artwork by Haimeng Cao

profile / alumni / illustration
July 29, 2019

The Science of Fiction: Meet Concept Artist Haimeng Cao

ArtCenter: How would you describe your work?
Haimeng Cao (BFA 18 Illustration), Concept Artist, Framestore:
I create highly detailed science fictional city landscapes for clients like Blizzard Entertainment, NetEase Games and Framestore. My designs have also been featured in different digital art media and magazines, such as CG Society, Character Design Quarterly and ImagineFX. I was one of the artists who participated in the visual development of Dune directed by Denis Villeneuve, based on the Hugo Award-winning 1965 novel by Frank Herbert.

AC: What has inspired some of your recent creative projects?
HC: I love reading science fictional novels, especially 1984 written by George Orwell and Brave New World written by Aldous Huxley. These dystopian predictions deeply impressed me when I was young. As a visual development artist, I blend in the words I read in those books into my designs, which influence me not only visually but literally in creating the ecological system and political ideology of the worlds.

Haimeng Cao

I blend what I read in sci-fi books into my designs. They influence me not only visually but also in creating the world’s ecosystem and political ideology.

artwork by Haimeng Cao

AC: What books are on your bedside table?
HC: The Adventures of Tintin created by Hergé is the one that made me passionate for storytelling and character development. The book influenced me and I decided to become a visual storyteller in the entertainment industry after high school.

AC: What’s been the most unexpected or valuable takeaway from your ArtCenter education?
HC: The experience of ArtCenter is quite important for me, my instructors not only taught me how to draw but also provided guidance in how to think.

AC: What were some of your favorite courses?
HC: I took a class called Critical Practice and found the contents of the class wide and informative. We watched classic films and analyzed paintings of modernism. The purpose of the class is to learn how images work. Once you grasp the way of thinking, you have ability to deal with different subject matters.

Color and Story taught by instructor Richard Keyes is another valuable class I took. Many techniques of visual storytelling I learned from the class helped me to overcome different obstacles I encountered while developing projects. When I'm challenged by the prospect of pushing the idea forward, I always look back to the image’s fundamental form and color.

artwork by Haimeng Cao

AC: How were you exposed to great art and design as a child? Who were your favorites?
HC: I grew up in an architect’s family in China. My aunt was one of the designers of the Terracotta Army Museum in Xi’an. The family’s library of architectural books and atmosphere subconsciously influenced me in my youth. The works of Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn and Tadao Ando are among my favorites. Their philosophies of how human emotions interact with space, light and shadow deeply permeate the way I create.

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AC: Where do you get inspiration?
HC: Other artists’ work sometimes brings unpredictable inspiration. I was one of the artists involved in the Walmart commercial “Lost & Found” directed by Marc Forster. The story is set in a future science fictional world, which is filled with downfallen cities and low technology robots. Several children find a Walmart receipt, which triggers their fantastic journey. Forster wanted us to look at the work of a Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag. His work, which investigates the clash between a stereotypical Swedish countryside environment and futuristic science fictional machinery, was very helpful in developing the narrative of the Walmart commercial. I always push myself to view and read other artists’ work, even if they are in different industries.