Siraj Fakhri | Telling Stories Through Art

Siraj Fakhri | Telling Stories Through Art

Ahmad Sirajuddin Bin Ahmad Fakhri
by sirajfakhri on 22 May 2020 for Rookie Awards 2020

Hi, I'm Siraj. I love the process of incorporating stories and layers into my designs. The goal of my artwork is to create designs that are greater than the sum of their individual parts; although I'm no stranger to creating varied artwork with single standalone pieces to keep things fresh.

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Coveted Whispers

Coveted Whispers was a group project IP that I worked on in The One Academy. The story was set in a fantasy Bedouin world about a boy who was jealous of his overachieving dragon racing sister. His jealousy manifests into a demon that threatens all he loves, and he has to come to terms with it and realize that his worth isn't based on her achievements.

I worked on the main character, Hassad. The idea of the character was to portray someone who has always been second place his whole life. This developed into a young man that felt trapped in his own world. With that, I designed him with more boxy shapes, and wanted to echo the self imprisonment by having lines on his scarf, and bands around his arms and legs like they were restricting him. Even the scarf around his neck was made to have a restrictive feeling, and also made him look a bit out of place, since he feels a bit alienated.

He is also the mechanic or maintenance man for his sister. So I had all those extra pouches for his tools and the bands on his legs served both purposes of making him feel restricted and also keeping his pants off the ground.

Hassad's sister, Najah, was designed to be the antithesis to him; confident, a winner, and proud of herself. I liked the idea that the parents would pamper her, having her wear extra expensive clothing and jewelry which when combined with the bright colors contrasted well with Hassad's dark desaturated palette. I also felt that it'd be interesting to have her always make a noise wherever she was, announcing her arrival to the scenes, leading to the bells at her waist.

Najah's racing dragon. The main challenge with designing her dragon was echoing her design intent,  and have it look agile. The dragon wasn't designed to necessarily fly, but I had this idea that the wings would just be giving it extra lift to reduce its time on the ground.

The dragon was modeled in Zbrush first, and then brought to Blender to render out multiple passes to give me a good starting point for the painting. Because of this, I had a solid anatomical reference and a lot of flexibility in how the materials interacted with one another.

Here's a little extra world building! The interior of a nursery for baby dragons in this world. At first the design was a bit too plain, so it was changed to parallel a kitten or cat tower. Having all the little boxes for the baby dragons to fly around and play in.

A bit more world building concepts, this was a sled that I designed to be a general purpose transportation device in Nogard. I had the sled be extra colorful, referencing a trishaw's vibrancy.

This was a key scene illustrating the moment that Hassad confronts his inner demon. The demon was chained due where Hassad manages to trap him with his own mechanisms.  Generally I wanted the demon to be overwhelming in the scene and had him take up as much of the canvas as possible. At the same time I needed to make it look like he was fighting against the trap he was in, reaching towards Hassad, so I gave him a tilt forward.

Part of this scene is showing Hassad's courage in standing up to his figurative and literal inner demon.

Another key scene, this time showing Najah in the middle of a race, where she's about to be toppled over by another racer.

With this piece, I  brought together a lot of what I had learnt in terms of process, I modeled some rough meshes in Zbrush, brought it into blender which had the Colosseum model, and stitched it all together with multiple passes so I could have a more accurate lighting set up.

Experimenting with 3D

With Blender becoming more popular in the industry with its ability to quickly concept out scenes with perfect perspective, depth and lighting. It allows experimentation with different angles and moods. Inspired by a lot of industry professionals incorporating it into their workflows, I had to give it a go.

Here are some works that had me using 3D as effectively as I could.

The tower market. With this scene, I wanted to give this feeling of life and mystery; having the market in a cave allowing the light to hit certain parts of the scene, giving it a certain misty atmosphere. I imagined what it would be like to have been in this place, walking from tower to tower, or living in the towers themselves could be a wonderful adventure.

The Cathedral. The intensely vast space was intended to give off a feeling of pressure and horror, like the idea of an impending boss battle in a holy area, so I had it all low light, and had the main focus be the tension between the two characters.

The cargo factory started off a little differently in my mind, I wanted a sci-fi looking tree, but unfortunately it just didn't read as well on the canvas. So the idea changed slightly into a more cargo area that ships would come to and have their cargo picked up. The organic feeling of the space station was meant to show how the space station started out small and grown larger over time. I still kept some of the original vine ideas through the cables wrapping around the base.

Experiments in Aesthetics

Outside of designing in terms of functionality and for a bigger purpose than the painting itself, I love just painting for the sake of painting. It allows me to explore different styles, and keeps things fresh.


One of my favorite things to draw are portraits. There's something so sublime about capturing the form and character of a face. They're my go to when I have nothing else in my mind to paint.

Thank you for having a look and reading through!

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