Pratt BFA Communications Design Thesis

Junheng Chen Illustration

Book Illustration Design for “One Hundred Years of Solitude”


My very first painting lessons go back to when I was six years old. I was learning traditional Chinese painting with a professional artist who believes in the traditional Chinese painting theory from ancient artists. It translates as “a person should learn how to draw from nature, and use painting as a tool to express his thoughts.” We went out a lot to nature reserves to see how tree branches bend and how mountains form. As the artist told us, “it always took thousands of times to practice before making a fluent painting.” And after several years of learning, he introduced us to an artist who dramatically shifts the style of traditional Chinese painting. The artist named Feng Zikai.

I was so shocked when the first time I saw Feng’s artwork. His artworks influenced me as much as the ten years of Chinese painting experiences. Four years ago I entered Pratt, it turned out to be the most incredible growing period of my life as an artist. I learned how to land my artworks into the industry, how to arrange the compositions that can reveal the content of the stories. I learned in weeks at Pratt about the things that took me years to figure out by myself. There was so much I didn’t know I didn’t know, and then was pointed out and figured out on the efforts of both professors and my classmates. My work now shows a lot of influences from my childhood painting learning experiences. I use lots of Asian elements in my work and also get color inspirations from Chinese paintings. Besides the Asian style, I also keep a childish style which is influenced by Feng, and dreamy compositions from my instinct to create my style.

I am excited to enter the next level of self-development as an artist. My thesis is not just about work that I am passionate about, but also about building a body of work that is both compelling and unique in my style. The things I learn from my time here empowers me to question that if I can create artworks that combine strong design with realistic details to create some unexpected results.

To achieve my goals of combining strong design with realistic details to create a compelling and unique style, and also, to continue my passion for teens and animals, I decide to make the majority of the story content about featuring young men and women in nature scenes. First, I create thumbnails to make sure of good compositions. One of the goals of my thesis is to incorporate photo reference that gathered and shot myself. The next step for me is to research references for custom. I build custom references using computer modeling software, such as unity. Then the process of painting begins with pencil line works and creating texture on the line works. I then scan the line works in digital forms, and build up layers digitally until the work is completed.

The results are a series of illustrations for the stories I found from fiction novels and tales. Storyboards, character designs, and concept arts are also the deliverable of the thesis project.