Design school's book punches above its weight

Foundation 01, the first book from Singapore's FZD School of Design, features gorgeous illustrations and great insights on concept art.

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In normal circumstances, a self-published art book by a small Singaporean design school might pass without fanfare. When it's the FZD School of Design though, we put down our Wacoms and pay attention.

Foundation 01 is the first book published by the school of celebrated concept artist, Feng Zhu. Established in 2009, Zhu's school provides training for students of the game and film design industries, and claims an impressive 84% of its graduates find related work. Looking at the book, it's not hard to see why. Its generous 204 pages are packed with richly detailed, beautifully drawn art.

The book features some beautifully drawn art from both students and its founder

Unlike most compilations that organize their chapters thematically, Foundation 01's meticulously rendered creature designs share the page with vehicle concepts, industrial art, and environment paintings.

It's not a visual cacophony though. There's a recognizable pulse running through the book, each individual artist riffing around common themes.

There's an impressive continuity of style throughout the 204-page book

The continuity of style between the 35 contributors is striking. The first half of the book comprises digital paintings by Feng Zhu himself, while the second half contains work by students and instructors. In many ways the joins are seamless, though the second half shows more variety in the type of drawing.

FZD advocates a scientific approach to arts education; anyone can be taught using the principles of colour theory, light, perspective, composition, and so on. While the desirability of the homogeneous style this encourages is debatable, the quality on display is certainly not. The work produced more than proves the success of the school's technique-centric approach.

The book is showcase of great work, rather than a teaching manual

Not that Foundation 01 is a teaching manual. In fact, there's almost no text at all, just page after page of arresting images, and better for it.

Though Feng Zhu has established his position as a go-to concept artist for the film and games industries, his high profile is due in no small part to his commitment to education. This book is a celebration of that success, and an excellent source of inspiration for the rest of us.

The high quality illustrations are a testament to the success of the school's approach

To get a flavour of what the school has to offer, check out the 60 free tutorial videos they have posted on YouTube. You can buy the book here for 69.55 SGD (about $56/£35).

  • Paul Roberts is one of a handful of editors at Max Underground, a site dedicated to CG news and reviews.

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