

04 April 2005, 09:25 AM
I was having doubts, but now I know for sure - you CAN draw, man! LOL, those are some really cute girls!!! :applause:

finaly someone has guessed it right - and started to paint them girls with shiny buts! thats just geniuss!

04 April 2005, 09:26 AM
hahah awswome starwars sketches :thumbsup:
and thanks for answering my questions

04 April 2005, 10:12 AM
great star wars babes sketches :D

04 April 2005, 10:19 AM
Hi MR Feng Zhu,its really great to see u on "meet the artists"its more like "eat the artists!"

i donno my question has been asked previously or not,but here we go:
i wanted to know how u have been involved in this kinda chaacters,(right now,im talkin bout the style of the characters)i mean what has impressed u so much?is it the atmosphere of ur life environment or is it just some other stuff...cuz,ur characters are in no one's mind! and its the total creativity! i wanna know how they are introduced to u,and baked in ur mind and came onto paperes and monitors?...
Thanx a lot,hope u the best mr Creative!

04 April 2005, 01:51 PM
Hi Feng !
Thx for your time in QA thread you did a great work in answering - so many useful informations!!

My question is:

Could you describe how you ink your pieces digitally? I mean when is needed nice clean linart, with all the long flowing and varying thickness lines. I have found very little info about that on the Net thats why Iīm asking. Any tips/tricks??

Thanks in advance,

Whish you all best!!

04 April 2005, 02:06 PM
Hi Feng,

So do you still do 'ghosting' now that you work digitally?, do you do it in the same way? Because I find it so much harder to join dots with straight lines on a tablet. Sometimes I just hold shift and make 100% straight lines which is surely draining my work of any life/motion.


04 April 2005, 03:08 PM
Thank you very much for answering my questions, and everyone really appreciates that you're taking time out of your day to answer all our questions! Love the Star Wars girls, and so does everyone here at work, lol. Please keep the concept train rolling for us! Thank you, again!

04 April 2005, 04:23 PM
Hello Feng,

Since I first saw your art, You became my favourite concept artist ever. There hasn`t been a day that I did not vist your website looking for inspiration. Each and everytime I feel a lack of inspiration, I immediately turn to your website just to look for motivation. I am a concept artist But very very very far from what you are. but the thing I have been doing the most is comic books and illustrations here and there.

I did not went to any art, illustration or design classes. I have learned everything on the net and I spend more that 6 jours daily learning and working on freelance projects. My dream is to be as good as you are one day and may be meet you in person. I do not have any question really but one thing I wanna say is that you are great man, just great. Keep it up.:thumbsup:

04 April 2005, 04:53 PM
I have another question, What types of drawings should a concept artist put in their portfolio? (More landscape paintings, more character art?)

I am just curious.

and when is the sketchgirls website coming back up.

Thanks for reponding to my other question.

04 April 2005, 04:59 PM
No futher questions... just wanted to say thanks for answering all the probes!

:applause: :applause: :applause:

04 April 2005, 06:07 PM

I actually donít own any books on perspective! Haha. I learned it all at school. I canít think of any right now, but do a google search. Again, the rules of perspective are not that hard. Any book that teaches you about perspective should work. The rest is up to you to practice and learn it well.

write ur own book on perspective then.

*who sed that?!?*

04 April 2005, 06:15 PM
Hey Feng,

this is the best Q & A thread Iīve read so far. Great questions and truly great answers. :thumbsup:

I have no real question > I Just want to say that itīs amazing to see how grounded and normal all of you high profile concept artists are. Considering all the hype around you guys.

best regards

04 April 2005, 06:35 PM
Feng, thank you for answering all of those questions in such an eloquent and detailed way! Best of luck to you in future projects!!!

And thank you to all fellow cg-ers who did the asking... you guys covered a lot of ground which made for a great discussion!

04 April 2005, 06:42 PM
Hi Feng!

(At first sorry my english)
You are one of my favourites concept artists. I love your work. When I knew,that you are one of concept artists working for Star Wars, I wasnīt suprise, because you are one of best sci-fi artwork crators on world. Star Wars is my most favourite film, I saw short dokumen "Creating of General Grevious" on Star Wars site. I was be stupefied, because you have best work I ever seen, drawing and paintning starships, monsters, robots, superheros, fantastic places, things for Star Wars with Ian McCaig, Ryan Church, Eric Tiemens, Sang Jun Lee, Derek Thompson, Stian Dahlslett, TJ Frame, Warren J. Fu, Alexander Jaeger, Robert E. Barnes, Michael Patrick Murnane, John Goodson under one roof ( I envy your work).

I study design on art school and my dream is making artworks for films as you (or designing car, or diericting films as George Lucas). But this is very long way to full my dreams.

I have some questions:

1. Why Doug Chiang ( You know who is he, I think) donīt working on Epizode III ?

2. Which special pens do you use ? (give me some names, sorts or pictures of it) To creating your fantastic sketches.This questions is most important for me.

3. When you started creating concept art for films ?

4. Do you drawing classical art (portret, bust, still ,countryside, human composition) with classical mediums (pencils, pastels, ink, oil, water color)?

5. Isnīt it some kind of sterotype when always crating something same?

6. I like General Grevious so much ,he is fantastic in every detail. Which of Star Wars
concept artists is main idea of General Grevious appearance?

7. Do you study art on special art school?

Please, answer my questions?

P.S. As I say, I love your work very, very, very much. I will remember you for ever.:)

Bye Feng!

04 April 2005, 07:41 PM
Hey Feng!

Thanks alot for taking the time to do this, I had a quick question: you mentioned that you have a multi-monitor setup, I was curious if you have your tablet mapped to just your primary drawing/rendering monitor or if its split between the two.

Thanks again, your a huge inspiration.

04 April 2005, 08:12 PM
hey Feng

How do you feel alias sketch matches up with painter and or Photoshop, i feel alias sketch has a loser feel for concept designing, also what size do you work at for shots that you are working on . great work keep it up, love the DVDs off the chain

04 April 2005, 08:12 PM
a bit more philosophic question:

what [how] do you feel when you draw [create]? do you get goose bumps [like us [well at least me] when we look at your renderings]? Do you run around the house [meaning studio], when the work is finished, showing it off to everyone..... well rather unprofessional, I know.... let me put it this way: are you satisfied with what you create? [well, take me for example - I hate most of my work :twisted: , and that makes me get better all the time...]

that makes quite a patchy question, but I hope you get the idea!

oh, yeah! and another one: do you go to gym or do any exercises, 'cause... well, sitting is most we designers do! I've read that you consider your self to be a social and surprisingly active person, but question remains!

04 April 2005, 09:05 PM
I have a psychological question. From what you've said - you have no problems in concentrating on your work - you just sit down, you know well what to do, you spend your working hours and you get it done. But I guess it wasn't always so, was it?

The case of myself is that I simply can't force myself to work hard for a few hours. It applies to learning for university, wirting (a novel or sth), coding a program or anything else. I manage to stick to the job for as long as one or two quarters, and afterwards it gets harder to concentrate. All the time my thoughts run into all the different topics, just not the one desired. Now, this is no ADHD or any other psycho problem, I'm a rather calm guy ; ) Rather some sort of ill-disciplined mind habit, I would say. And I guess all young people have that problem before they become professionals. Just some deal with it easier, and some find it harder.

As you've probably had some experience with such sort of lazyness and probably have observed it among students, perhaps you can advise all young creators some ways to fully focus on the job, to stick to it for a few hours.

04 April 2005, 09:13 PM
Hi Feng :cool: Hopefully I'm getting this question in here in time for you to answer it before this thread gets closed.

My question is more of a looking for advice type of thing, so I hope it's appropriate.

I graduated from SCAD a couple of years ago with a BFA in Computer Art (Motion Graphics)... the thing is, once I graduated (and I suppose even before, but at the time I felt it was too late to change my mind again) I realized that that wasn't what I wanted to do. I've always been into drawing and art my entire life, but when I went to school I got so caught up in all of these new things to try out, that I lost track of my more traditional roots. I thought I wanted to do Film, then Graphic Design, then Motion Graphics, etc. and I spent my time in college going from one to the other trying to figure out what I wanted.

Truth is, I've always wanted to work on films or games in some form or another, but the idea of becoming a concept artist just, for whatever reasons, never really dawned on me until after I left school.

So, basically, the situation I'm in now is that I'm contemplating on going back to school to study Illustration and really develop my drawing/painting skills (something I didn't really take advantage of my first time around) in order to become what I now know I really want to be, a Conceptual Designer/Illustrator. The problem is, obviously, that I'm already in some debt from my previous education and it would be a big thing to take on even more debt. I've seen quite a few people on this forum and others who never even went to school who have become successful artists... but I'm of the mind set that there are many things that you get from an education that are invaluable, and I also feel that I need that extra push that school provides to really get to where I need to be skill wise.

Anyway, I'm just sort of stuck trying to figure out what to do. I really don't want to go back to school for another 4 full years, so I've been looking into Master's programs which would offer me more advanced classes, etc. and usually they aren't 4 years either.

I'm just curious as to your thoughts on this sort of thing. I thought it would be nice to have a professional artist's opinion.

Thanks very much in advance. :)

04 April 2005, 09:20 PM
Hey Feng,

1). Wow I didn't know that about Painter about just doing 72dpi the whole time. Do you work the same if you do a whole drawing in Photoshop or do you work at a higher dpi if you're just using Photoshop? I wish gnomon did a dvd about dpi, resolution, file formats, etc :)

2) About making stuff for prints and things..that one pic I put up before of the prints you had on the site(the ones you were going to do)..Did you make something like those(the ones in the pic) at home or did you go to a print shop to make those? If you did do those at home what kind've printer do you have?

2). I remember an old thread on where Kevin Chen made this suit/costume (his was a crocodile) for a class he was in and I think I remember him saying you did one too, a frog? and you did have pics of frogs on your old site...Did you do one too? and do you have pics of the costume like his? his was really cool I wish I could've taken a class like that, looked like super fun.

4). I was also wondering about the Gamma Ray studios thing you got that still in the works? will you guys be adding more people? site launch date?

5). When you did stuff for NcSoft did you ever work with Joe Madureira on anything? I run that's why I was wondering and he's at NcSoft now.



04 April 2005, 10:27 PM
as everyone else here I am a great fan of your work and thankyou for giving us the upportunity to interact with you...

Just curious to know ... where do you think concept design itself is headed? do you think maybe their will be schools that help you specialize in this area? what kind of enhancements in technology in your opinion would help in the design workflow?

04 April 2005, 11:12 PM
On the game side, I want to work on Morrowind II, if they ever make one.

I just thought I'd let you know that Bethesda Softworks is working on a sequel to Morrowind called The Elder Scrolls 4: Obivion. The website to it is here ( And the company is currently looking for a Character Artist for that game and another game called Fallout 3. Which if you are unfamiliar with it, it is set in a post apocolyptic world. The jobs are in house - but I think they would make an exception. The link to the job description is here ( anyways. I don't work for the company - I just thought I'd let you know because it would be great to see your work in either of those games...

I do have two quick questions:

1. Do you have any other Jun-like inspirational stories? Any other artist you've seen develope like he has?

2. Do you have any time-managment tips? Specific things that keep you on track?

04 April 2005, 11:21 PM
Hi Feng,

First of all, let me state the obvious: you're a great designer and an inspiration to anyone wanting to enter the industry. I've got just a few questions.

When working, do you prefer to use a Mac or PC?

Even though Apple's LCD monitors are one of the best, they still have false contours (sometimes called banding), a limited amount of contrast levels that appear as steps where there should be a smooth progression. Does this effect your work in any way?

Off topic, what kind of car(s) do you drive?
Do you ride a motorcycle, and if not, why?

Thank you, and I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

04 April 2005, 12:01 AM
hey feng im 5th term fine art, at ACCD im one of the weirdo cross over design artist types yea were freaks but we cant help it haha)

i was wondering if you ever would take on some one as an intern, studio assistant or apprentice for your freelance design company i think that would be a lot of fun because im looking to take an internship after this comming term

i totaly agree with your opinion on curent game design being all about flash and not about content. hopefuly if i get a job in the industry as a game deisnger (not concept artist) i can help change that heheh

best of luck to you in your curent projects hopefuly youll teach again at ACCD soon so i can take one of your classes

best regards

04 April 2005, 06:54 AM
Hey everyone once again,

Thanks again for the all the encouraging words! I really appreciate itÖ

Okay, here we go..


1. No, I donít have a mission. I do have many goals however. I want to be successful at what I do, be happy doing it, and make sure I keep at it for a long time =) Yes, most of the time it is a business, but I still enjoy it. My manager always picks fun projects for me, so it never gets dull or boring.

2. I donít live my life thinking that way. Yes, I have motives and goals, but they are not locked down like a set of rules. You never know where life takes you, so I just go along with the ride. I donít think Iíll ever change my career completely though. I might stop drawing eventually, but I wonít leave the entertainment industry.

3. I knew at a young age that I wanted to draw for a living. Iím actually doing exactly what I wanted to do. =) I feel fortunate enough to have discovered my goals at a young age.

4. Iíve sort of answered this question already. But it comes down to good time management. Even though I freelance, I still keep my personal life and work time separate. My schedule is tight during the week, but I try to relax on weekends. I spend a lot of time with my girlfriend, and we travel together often. Again, itís all about have good time management and self discipline.

5. As designers, our work is our life. That may sound weird, but think about it. Our job is not like a regular desk job, where at 5pm, you can drop everything and go home. Design is a constant thing. We think about it all the time; we live our life in it. However, itís a very fun job, and I love what I do. Iíve actually never been called a workaholic, because most of my friends are designers, and they all understand our industry. I can see an outside person asking me this question, but unless they do what we do, theyíll never understand. And no, I donít work 24/7. I take breaks, go traveling, hang out, etc.

6. Iíve answered this question a few times already.


Yes, I always arrange my portfolio according to the job Ė makes sense to do so. This is especially true in film design. Producers usually make the decision about hiring people. Most of them donít have an art background, so you have to show them exactly what they want to see. What I mean is: an art director can usually tell if someone is good at drawing and design, despite whatever subject matter the portfolio may contain. However, if a producer is hiring for a Cowboy movie, he/she would like to see that subject matter in your portfolio. They donít understand that true designers can adapt to any theme. So try to find out about the job/company first, and arrange your portfolio accordingly.

Donít make your portfolio too thick. Iíd say a single folder containing 30-40 pieces is enough. Remember, we are concept artists. So you must show the design process. Make sure to include roughs, sketches, finished drawings, and final paintings. Also try to cover character, environment, and prop design.

Yes, I get inspired from everyone around me. The list is too long to nameÖ.


1. Donít worry about what the bigger studios want. Iíll keep this simple: if you are good, theyíll hire you. It doesnít matter if you specialize or not. Yes, specialized artists may be more wanted at times, but it also works the opposite. For example, say you are specialized in creating fur. Well, what if the studio only has one position for that, and itís been filled by another specialized person. That job wonít come onto the market for another 10 years. So you just specialized yourself into a corner. Try to be good at everything; it keeps your options open.

2. You answered your own question. A portfolio should include a diverse array of work, all done to a superior quality.

3. If you enjoy drawing, then just do it in your notebook. I carry a sketchbook with me all time. Your job might be in 3D, but on oneís going to stop you from drawing. =)

4. I donít play too many games Ė reason being that I get easily addicted to them. I used to have free accounts to many NCsoft games, but I stopped myself from even logging in. Yes, games are fun, but the last thing I need is another program to keep me in front of the screen. I rather go out and rock climb! =) The games I play these days are SNES games emulated on my laptop (and only when Iím sitting in a plane).

5. I have no idea! =)

And yes, NPR is great! It makes the day just go by.


1. Well, it really inspires me to inspire other people (that sounded weird). By displaying my work to the public, I push myself even harder at what I do. The best feeling in the world is to see younger kids enjoying one of my designs. I just returned from Celebration III (a star wars thing), and I met a few kids who were so inspired by the art department. That makes your day.

Yes, Iíve seen screens from Oblivion. They look awesome! Though I prefer the weird worlds of Morrowind (it almost felt like a star wars world). Oblivion looks a bit too ďreal worldĒ to me.


Iím not super good at anatomy, but I do know the basics. I know where all the major muscles are, and how they connect and flex. But if you ask me about their names, and which bones they are attached to, youíll get a blank stare =) I also observe from life a lot. Understanding the science is one thing, but another is to see how they all work in real life. You have to get a feel for gestures and poses, something anatomy might not teach you.

But I also donít get too caught up in everything being correct. I try my best to make creatures and imaginary creatures look real, but letís face it, if it doesnít exist, no one will ever know how it really works. Who says if itís wrong or right?


Yes, Iíve met a fair share of ďcelebrities.Ē The SW art department actually went down to Sydney, so we met a bunch of the cast; though Ms. Portman didnít like us being around the set. =) Anthony Daniels was really cool. He told us fun stories and did C3POís voice for us.

We also went down to WETA. Meeting Peter Jackson was pretty inspiring. Heís such a nice guy, and so down to earth. I have to thank him for giving us an awesome tour of WETA.

Serious Samm:

For traditional stuff, I used Hi-Tec-C pens, Prismacolor Markers, and regular copy paper. Thatís pretty much all youíll need. It definitely keeps the costs down.

You can do your work 100% digitally, but try it first. Not everyone is comfortable drawing with the Wacom tablet.


I totally agree with your points on vector art. Iíve just never seen it being used in concept design. But post some of your work. Iíd love to see what you can do with it.


Iím not sure if I understand your question? I donít use any ratios for vanishing points. I eyeball everything. =) If you are asking about canvas size for films, the ration is usually 2:35.


I agree with you on this. However, if you dig around my answers from yesterday, I talk about this very issue. Remember, we are entertainment designers; our job is to entertain. Iím a huge military buff myself, but that doesnít mean everything I design has to function. All military equipment is designed by engineers, and they are all about function. I am not an engineer; so no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to design a ďrealĒ vehicle or prop. Besides, not everyone in the audience are military buffs.

But thatís beside the point. Back to this thing we call entertainment design. Our job is to make things fun. If everything was designed to be super real, weíll loose a lot of the fun factor. Itís like saying how come the ants in Bugís Life only have 4 limbs. Hey, what about the fact that they can talk and walk upright? Do you see what I mean? You canít find logic in made up stuff. Sure, we can try to be real, but at what expense? At the end of the day, the audience is there to have a good time. Imagine a ďrealĒ version of star wars. With all that technology, the wars theyíll fight would be so boring. For example, if they had droids like C3PO, why have human pilots at all? Why not send in a flying robot to bomb the Death Star? The reason: lack of fun and human interaction. Star Wars would be a very boring movie if everything had to behave ďreal.Ē

I can go on forever on this topic, but I think you get my point. Realism is part of our design process, but it certainly doesnít govern it. Fun and entertainment comes first. I get frustrated sometimes too when I see ridiculous military designs, but then I think, ďhey, this isnít the Iraq war movie, itís a sci-fi movie. Does it really matter?Ē

And about who makes these decisions: most of the time itís the producer or director. Their job is to entertain as well, not to be engineers or generals. Go try telling George Lucas that the twin suns around Tatooine donít make any sense. =)

I usually sleep around 6 hours. =)


1. Your question is a bit confusing to me (software for drawing CG?). If you mean analog software, then I use Painter and Photoshop. For 3D, ask the guys on CGtalk. Maya, 3D Max, Light Wave, etc, are all great 3D packages.

2. Try using Alias sketch. But again, the software will not make you into a good artist. Itís you. Which software you use doesnít really matter. Iíve seen my friend draw awesome stuff in MS Paint. So go figureÖ

3. They both have their advantages and vise versa. Again, donít get so caught up on which software to use. Just use anything thatíll get the job done. Software is just a tool.


1. Well, we wonít have much of an entertainment industry without 3D artists. They are crucial in our line of work. We are all part of a team, working together towards a common goal. Most companies will give 3D artists some creativity, but it all depends on the project, and who the art directors/producers/directors are.

2. Which part of the movie industry do you want to work in? 2D? 3D? You have to be more specific for me to answer your question.

3. The best exercise to just keep drawing. Thatís it. The more you draw, the better youíll get. There are no magic exercises or tricks to improve you faster.


My biggest inspirations (as far as artists go) growing up was Ralph McQuarrie, John Johnston, Syd Mead, Frank Frazetta, and John Berkey.


1. You mean film ratio? Thereís 1:85 and 2:35. Most widescreen films are in a 2:35 ratio. Television, or NTSC, is 4:3

2. I donít have a ratio system for this. I eyeball my perspective.

3. No, I use the default brushes in Painter.


Well, doing unique character design is just like designing anything else. Try to push yourself out of the mold, and do something different. Look for good references (not at other characters, but rather, something completely different). For example, what if I asked you to design some character outfits based on common kitchen appliances? Do you see what I mean? Try to get inspired from other sources, not from other artistís creations (which are often the case for students and beginner artists).


When working digitally, the trick is to work in high-resolutions. When you are working on paper, you can control the lines very precisely. On the computer, drawing gets more difficult. To make up for this, just make your ďpaperĒ huge. Computer software calculates an average when you reduce them (or zoom out); so even if your lines are not perfect at 100%, they will look nice and clean at 50%. So the higher your resolution, the less precise you can be (but not messy, thatís not what Iím suggesting).


No, I donít do much ďghostingĒ in digital. What I do is repeat the process until I get the line right (by hitting un-dos). If you watch some of my digital DVDs, you can see me doing this. It sounds slow, but you actually get used to it. Most of the time, I can hit my lines on the first try. Itís the longer lines that take more tries.




Thank you as well!


1. I answered this portfolio question already. Dig around in this section.

2. Iím hoping to have the sketchgirls website up soon. My toys are 95% done. So once I have them painted and photographed, Iíll re-launch the website.


Haha, if only I had the time to write a book on perspective. Maybe one day. =)

Fahrija and Seqent:

Thank you!


1. Doug Chiang started his own production company, and he was already working on another film during Ep3 production.

2. I do all my work digitally now; drawing them using Painter. I used to use Pilotís Hi-Tec-C pens.

3. I started working about 9 years ago. My first movie was Soldier. Remember that? Hahaha.

4. I donít draw or paint with traditional mediums on my spare time. If I ever plan to take a vacation, I might go out and sketch for a while.

5. Warren Fu designed the original Grievous. I helped flush him out (details, joints, etc).

6. I studied Industrial Design at Art Center.


Yes, I use two cinema displays. I have my Wacom mapped to my primary display only. I have to use the mouse to get to the other screen.


I only used Alias sketch briefly. It did feel nice, but it was almost too simple. Plus it didnít save in PSD format. I think alias sketch was designed for tablet PCs.


I do get exited when I finish a new design, but I keep that excitement to myself =) However, since Iím always working on so many projects at once, it never gets super exiting! (Itís more like, ďokay, done, moving on to the next one.Ē) Iím more exited when working on my personal projects.

I do look at my finish drawings and try to find mistakes. I try to improve with every new sketch. Learning from the previous image is a great way to teach yourself.


Youíve sort of answered this question yourself. Yes, time management and self discipline is just something youíll have to teach yourself. A part of being a professional is having these skills. When I first started out, I was easily distracted. If my office mate asked me to take a long lunch, or go out and chat on the lawn, Iíll always say okay (though partly because sheís cuteÖhaha). Anyways, now days, if I schedule myself for an 8 hour day, I try not to go off course. Again, it just takes time. Try to listen to music while you work. I actually listen to music to keep myself from hearing other conversations, which usually always distracts me away. =)


Iíve received many emails from others who are in your situation. You are basically describing a lot of college grads. Iíve already answered the questions regarding schools, so look those up (basically, teaching yourself is okay, but going to school is much better).

So, what should you do? Well, if you really believe in yourself, then take the risk (and money), and go back to school for what you really want to do. You only live once, and why waste that time on something you donít enjoy? Four years in school is nothing if you come out enjoying your life? Iain McCaig once asked me great question: If there was a rope between two cliffs, whatís on the other side that would convince you to cross it? If being a concept artist is one of them, then you should take this risk. The rope is our life; yes, itís dangerous, thin, and uncertain. But if you truly believe in your goals, then wouldnít you try your best to reach it? Choose the path that makes you happy. Taking risks is part of life.


1. I stick with 75 dpi for everything; Painter and Photoshop.

2. Those prints are off of my own printer. I have 3 printers: an Epson 1280, Epson 2000p, and a Canon iP5000 (itís for printing photos and 8x11s).

3. Yes, I did make a frog suit. Man, you have good memory. I donít have any pictures of it right now thought.

4. Iíll have more news on Gamma Ray soon. We are still putting the whole thing together. Itís expanding everyday. Iíll make an official new announcement once everything is in place (in a month or so).

5. Yes, I worked with Joe; actually even before joining NCsoft. Heís a nice guy, and super talented.

Okay, Iíll have to cut it short today. I got a lot of work to do. Iíll finish the remaining questions over the weekend.

Thanks guys!


04 April 2005, 10:17 AM
Thank you, to answer my questions.

Bye Feng!

04 April 2005, 10:51 AM
Hey Feng,

You are a true legend :applause: , just curious on a few things:

1. what comic books were you into and who were your favourite comic artists?
2. what ethnicity are you exactly? i would assume that you're chinese? :) and how does influence your body of work.
3. how is LA in terms of work? is there a lot of jobs out there and is it a safe and nice place to work?
4. how hard is painter to pick up and learn? like whats the learning curve like?
5. could you show us any 3d work that you've done and have you dabbled in 3d areas such as texturing, character setup, dynamics, animation?
6. approx. how much would you rake in a year all up? not meaning to intrude in private details but it'd be interesting to know whats possible in terms of income potential in this industry :buttrock:

thanks for taking the time out to answer these questions and i cant wait for the toy figures! your artwork is truly inspirational!!!:thumbsup:

04 April 2005, 11:32 AM
hi feng

been a fan of yours since i came across your website artbyfeng about 6 years ago, your work just blew me away, got your DVD's and been threw all your tutorials, was wondering what pens you use and pencils, the main reason im asking is that i live in South Africa and its quite hard to come by and find some pens so i was wondering if you could write down the different types and make if thats not to much trouble, you also talk about the copic markers(came across some but there squre not sure if there the same like you use , found some tria markers also) and the values like 20% and 30% i found some copic markers the other day but they dont have a percentage value on them, they are named, if you could help me clear up that.

these questions may seem a bit arb, the reason is im not studying art, im doing computers programming and stuff and want to get back into it in two years time when i finnish my course, and for now i sketch and want to start actualy going threw your tutorials not just watching with a OOOOOOOOOOooo expression on my face :P, south africa is not always up to date with stationery things, its like a hunt for certain types of things so your help on the pens and pencils you use would mean alot

thanks alot for your help


p.s. U ROCK MAN!!!

04 April 2005, 11:41 AM
I would just like to say .. that I love your work .. Like otherone does :)

04 April 2005, 01:57 PM
Thanks Feng for answering the questions

I have one more Q

How long did it take you to learn 3D Max?

04 April 2005, 02:27 PM
Thankyou so much for taking the time. Most of my questions have already bean anssered.

How did you go about finding your business manager ? and at what point in your 10 years did you deside to get one ?

04 April 2005, 03:28 PM
Hello Mr. Zhu,

Sorry to bother you again and thanks for answering all the questions. I still would like to know what you think about my works. Please take a look at my website ( I would also like to know skill wise how much farther I have to improve in order to get into the industry as a Concept Artist. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer all the questions again. I really appreciated it! Thank you very much! Take care!


04 April 2005, 04:14 PM
hi Mr, Zhu,
first, want to say that your answers in this threar is very helpfull for me and your work is so incredible,i cant believe someone can be so creative:)
im 26 years old and i live in australia now, but im planning to move to US next year,

1. do you have any recommendation which way is better to apply for job in the movie or game industry (as a concept designer/illustrator), just email the company and attach my portofolio, or i go to their office directly,

2. which city is better for career,i mean,the opportunity?

3. and, is it possible for you to take someone as intern(me), of course i will show you my portofolio first, so you can decide if im good enough or not, because i believe that you are one of the most talented person in the planet!( work on starwars as a concept designer before 28?)

thank you, and wish you the best for the future!

04 April 2005, 04:39 PM
Thanks again for doing this man. I really repsect you for sharing your knowledge & experience with the rest of the community.

04 April 2005, 04:41 PM
I just got done watching your Fundamental of Shot Design DVD and I have to say that I am floored. We went over perspective at the fine arts college I attended, but never in as much depth, and the DVD was only 2 hours long, lol. ::Bows down to the Feng:: I was also happily surprised to have seen you on G4TV not too long ago.

(My very first wimpy concept sketch with a wacom)

I'm not sure if this was asked before, but have you ever written out or fleshed out ideas for a movie or story of your own? Have you ever played Dungeons and Dragons? :D If Vin Diesel has a tatoo of his DND character's name, I'm starting to believe everyone may have played it at one time in their lives, lol. Oh, and do you play any instruments? Drums, Guitar, Bass? ... Tuba?

P.S. I'm hoping that Oblivion's team are just selective about not giving away the core world design in screenshots. Maybe they've got an NDA to keep it more or less under wraps till near release, and to boost hype through technology only at this point. Still, i'm hoping they touch the same chords as Morrowind in terms of immersion, because I'll be in line, day one, for that sucker :D

Thanks again!

04 April 2005, 05:14 PM
Well thanks feng zhu. You are a champion of answering all questions addressed. I will start with a couple of questions the I want to chime in on a couple of things addressed.

1. Is all the work you have in the Art of Ep3 book done digitally?. Some of it just doesnít look it but the book in the intro says that it is all done on computer.
2. Now as I look at your digital work on the website it seems to be less technical than your hand rendered drawings. Is this tru or just happens to be the samples I am looking at at the time?
3. At this point in your carreer do you ( or your manager) still contact your clients or is it the other way around ?
4. I have noticed you recent digital work has a type of ambient 'texture' applied to the surfaces... what technique to you use to acheive this?
5. can you elaborate or post a like for the illustrators union. I have done a google sketch and come up with too many random things the only official thing I know of is the graphic artist guild.

Ok now here is a few things to address some subject bought up during this session. A good book on perspective I found was Basic PERSPECTIVE FOR COMICS available at .

Now on to the questions about vector art. I also have thought about using vector programs for line art. To be exact I have been doing character work with illustrator with a technique I came up with to copy the look of traditional inking. I think it works well for characters but and not sure if it would be beneficial for technical illustration. Here is a sample.

again I thank you for taking the time out to answer all our questions I dont think you realize how much you have pushed me. And I look forward to the day we are working side by side on a project

04 April 2005, 07:20 PM
Hi Feng,

This may sound weird, but I'll give it a go anyway :)

I usually have plenty of ideas for creatures and such, but when I start drawing the image in my head keeps changing constantly, so that I'm not able to get a clear image of what it is exactly that I want to draw. It's really frustrating because this usually ends up with me not drawing anything at all. I'd really like to get into designing, but this has stopped me from doing so for years. Any tips on how I can fix this? Is it a familiar problem for starting artists? Have you had the same?


04 April 2005, 09:30 PM
Hi feng.

First, sorry for my poor english

I'd like to thank you because your arts always makes me dreaming.
I can spend hours just watching it, and I never miss an opportunity to tell everyone how much i love your works. :thumbsup:

Here is my question :
I'm currently studying CG. I'm on my first year out of 3 (or maybe 4 or 5 ;) )
I have to do a picture in 3D, based on the atlantide.
I'd like to take your shark submarine ( art as reference, if it doesn't mind you ;)
I will of course post my finished work on CGTalk as soon as i will achieve it :cool:

Thanks again, keep up the good work!

04 April 2005, 10:29 PM
Thanks for the reply, Feng. Certainly the entertainment factor comes first. Although IMHO every director who makes a movie containing "war" in the title would greatly benefit from an hour or two lecture of basic military tactics :D And IMHO again something can be much more entertaining if it has some basic grounds in reality. But that's just me. Thanks again for your time! You are immensely helpful to everybody here. :)

05 May 2005, 01:44 AM
Thanks again Feng for being a good sport... This is sort of where my style is heading regarding vector art. Thanks for viewing... Later!

05 May 2005, 05:05 AM

Love your work, Feng! It's very cool that you're taking the time to interact with the community this way.

Question: with traditional media, you spin the page a lot to align it since you make straight lines by pivoting your elbow. How do you deal with this issue when working with your Wacom tablet? Do you rotate the tablet or rely on the straight line tools of Photoshop?


05 May 2005, 05:12 AM
Thank you Feng for repling.
The second question that (maybe I'm not good in english) I mean. Do you always place another vp. out of the frame space?

05 May 2005, 08:35 AM
Hello Feng, thanks for answering our questions. I actually don't have any questions for you, since all mine have already been answered, quite an eye-opener.

Anyway, when you mentioned Legend of Kyrandia as one of your early inspirations, I almost fell out of my chair. I have really fond memories of the old adventure games, it's really too bad that the adventure game portion of the industry has withered away. God...320x200/256 colors was so impressive back then, but these days it's all about +1024x768/millions of colors...

Sorry about the rant, couldn't help it. Er, carry on. : ) Looking forwards to more answers!

05 May 2005, 08:56 AM
Hie Feng....!

Ure a kewl guy...I love ur work and ur achievements....U inspired me really to take up 2d painting...:)

Im at a stage of understanding colors now....I think ur strength is you color apart of course other important aspect too...

No questions from me! :scream: Just dropping a line in this awesome thread!

All the best, mate!

05 May 2005, 10:31 AM
humm... where's the other recruitment posters, I saw only four there ?

anyhow, I dunno if this was included in them, but in case it wasn't, here's
one for the really ambitious : :D

thanks for the inspiration , dude
(ps. if dat helmut looks any good is because i had photo
ref for it :p, if it doesn't, well, :blush:)

keep up the good job, Feng :thumbsup:


05 May 2005, 02:25 PM
Hi Feng, Thanks so much for your involvement and for sharing your work life with us!

my questions:

1. It seems like your deliverables are mostly 2D renderings. Do you follow up the execution of your designs that get chosen to be modeled in 3D, fabricated at physical models, etc? Or do you just hand off the design intent and the client's team decides their own execution. If the latter is the case. doesn't that frustrate you when they interpret a design in a different way that you had envisioned it?

2. Do you see that most of your clients just want this very conceptual stage as a final deliverable, or do you see room to also have a staff to implement these things in 3D under your supervision?

3. Besides having a business manager and office support, do you delegate design work too? I mean, are you limited to the amount of bandwidth you you can provide out of your own hands or do you have a team that can help you sketch ides together, illustrate them, flush out details, etc?

4. If you have not being able to grow into a team, is it because you don't want to? or because your clients are too posessive and whant YOU personally involve in every aspect of your work?

(The 4 questions above are all very related, feel free to give us one general answer, no need to reply as 1-2-3-4)

5. what are the biggest challenges, duties or compromises that come as part of your job. I'll give you an example of what I mean: In my case being an industrial designer for consumer products and automotive parts, I enjoy the deign side of my job, but I don't have as much fun managing the projects, negotiating with engineers what things I allow to change and what things are not negotiable, finding suppliers for materials and processes done right and cost effectively, etc, etc. Not things I like to do, but that I HAVE to in order to 'protect' the integrity of my designs for the benefit of my client. Do you have challenges of that sort in your industry?

4. Since you say that your job is very mobile, what do you do about hardware when you work on a client's site? Do you have your own portable system or do you have to adapt to different systems, without your settings, preferences, etc? What are your mobility challenges to have 'your tools' with you? Related to this, have you looked into the latest tablet PCs with 1400x1040 displays (Toshiba Tecra M4) ? If so what do you think of that as a portable option or a digital sketchbook?

Thnaks again for your involvement and your positive enegy!

05 May 2005, 07:06 PM
Amazing work Feng Ė very inspirational.

1. What in your eyes is the difference between Illustration and Industrial Design?

2. While i'm ultimately interested in [character] animation Ė I also want to expand my talents and options to concept design, illustration, storyboarding, graphics design, photography etc. Iím looking at taking a broad subject like a Drawing degree to learn the raw skills and backing it up with various shorter courses like cinematography, photography, concept designÖ.etc. Do you think this would help or is it being too broad?

3. Is it possible to move around within a studio one youíre hired? Say youíre an animator but would like to work in concept design for your next project. Are you basically stuck where you are.


05 May 2005, 10:22 PM
Hello Feng! :applause:
(it's the same Denart from We kind of talked about pixel art / skillz and its presence in today's industry)


Don't you find it interesting that your name, Feng Zhu, pronounced in Mandarin is very close to the Mandarin pronunctiation of "house"
And we all know you are the master of house and insane architectural designs.
Heck, you even went to Berkeley (to please your mother!) to study architectural! :D

1) Looking back, did going to Berkeley helped you in the long run in as a concept artist?

2) Are there any regrets for "wasting" all that time at Berkeley?

Thanks for your time! ;)
(man, its awesome to see you taking the time to answer all these questions. Your replies are super LONG and meaty!) :)

05 May 2005, 01:39 AM
Feng !!

No question, all have been answered here.. Man seeing this thread has really inspired me !!! Iv'e been in a bit of a drawing slump as of late, but this thread has got me going again, as well as all of the insite you have given on workflow and what not... im also messing with painter now as well ( 2 hours so far lol ), thank you lots, and thanks to the community for great questions, I have read every page on this thread haha. Keep up the work man !!!

05 May 2005, 01:47 AM
thanks feng for answering my question.

Here is one of your characters i modelled. Im gonna rig him and make some test animations. (scroll down to see end result)

cheers mate.

Great thing your doing here giving up your time for us :)


edit:// i had a question but it hass already been asked :)

05 May 2005, 05:44 AM
Hey man, i love you work and ive been a long time fan, ur also a huge inspiration to me, my question was about mechanical things, during school when you were learned and getting good at doing ships and robots did you just study alot of real world parts and machinery? like did art center have you guys draw those things or just look at them to get the functionality in ur head because i always notice parts on peoples designs and stuff taken from say a train or something so im just wondering if thats the way to go? thanks for your time!

05 May 2005, 06:21 AM
Wow, this is like an audience with a king... In my Charactar Design & Storyboarding for Animation class last quarter, my professor (for the sake of posterity, I'm in SCAD and his name's Ray Goto) showed us your Gnomon demonstration as part of teaching us how to do character environments within a reasonable timeframe. When he did I just about fell outta my chair; I've been a fan since I stumbled across your website a few years ago.

And I have lots'a questions, but I'm reading the backlogs even as I type this, hoping I'm not gonna make you re-state something you've already said. And by the way, those Star Wars girls rock :thumbsup:

Most any question I can think of has already been answered, and you have a lot more on hand to answer, so I'll only ask one quick one...

How important do you consider versatility to be, not just in subjects but in skills? For example, I'm trying to learn to do basically anything I can grasp; illustration, storyboarding, animation, concept design, digital painting, modeling, texturing, working with live-action.... I'm not saying I'm good at all this yet, but I'm trying. But anyway, am I more likely to succeed in being competent with lots of the design work, or devoting myself to excelling in a narrower spectum of the process?

05 May 2005, 08:43 AM
Thank you kindly for answering!

Have a great year with lost of fun projects!

Peace, Adam

05 May 2005, 11:38 AM
Hi Feng,

I really love all your artwork so much. Thanks for giving great and detailed answers.

I'm focusing on 3d art but would love to improve at 2d stuff also.

Here's a couple of images.

I'd really appreciate any critique.

Thanks alot.

05 May 2005, 11:25 PM

1). I don't know if this has been asked but how did sketchgirls come about? Is the sketchgirls conecpt going to be the story idea for your artbook/storybook? or will it be something different?

2). If you can say..what did you work on with Joe Mad? was there any colab art between you guys? or at least art together but separate on a project?

3). Have you bought the Revenge artbook yet? What's your favorite piece that made it into the book? Where there some you were surprised that didn't make it in there? Will you be able to put the art you did on your site...ones that maybe didn't make it in the book? cause I know there was a lot kashyyyk ones that didn't make it even like fully rendered ones.

4). Did you ever get to take anything from the ranch like any of the statues/busts or exchange art with the other guys? I think you said you got a drawing from Iain..did you get anything else?

Well those are probably the last questions I will ask, I actually think I ran out of stuff to answered everything. Thanks for answering all my question this was really cool...Thanks Feng!


05 May 2005, 03:04 AM
Feng u r such a nice & hardworking artist..
thx for replying ...

Will u come to Malaysia for a seminar??!!...
I want u give us a LIVE Drawing TUTORIAL RIGHT IN FRONT OF US~!

Wanna Say Hi to ur Gf from here!

05 May 2005, 03:15 AM
is this thread closed....? is feng done?

05 May 2005, 03:54 AM
Im sure Feng is busy....we as ppl in the industry doing similar things should understand...hehe(sometimes i just dont):shrug:

05 May 2005, 06:04 AM
Hey everyone,

Sorry for the delay. I had a really busy weekend (moving into my new studio, more on this later). Iím super swamped this week, so Iíll have to try to answer everything quickly. Again, if you have some more personal questions, feel free to email them to me.

And thanks again for all the encouraging words and wonderful questions!


Interesting questions; well, I definitely see concept art growing more into the 3D realm of things. Currently, a majority of the concept art is done in 2D, by hand. However, I see more and more studios starting to use 3D to conceptualize designs. This is not a bad thing, except us 2D guys better starting learning 3D. =)

As far as technology goes, I bet someone will write a ďconcept artĒ generator program. Of course this may should weird, but imagine a 3D software that contains a library of millions of objects. This ďsmartĒ program will know how to combine these objects in a somewhat realistic way. The entire interface will be slider based. For example, I input: future city with Paris architecture mixed with 1920s New York, plus organic sea life. This program will start to generate shapes. I can use sliders to control how far things go. Of course this program wonít get you 100% to a final design, but I bet it can get you at least 70% there. There are a lot of potential for a software package like this. It wonít take over our jobs, but it can enhance it.


Yes, Iíve seen screen shots of Obivion. It looks pretty cool. Maybe Iíll drop those guys an email. =) Iím super busy enough though; but Iíd still love to work on that game.

1. Inspiration stories? Hmmm, well, I have a lot. Most of these stories come from Iain McCaig. Iím sure heíll be ask to do this Q/A soon, so Iíll let him answer this later.

2. Well, self discipline is the best type of time management. For example, if your friends are asking you to go hang out, but you have work to do, itís all up to you to say no. Another thing is to try to remove yourself from the rest of the world when you are working. I do this by watching DVDs or listening to music. Distractions are the major source of ďcorruption.Ē It just takes time to learn these disciplines.


I donít have a preference when it comes to PCs or Mac. I like them both! Right now, I use a PC for all my work; this is because I do a lot of game design, and most games run on PCs. So itís easier for me to run demos and such when clients send them to me. But as far as drawing, both platforms work well.

I havenít noticed any ďoff-colorĒ problems with my Cinema displays. Their colors are very true to my print-outs (Epson 1280).

I drive a Honda Accord Coup for regular days, and an Audi TT on weekends or to the beach =) And no, I donít have a motorcycle, but I might get one in the future ( and just a funny side story: when I worked at the Ranch, I shared a house with two blonde strippers. They were into motorcycles as wellÖ.we had about 8 bikes in our garageÖ.Lucas Valley Road is a great place to ride).


Yes, I do plan to take on some interns soon. Send me some of your work. Iíve been talking to a few students at ACCD about internships and independent studies.


1. I wasnít really into ďAmericanĒ comics when growing up. I love European ones, especially anything by Juan Gimenez and Frazatto.

2. Yes, Iím Chinese. However, sad to say, I donít have much connection to my roots.

3. If you want to work in Hollywood, then LA is one of the places to be. There are a lot of jobs out here. However, LA is not the only place. And like any city, most parts are safe, but there are bad areas. You just have to know your way around.

4. Painter is difficult to learn at first. But if you manage through the first week, the rest comes easy.

5. I have some 3D work on my website.

6. I donít think my business manager would like me to tell everyone our yearly income. But donít worry, if you work hard in this industry, you will make a good living. Youíll be right up there with doctors, lawyers and high profile architects. I answered a question about rates before; if you do some math, you can figure things out =)


For inking, I use Pilot Hi-Tec-C pens (0.3 and 0.4 size). For markers, I use Prisma Color Markers (grays in 10, 30, 50, and 70 percents, and black). Thatís about all I use. And I just use regular copy machine paper.


I didnít take me too long to learn 3DMAX. Of course I only know the basics, but itís enough for me to make most objects. Iíd say it took me about 1 month to get the hang of it.


Iíve met with many agents and business managers. You just have to search around until you find the right one. And since they deal with your money, you better trust them 100% =) Iím using a business manager to help me keep track of my clients, invoices, and taxes. Without here, I would go crazy. Haha..


I will take a look at your website soon.


1. The game industry is a lot easier to break into. Most films require you to be in the Union, and if you read my previous post, you can see how hard it is to get in. For games, Iíd recommend you to send them a physical portfolio. But at the same time, make youself an online portfolio, and spread the web address around. Try to avoid ďcold-callingĒ clients, and it may annoy them. Instead, get to know the art directors or producers first, then send them an email after.

2. There is no right answer to this question. My studio is in LA, but that doesnít mean all the jobs are here. In fact, of all my current clients, only one is located here in town (EALA). All my other clients are either in other parts of the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan. Because of the internet, freelancing has become a lot easier.

3. Yes, I am looking for interns. My studio needs about 1 or 2. Send me your portfolio.


Nice sketch! Keep at it.

Yes, Iíve written my own stories. In fact, Iím turning one of them into an illustrated book right now. Hopefully itíll be out by sometimes next year. No, I donít play any instruments, though when I get some free time, Iíd love to learn the Piano.

Iíve actually never played D&D. I remember seeing other kids play it at school, but I wasnít really into it. I was more interested in just drawing at the time I guess. I did try to play Warhammer once; fun stuff, but it didnít grab my interest.


1. No, none of my work for Ep3 was digital. I did everything with pen and marker.

2. You are not seeing all my work on my website. The images on there are mostly my early stuff, nothing crazy. You are missing about 95% of my currently portfolio. =)

3. Well, most of the time, clients would contact me, and then my business manager would follow up. However, if I really want to work with someone, Iíll have my business manager contact them. Iíve also been working freelance for a while now, so I have a study list of clients.

4. I just add textures using Photoshop (over-lay layer mostly).

5. There isnít much more to the union then what I wrote before. Basically, you have to be in the union to work on most films. To get in, youíll need 30 days on a non-union film before it goes union. Or, if the production designer makes you a special case, they can get you in (but rarely does this happen). To onto non-union films, look on the back of Variety.


Sounds like you need more experience. Just keep drawing. You are letting the frustration part get to you. Just ignore that, and keep sketching out your ideas. When I first started, I can probably only capture 10% of whatís in my mind onto paper. However, now I can capture to about 80%. Another thing you can try is to copy some existing designs. Draw some X-wings, or Abram Tanks. This will get you familiar with shapes.


Sure, you can use that image for a 3D model. Good luck! I look forward to seeing it modeled.


Yes, I agree with you. But in the real world, things just donít work that way. Thereís reality, and then thereís Hollywood reality. =)


Wow, thatís pretty nice! How long did it take you to do that? Very impressive.


I get around the rotation problem by using Painter. I canít draw for sh*t in photoshop =) But with painter, you can spin the canvas on screen, therefore mimicking the way I work on paper.


I like to place on VP on the image, and another one off screen. Learn this by looking at Syd Mead paintings. He is the master at perspective drawings.


Man, I loved Kyrandia. Sometimes I just want to go back and re-play all those adventure games. Some of my other favorites include: Indiana Jones, Maniac Mansion (loved this one!!!), the Dig, Monkey Island, Sam and Max, Space Quest and Kings Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry. Ahh, the good old days.


Iíll post up the other Star Wars girls soon (my work machines are all off line right now, because of the office move).

Nice sketch by the way! Man, I shouldíve done a red-guard myself. Why didnít I think of it??! Haha


1. Iíve answered this question already.

2. This is pretty much answered too.

3. Yes, Iíve reached my bandwidth. There are way too many jobs for me to handle. However, my business manager does a good job of scheduling my time; so I have some time to get all my projects done each week. However, I will be hiring artists soon, to help expand my studio. Iíll start with interns first. Iíve also partnered up with James Clyne, to form Gamma Ray studios. Iíll more on this later.

4. Well, since I work freelance, I donít have to over-see projects much. However, I actually enjoy management sometimes. I worked as a Creative Director for NCsoft before, and it was pretty fun. But as far as challenges, the most I deal with is with design itself. Sometimes clients donít understand the difference between ďdesign timeĒ and ďdrawing time.Ē Yes, if I had a design already in my head, I can probably draw it out very quickly. But since clients are hiring me to come up with new designs, I have to spend the time to think of them. Some in-experienced clients donít understand this, and question why sometimes itíll take me 3 hours to do a 30min sketch. Well, the thing is, yes, it only took me 30min to sketch it, but another 2.5 hrs was spend designing it.

5. I do a little of both. I have my own work machines that I keep only at the studio. I also have a system that I can carry to jobs (itís a powerful PC, but built into one of those tiny cases). However, I also use client machines too (like at EA). I keep all my reference material on a small fireware drive. So no matter where I go, or which machine I use, I still have all my files (this also includes my brush settings, painter files, etc).


1. Illustration and industrial design share many common grounds. But usually industrial design focuses more on man-made things (such as architecture, products, vehicles, and environments). Illustration tends to focus more on character and creature design, as well as mood-paintings, and general environment designs (not hard-core, perspective heavy things).

2. If you can draw well, you can expand into many different fields (all that youíve mentioned). So yes, Iíd recommend you to take some drawing classes.

3. You can move around, but it has its limits. Studios usually hire people based on their specialty (ie: 3D modeler, animator, texture artists, etc). But smaller studios tend to let you have more freedom. When I worked at Blur, Iíve seen 3D modelers do their own concepts, and as long as it works in context, the boss didnít complain. This is harder to do, if you are working for a bigger studio (because you can step on other peopleís toes).


Hey man, good to see you here.

1. Yes, architecture definitely helped me. Actually, I never see anything as wasted. You can learn something from everything, even topics not related to what we do. For example, I took a class once on lettering. Man, I learned so much about alignments, first reads, grids, etc from that class - something I wasnít expecting.

2. I think I just answered your question. I donít see anything has being Ďwasted.Ē I also made some great friends there, and had a blast living at the dorms.


Glad I inspired you! Now get back to drawing! Haha


No, Art Center didnít really teach you about drawing mechanical things. Their job is to train you on how to design and draw. I had to learn about machines and their functionality on my own. One of the best ways to teach yourself is by building scale models. Go to your local hobby shop and buy some models. Once you make a model, youíll have a greater understanding of how things work and attach to each other. Try building a replica of a B-17 or a Sherman Tank for starters.


Glad to hear about your teacher using the DVDs are teaching material. =)

I generally find that talented individuals are good at a lot of different things. Itís just their nature to learn everything. Once you start drawing, youíll notice that a lot of other skills are related to it. If you learn one thing, I can be applied to the other field. For example, painting, photography, and directly are closely related. They all have to tell a story, use good composition and lighting. So yes, try to learn many things as possible. Youíll be a lot happier doing many things. For me, focusing on just one thing can get boring (thus why Iím doing a book, working on toys, starting to get into directing, and going into business management).


Thatís a great start. Whatís missing right now is the fundamental stuff. Learn your basics about forms and shapes before going into details. Make sure your drawing is solid first. But keep at it. It just takes time.


1. Sketchgirls is currently in production. I will have three different collectable toys by fall of this year. There will also be prints available (most likely packaged with the toys, so you donít have to purchase them separately). Iíve already moved onto the next stage for Sketchgirls, but thatís under wraps right now. Look for the new SG website soon.

2. I worked with Joe on several projects together, including the now cancelled Exarch. I donít know if I can say more about the other projects right now, as they are all in development right now.

3. I did hundreds of drawings for Ep3. Iíll try to get Lucasfilm to release them, so I can post them up on my website. But this is not going to happen for at least a year after the movie Iím guessing. My favorite piece is not printed in the booksÖ check back in a year? Haha

4. I canít answer this question. Iíll take the 5th on this one.


Sure, Iíd love to come to Malaysia. If someone invites me, Iíd love to come and do a workshop!


well, i'nm guessing this is the end of the Q/A. Thanks again everyone for the great questions. I had fun answering them.



05 May 2005, 08:33 AM
Hi all,

OK it's time to close this session. What an excellent Q&A it was! A big thank you to Feng Zhu for taking the time to do this Q&A on CGTalk!