A Random Act of Kindness

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Dan and I exchanged random acts of kindness.

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The links Dan sent me are:



They are both websites that belong to the same guy, as Dan thinks he would be a great influence on my FMP research.



Targets for Easter

Pull apart the section of text from the first book (Ready Player One), and begin working on thumbnails / sketches / other idea generation techniques.

  • Print out the section of text: highlight, annotate, and pull apart
  • Look up tutorials on 1/2/3 point perspective
  • Do a quick-fire idea generation task
  • Create a whole page of more well-thought-out ideas in the form of thumbnails, sketches, etc
  • Create several colour schemes, select the best ones – limited colour palette maybe

Artist Research: Feng Zhu

Feng Zhu is an industry veteran and mind-blowingly incredible concept artist. He works almost entirely in photoshop, designing art for many different fields – film, triple-A games, TV commercials, and toy design. His clients include:

Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Sony, Activision, Industrial Light+Magic, NCSoft, Warner Brothers, Lucasfilm, Bay Films, Epic Games, and many other top studios. In Hollywood, he has worked closely with well established directors including George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Michael Bay and Luc Besson.

cited from his website.

In Singapore, Spring 2009, Feng Zhu founded the Feng Zhu School of Design – a specialised education field that is rarely found in Asia. He opened its doors to train professionals and students alike, that wanted to find their way into the entertainment design industry.

To this day, Feng Zhu works for highly renowned clients all around the world, creating original content and designs. He also has a youtube channel with many free tutorials on it, which I may refer to in order to help me create my final pieces.


My favourite pieces of Zhu’s work are his landscapes. They’re always illustrious and sweeping and full of depth and colour and detail that makes them so wonderful to look at. Some details are so minute they can’t be seen unless they’re zoomed in on, all making for an extremely visually interesting piece. I would love to incorporate this sense of depth and interest into my own work.


I am very fond of the sketchiness of these two pieces – how the colour and basic forms are enough to derive a sense of depth and tone and the overall feeling of the piece. I will begin the painting of my own work in this way, as I believe it looks extremely effective.


These two pieces are very similar, but also exceedingly different in their own right. They are each based upon the same brief, which shows me how important colours and lighting are when setting a scene. The colours and shading of the painting on the right make it much more appealing to me than the painting on the left.


The sheer amount of detail shown in this painting is absolutely incredible to me. The clash of the cool tones against the bright warm tones makes the piece very visually interesting, and draws the viewers eye right to the middle of the page.


Again, the use of the warm tones against the cool tones totally draws my eye to the warm tones in the piece. There is an incredible amount of depth and detail shown here, and it is drawn in such a way that your eyes are lead around the image. The purple and blue tones in this image are absolutely beautiful.

I would love to include Feng Zhu’s use of colour, depth, perspective, and detail into my own work, as I believe those are some of the key components of his work that I admire so much. I hope to emulate some of his techniques as I am going to be using Photoshop just as he does; using the preset brushes and such to create a stunning landscape.

Sources Used:

Fengzhudesign.com. (2011). Feng Zhu Design. [online] Available at: http://fengzhudesign.com/about.html (Accessed 26 Jun. 2017)

Friedman, G. (2012). The Work of Master Concept Artist Feng Zhu. [Blog] envatotuts+. Available at: https://design.tutsplus.com/articles/the-work-of-master-concept-artist-feng-zhu–psd-17368 (Accessed 22 Mar. 2017)

Artist Research: Mary Grandpré, and the Inspration for my FMP

Mary Grandpré has been drawing since the age of 5 years old. She was born in South Dakota in 1954, and is an illustrator best known for her Harry Potter book covers.

Her book covers are arguably some of the most iconic pieces of artwork surrounding the Harry Potter universe, having been featured on the cover of the first edition prints of each book and beyond. Some of her covers, especially the first edition first print ones, are highly sought after and considered to be treasured collector’s items. Potter books have not been printed with her covers on the front for several years, making them all the more valuable.

Her involvement with artwork for the series began when the art director for Scholastic Publishing reached out to her, inviting her to submit illustrations for a British Fantasy series. She sent in three different sketches in response – one of which was selected for the cover. Rowling was so happy with Grandpré’s work that the artist stayed on to illustrate every single book cover for each new release. The work pictures above was featured on the cover of TIME magazine.

When Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone was first announced to be released, my Mom pre-ordered the book online to use as a bedtime storybook for myself and my brother. They both quickly fell in love with the story, and pre-ordered every single book as they were released to read to us.

One of the reasons Mary Grandpré is such a huge inspiration for my project is because my parents pre-ordered hardback copies of the books with her illustrated covers for the first four books (the three books beyond that had different covers because we moved to England). I grew up with these covers, and as I got older and continued to go back to the books and re-read them over and over again, I would always find myself admiring the artwork before and after reading. Even from a young age, I took note of the skillful shading, the different tones, hues, and forms, and how each and every thing on the cover was inspired by things in the book.

From the example above, we can see the trees of the Forbidden Forest, Fluffy the Three Headed Dog, the key to open the door puzzle at the end of the book, the unicorn Voldemort drank the blood of, an owl bringing Harry his Hogwarts acceptance letter, Dumbledore sweeping through the grounds, the Hogwarts castle, a Bludger from a Quidditch game, and of course Harry on his broom, racing to catch the golden snitch.

In a rather benign but interesting addition to this, curtains can be seen on each end of the book cover. This is to symbolise the curtains opening at the beginning of a play. The only other book we can see this on is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, symbolising the curtains closing at the end of a play.

I think that pulling prevalent imagery and places from the books make for a well-rounded summary of each edition. The covers fit the brief – they make sense in accordance to the story, and they are visually interesting enough to reel in and appeal to people who have never read the book before.
I would like to try and weave that element of appealing to both side of the fence in my work – it won’t be an easy feat by any means as people have very different tastes, but I definitely think it will be worth it. I find something very satisfying about being able to pinpoint all of the references in Grandpré’s covers, and I know that I loved them all the same even when. I would like to emulate this feeling if at all possible in my work.

I would also emulate the interesting angles of her work, which bring an interesting and visually appealing sense of depth to each piece. I tend to work by creating pieces face-on, but it would be interesting to dabble with angles

Additionally, I would love to dabble with placing the name of the book somewhere in the design – I think that it really makes the book cover and the title inclusive, and makes everything flow very nicely. I’m especially enamored with the Philosophers Stone cover, where the title is worked into the brickwork of the arch. However, I am also fond of the cursive script in the two penultimate books.

Finally, I would love to draw inspiration from her colour palettes. She seems to favour either a warm undertone or a cool undertone depending on the feeling, context, and emotion of the cover, and then use one particular colour to draw off of and use multiple times in multiple places. This adds a sense of coalescence to each cover – something I struggle to create, as I tend to dip into many different tones and hues, which can tend to muddle and confuse a piece.

Sources used:

Bookgeeking (2015). HP Covers around the world | A World of Books. [online] Available at: <https://bookgeeking.wordpress.com/category/love-your-cover/hp-covers-around-the-world/> (Accessed 18 Mar. 2017).

Grandpré, M (2017). Welcome Mary GrandPre. [online] Available at: <http://www.marygrandpre.com/> (Accessed 17 Mar. 2017)

Mcad.edu (2017). Mary GrandPré | Minneapolis College of Art and Design. [online] Available at: <https://mcad.edu/alumni/mary-grandpre> (Accessed 17 Mar. 2017)

Parker, C (2008). Mary Grandpré | Lines and Colors. [online] Available at:
<http://linesandcolors.com/2008/06/01/mary-grandpre/> (Accessed 18 Mar. 2017)

Yosphan, G (2017). Harry Potter Illustrations by Mary Grandpre. [online] Pinterest. Available at:
<https://www.pinterest.com/ganonyp/harry-potter-illustrations-by-mary-grandpre/> (Accessed 18 Mar. 2017)

Primary Research

To help me get some inspiration for this project, I took a trip to Waterstones to check out fiction-based book covers. I took pictures of covers that I thought were visually appealing for one reason or another (mostly due to a particular art style or colour scheme), and covers that wrapped entirely around the book in the fashion I want to do mine.

The Chrysalids – Illustrated by Brian Cronin

One of the books that caught my eye was The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, illustrated by Brian Cronin.

This book appealed to me because of its interesting use of a limited colour palette, using only shades of green, pink, white and black in the illustration. It also has an exceptionally pretty typeface for the title of the book and its author. In my opinion, the limited use of colour and simple nature of the design as a whole is very effective. It does not reveal much about the book itself (… minus the six toes on each foot featured on the girl), making it rather mysterious and enticing.
I quite like the wrap of this book – the front cover is bold, while the spine and back cover take on one of the more prevalent greens seen on the front. Usually I would be less than impressed by a cover like this, but the slight trim of the leaves on the back cover is a very nice touch, and ties it together well. If I decide to make a non-wrap-around book cover, I may draw inspiration from this.

As I usually tend to lean towards more intricate, colourful work, it would be interesting to see what I could do with limited resources to replicate a cover like this. It would definitely be a stretch of my abilities, however, it leaves me worried that I may not be able to get my ideas and points across in the most effective way. But perhaps, if that matches the theme of the book, it would be fitting.

Snuff – Illustrated by Paul Kidby

Another book that caught my eye in Waterstones was Snuff by Terry Pratchett. I’m pretty familiar with Pratchett’s works as my Dad is an avid fan of his, and read me a few of his works when I was younger.

One of my favourite things about Pratchett’s books are his covers. I’ve always found them intriguing to look at due to their tasteful colour palettes and bold typefaces. The drawings are absolutely whimsical, and technically flawless when it comes down to proportions and shading. I would love to emulate at least his bold use of colour in my project – perhaps in the Diagon Alley cover?

He also uses adventurous angles in his work – they are very visually appealing, and draw the viewer in. In this piece, the viewer appears to be looking down on the scene from an angle upward and sideways angle, as opposed to a simple angle (e.g. head on). I tend to be very reserved when drawing from unfamiliar angles, so perhaps I should take a leaf from Kidby’s book and experiment with more visually interesting angles and perspectives.

Hogfather – Illustrated by Joe McLaren

Another Pratchett book here – Hogfather, illustrated by an entirely different artist to Snuff. It is also worth noting that this is a cloth hardback cover, giving the art more texture.

I think the visual metaphor of the skull is very effective within this cover. It exudes the feeling of danger, not only within the imagery but within the maroon, bloodish red surrounding the skull. I think the colour scheme matching to the overarching theme of the cover is very clever, as it sets the tone before the reader even opens the book. I would like to use this within my work, as it seems to work very effectively.

This book used the same image on each cover of the book – the front, the back, and the spine. I don’t particularly enjoy this, as it seems rather boring to me. The only thing that’s different is that the image is flipped on the back cover. However, I do like how the typography has been placed on the covers – the title of the book fits nicely into the curvature of the skull, and the blurb hovers precariously above the hanging bombs. While it is simple, the composition of the cover is very effective.

Welcome to Night Vale – Illustrated by Rob Wilson

This book is striking to me due to its very simple geometric designs, gradients, and bold type. The cover wraps around the entirety of the book which, in my opinion, looks rather striking and adds to the aesthetic of the cover. The colour pallet is very simple – black, white, purple, a bit of pink and a burned orange. However, the simple pallet definitely works very effectively and looks absolutely stunning.

The design itself is very intriguing. The illustration does not give away a lot about the book, however, it is very eye-catching and totally drew me in. There is also a strange satisfaction within this cover – all of the crisp, clean-cut lines and gradients are very visually appealing. It appears to be a very polished, well put together book cover.

I would definitely love to incorporate the sense of satisfaction into my work; working with geometric shapes and gradients. I would also love to have some striking typography on my work – the sans-serif font used for the title of the book is absolutely gorgeous!

Additional Noteworthy Covers:

the long way to a small angry planet – Photographed by Christoffer Meyer
Finn Fancy Necromancy – Illustrated by Amazing15
Horror Stories – Illustrated by La Boca
Rush Oh! – Illustrated by Leo Nickolls

Sources Used:

Fink, J. and Cranor, J. (2015). Welcome to Night Vale. 1st ed. Orbit.

Pratchett, T. (1996). Hogfather. 1st ed. Reed.

Pratchett, T. (2012). Snuff. 1st ed. Leicester: Charnwood.

Wyndham, J. and Harrison, M. (1955). The Chrysalids. 1st ed. Toronto: Penguin Books.

Project Proposal

UAL Awarding Body – Level 3 Extended Diploma
Project Proposal – FMP Y2.

Candidate Name: 
Emma Jay Davidson
Candidate Number: 10665447
Course: Graphic Design, Illustration, and Game Arts – Illustration Pathway
Project Title: Ready Player One

Section 1: Review

Throughout my time at college, I have experimented with many new mediums and processes. I have fallen in love with painting with acrylic and watercolour, working with photoshop, doodling intricate little details, creating landscapes, and creating patterns using lines and shapes. These are all aspects of art I would love to bring into my FMP, however, I would also like to experiment and play more with some things I only got to experiment with briefly in the course.

Some of those things are one, two, and potentially even three point perspective drawings; mixed media pieces; letterpressing; hand-drawn typography; drawing from life; creating my own textures; and collage.

I have always stayed somewhat in my comfort zone during my projects at college, but for my FMP I really want to push the boundaries of what I think I’m capable of.

Section 2: Project Concept

My initial inspiration for this project came from my Mom while we were discussing books. She told me that she could never visualise places, things or people described in fictional novels she read, which lead me to thinking that a lot of people probably have this same issue. Personally, I have such a vivid imagination and love for books that I don’t have any trouble visualising those things, so I would love to share that vision I have with other people.

I know many of my peers probably won’t have the same issue as my mother because they, like me, are creative individuals with vivid imaginations. However, after some discussion with them, they reassured me that as artists they would love to see another artist’s rendition of what a certain entity may look like, as it can be a form of inspiration or even just something to admire.


Upon delving further into this idea, a huge personal inspiration for this project stemmed from two things – Harry Potter by JK Rowling, and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Each version of the books I own are illustrated covers (Potter by Mary Grandpré, and RPO by Whiskey Tree), and every time I set the respective book down after reading I would find myself admiring its cover. The idea that everybody envisions written word in such different ways is fascinating to me, and I would love to emulate that in my project.

Artwork: Mary Grandpré – “Diagon Alley”.

Section 3: Evaluation

This is a project where I am really stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something that I think is a pretty incredible feat, for myself at least. However, it is the concept that I really clicked the most with while I was brainstorming, and so I know I will have the drive to see it through and enjoy creating it throughout.

I have a lot of worries about potential problems cropping up, such as issues with using mediums and techniques I’m not well-versed in using – for example, the one/two/three point perspective, bringing together a mixed media piece, and working with new paints like gouache. However, I have been quite thorough with my time planning in this project (something I am usually not so good at doing), so I am hoping to give myself enough leeway to play, make mistakes, and embrace them in order to create a beautiful piece of artwork.

In this project, I’m focusing less on everything being “perfect” as I usually do, and more on expressing the feelings and emotions the text evokes in me through my selection and use of mediums, techniques, and composition.

Sources Used:

Hall, E. (2013). 16 Rare “Harry Potter” Illustrations From The Books’ Artist. [online] BuzzFeed. Available at:
<https://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/16-rare-harry-potter-illustrations-from-the-books-artist?utm_term=.tj1Y7720Vg#.yaOQBBYDvd> (Accessed 16 Mar. 2017)