In this article, we will speak about one of the most well known and influential concept artist of the last 20 years. His name is Feng Zhu.
So, Who is Feng Zhu?
Feng Zhu is an American concept designer. Born in California in 1977, He studied architecture at UC Berkeley and Industrial Design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. His work has been featured in many blockbuster films and video games.
Feng Zhu education and professional work
In 1997, Feng started his career working as an environment artist for Hollywood movies. In 1998 He started working for Origin Systems, in Austin, Texas, a video games company where he worked in the mythical Wing Commander series, as Concept Artist. During his time in Texas, he also worked, for a short period of time, at GT Interactive Austin Studio,
In 1999, he returned to California. He started working in L.A for Liquid Entertainment. Here he worked in the Battle Realm saga. His work became very popular and was featured in many magazines.
After working for big names like Blur Studios, Disney and Universal, his career reached a new milestone when he started working closely with George Lucas for an entire year, creating concept designs for the third part of the then new Star Wars saga, The “Revenge of the Sith”. He also helped Lucas visual effects company, ILM visualize George´s ideas.
His next challenge came when he accepted the role of Creative Director at NCSoft. His work was crucial in the establishment of the company new studio in Los Angeles.
He also helped in recruiting a talented team of artists.
After his time at NCSoft Feng Zhu established himself as a successful freelancer with his studio Feng Zhu Design. His clients included Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Warner Bros and many more. But his main achievement during that time was helping the iconic director James Cameron in his science fiction blockbuster, “Avatar”.
His career as a teacher and his school FZD
In later years, Feng Zhu efforts have been directed towards managing his Singapore based design school FZD School of Entertainment Design.
Feng Zhu started his teaching career in 2001 when he was invited to join the prestigious Art Center College of Pasadena, where he taught industrial design. Later he joined the Gnomon Workshop School teaching concept art to aspiring artist and professionals alike.
Feng extensive experience as a professional concept artist and as a teacher, motivated him to open his own school. In the spring of 2009, Feng opened his design school, called FZD, in Singapore.
His decision to open his school in Singapore was based in many factors
First of all, it’s centrally located in Asia. Being in Singapore allows the school to reach into all the surrounding countries such as China, Japan, Korea, India, Indonesia, etc. One of the main objectives for FZD was to become an international school.
Secondly, English is the primary language spoken; thus making communication and teaching much easier and allows guests industry professionals to come to give conferences and courses to the school. Third, the Singapore government is very supportive and active in the media and education sectors. Also, FZD counts with the support with a well established art school in Singapore called 3dsense.
Regarding what FZD offers to new students and what sets them apart from other schools is, in Feng Zhu words:
“We prepare our students to become designers and not artists. Since design is part of the production process, we cover all the areas necessary for a student to become a professional.“
Feng´s school has a selection process for potential students who wants to join the school. The process is based on a portfolio review. The main objective is to discern if the potential student is more art or more design oriented. Because FZD is a design school, the candidate must have a portfolio with environments, toys designs, vehicles, etc.. A candidate with still life’s, oil paintings and life drawings on his or her portfolio will be considered a more art oriented type of candidate, and maybe not a good fit for the school.
The school has also an active YouTube channel run by Feng itself. If you are interested in learning about concept design, FZD´s channel is a great starting point. The channel will give you, not only lots of information regarding design fundamentals, but also a great insight into Feng´s vision and teaching philosophy.