Illustrations and Concept Art
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Illustrations and Concept Art

Laura Wu
by GrungeSniper on 1 Jun 2021 for Rookie Awards 2021

Hi I'm Laura, I am a 20 year old Motion Design student at the Ara Institute. Cinematic design and capturing the dynamic middle ground between fantasy and reality through concept art has been my long-time ambition. This entry contains a collection of my most important projects in which I strive to address that theme.

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Surrealistic Minds

Imagine every fictional world born from one’s imagination, as seen for example in Star Wars or Narnia, all belonging to a singular universe held in a singular braincell of their creator, thriving in the background without anyone’s knowledge. As a creator myself with a passion for world building, many of these themes are inspired by my never-ending sense of wonder. I often thought about the potential of there being something more to the stories and worlds I imagine, and the life forms that may inhabit them.

This leads me to think about the possibility of our current universe being a small fragment in a cluster of multiverses in the consciousness of a greater fourth dimensional being, and the universe of that fourth dimensional being is governed by the mind of an even greater fifth dimensional being and so forth.

These notions will be further explored by interweaving a possible multiverse, extraterrestrial beings and the psychology of cosmic horror. This is the foundation for my world-building concept.

My first project Surrealistic Minds was driven by my interest in the creative challenge of depicting notions of cosmic horror, which will be further explored as an animated film in the second semester. Through this project, I wish to inspire a new wave of horror that breaks through the pre-existing limitations of cinema and visually depicts revelations far beyond existing representations of imaginary worlds.

My personal love for science fiction and eldritch beings, and my experiences as a creator served as catalysts for pursuing this project. I spend many hours meticulously crafting every detail of the imaginary world, from its characters to the major landmarks, and in the process, I draw on a wide variety of sources. Therefore, it is my goal to portray an unconventional world-building narrative that incorporates the elements of otherworldly beings and theories pertaining to the structures of our universe. I have particularly focused on greater contextual themes, such as the Dark Forest and the Multiverse theories, which I feel relate well to the idea of cosmic horror.

I want to communicate a sense of dread which is based on the juxtaposition of our fragile, domestic safe havens of our current world and the sheer enormity of the cosmic conscience that challenges the limits of any human experience. In addition to this, Max Tegmark’s theory of the hierarchy of multiverses is also an inspiration which postulates that each layer of the multiverse supersedes a previous one. It consists of four layers from level 1 (the concept of a singular universe with multiple worlds at a great distance from each other) all the way to level 4, which assumes the existence of all mathematically possible universes governed by mathematical structures and laws of physics almost unrecognizable to us. 

Cinematic Thumbnails

Color iterations

Originally, I envisioned a city inspired by Art Deco and 1950s Brutalist architecture, combined with the historical aesthetic found in ancient ruins. This serves to symbolize the aftermath of humankind’s destruction, which I felt fits well with the overall dystopian theme.

The abandoned landscapes of Chernobyl and the skyscrapers of Manhattan served as early inspirations. However, as the project progressed, I wanted to give a broader impression of architectural history, all combined in the one city, and that changed the direction of the design. Therefore the final outcome is more culturally ambiguous, especially so because I also drew inspiration from Chinese, Norwegian, and Russian architecture, combined with Japanese and South African motifs.

Over-population is rampant in the city, this is reflected in the style of architecture which consists of multiple buildings densely packed into towers, with the possibility of more being built above them. This also influences the road structures, where streets take the form of stairs or bridges that extend vertically in addition to the conventional horizontal placements. 

When envisioning the UFO design, it is more of a symbol of mutual dependence between aliens, rather than it being a vehicle of transport. I wanted to implement a more organic design and diverge from the clichéd, machine-like aesthetics found in conventional sci-fi films. I believe that should highly intelligent aliens exist, they would have ability to manipulate vehicles and means of transport on a more biotic level, with mechanics far beyond our comprehension. 

Caves have always fascinated me, because they allude to the possibility of exploring the depths of uncharted territories within our world. I also wanted to portray the juxtaposition between the organic nature of the caves and the artificiality of the city. As a bonus, I also decided to introduce a unique ecosystem within this environment. Most creatures reside at the top of the cave systems, as it provides the habitats for various life forms. However, towards the deeper parts of the cave, more hostile beings are at the apex of the food chain and wipe out any possibility for additional life to flourish. This creates a more believable, overall structure for this world. 

The following collection of sketches documents my conceptual process behind this project. 

Illustration and School Works


A Fortuitous Arrival

Earlier in 2020, I participated in the Incheon City conceptual design competition hosted by Weta Workshop and came in first place. My submission A Fortuitous Arrival portrays a sharp dichotomy between the antiquity of the time traveller and the futurism of a rapidly advancing Incheon. The key objective behind this piece is the visualization of Incheon both a technologically-driven metropolis and the amalgamation of cultural legacy with progression in a 2077 atmosphere. During the creative process behind this piece, the main inspiration comes from my love for science as I believe nature is the greatest muse for creativity. The organically inspired architectures echoes an utopian vision of a world where technology and nature can thrive under the innovation of science. By applying this idea in the context of the brief, it reiterates the juxtaposition of the past and future which is the underlying visual theme in my work.

Illustration Elective

The following are a collection of works completed at my school's illustration elective course.

The first piece is a grid exercise to illustrate 6 favorite things. I chose my cat Leon, along with my passion for music and iconic horror films to name a few.

The second piece is a double page spread inspired by the song Hydra by Toto. I wanted to incorporate a 1970's feel to the imagery.

Ornithopter design based on Frank Herbert's Dune for my concept art class in 2019.

And finally, a still scene in for an animated film.

Thank you for viewing my work :)


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