Meet the Artist: Feng Zhu

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  04 April 2005
Meet the Artist: Feng Zhu

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
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
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

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
is concept design more attractive to artists than other realms in art? and what made you choose such a direction?

I love concept design.....
Quote: Originally Posted by urg
Didn't I tell you? I'm rowing over to save money. Wish me luck!

Latest Work
  04 April 2005
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
Originally Posted by cha0t1c1: 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
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
Originally Posted by Foshizzle: 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
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.

Last edited by pukvete : 04 April 2005 at 05:36 AM.
  04 April 2005
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
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
How long have you been doing CG and/or pencil sketches?
Why did you choose to go into art?

  04 April 2005
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
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:

Quote: 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.

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