Collaborating on a Graduation Artbook Part 1: Conceptualising the World

Collaborating on a Graduation Artbook Part 1: Conceptualising the World

Recent graduates from The Animation Workshop/VIA University College broke tradition by crafting an Art Book for their final project, showcasing their creativity and fostering significant growth.

Recent graduates from The Animation Workshop/ VIA University College, Mads Hendriksen, Wendy Agostinho, Jonas Nathanael, and Valentina Pantaleoni chose to explore uncharted territory for their final bachelor Project. Departing from the traditional focus on animation films and games, they created an Art Book of epic proportions. This resulted in a lofty yet beautiful endeavour that fostered immense learning and growth. Take inspiration from this group project and who knows, it might be you writing this type of article for The Rookies next!


The four of us embarked on a unique journey (Mads Hendriksen, Wendy Agostinho, Jonas Nathanael, Valentina Pantaleoni), doing something unconventional for our bachelor project at The Animation Workshop. While historically animation films and games had been the sole focus, we ventured into uncharted territory by choosing to do an art book as our graduation project.

For over one year, we poured our hearts and souls into creating this art book. We placed a special emphasis on pre-production and concept art, aspects often overlooked by the average consumer outside the industry of animation and games.

We recognised the importance of these early stages, as they usually lay the groundwork for the final product - whether it be for a video game or movie.

Furthermore, we built our own world, envisioning a universe that exists within a video game yet to be realised. This allowed us to infuse the book with a profound and meaningful story. Drawing inspiration from real-world conflicts, we became not only designers but also storytellers, exploring the possibilities of a dystopian future.

The final product of the project was released in the form of a book and a PDF which can be found at the bottom of this article and in part 2.

About the World

In the year 2032, a colossal ice-filled comet collided with the moon. As the comet fragmented, its debris entered Earth’s orbit, creating an accretion disk that spiralled within our atmosphere.

The smaller chunks of the ice would break in the violent momentum, coming down as rain.

Within months, the desalinated water from the disk wreaked havoc on our biodiversity, leading to the destruction of the majority of earth’s species, leaving only highly adaptable organisms to survive in the oceans.

Now, 150 years have passed since the comet entered our atmosphere, resulting in a staggering rise of the world’s oceans by 4000 meters. For a long time, many mountains were habitable, however, those areas were ultimately submerged beneath the water, leaving the Himalayas as the sole refuge for humanity.

In the end, humanity ended up splitting up into four different factions: The Rebuilders, The Peacocks, The Fish People, and the Industrialists.

Rebuilders keyframe - Valentina

The Rebuilders

The Rebuilders are constructing the world of tomorrow by building settlements from the scrap remnants of the lost world found in the oceans. This faction encompasses a diverse range of communes, each with their unique beliefs, governments and religions, yet united by the common goal of forging a new society for the ordinary folk.

Finding the design of the building and the space this community lives in hasn't been easy, but I learned a lot from this piece. Building everything in Blender usually helps to feel and experience the space in a more tangible way and it allows you to play around with cameras to find the right shot for the story you want to tell. - Valentina
Rebuilders Filtration System - Valentina
Rebuilders Boat Callout - Valentina

Philosophy of the Rebuilders

The ideology of the Rebuilders resonates worldwide, but a significant portion of their population resides near the west coasts of the Himalayan mountains, nestled along the new coastlines created by the downpour. This location fosters a symbiotic relationship between the Rebuilders and the sea, enabling them to sustain their way of life. The life of a Rebuilder is a challenging existence due to the very scarce resources. However, armed with their profound understanding of the flooded world, they maximise the potential of the remaining resources.

Remnants of Adoria - Mads
I aimed to depict an environment that was previously populated in the background, I wanted to illustrate one of the numerous oil rigs that had once been active, but now stood abandoned. - Mads
Adrian Character Design - Mads

Mads Hendriksen: My first task was designing the main character for the universe, named Adrian.  As a recurring character in the story. I created Adrian using 3D primarily, This allowed us to import the character easily into the other painting and keep her looks accurate between every painting.

In terms of design, I opted for a deliberately minimalist design, aiming to strike a balance where Adrian would not take away attention from our environment pieces.

Peacocks Keyframe - Jonas

The Peacocks

The Peacocks are renowned for their dedication to the art of trade and their ingenious approach to engineering with what limited resources are available. Their colossal trade ships serve as hubs of commerce, voyaging across the vast expanse of land, they repurpose their modified cargo ships by skillfully employing plastic salvaged from the ocean to mend and maintain their ships.

Jonas Nathanael: Before making the final piece, I decided to do a lot of exploration sketches, more than I usually do. All from line art and photobash to 3d. This helps set the mood and bring ideas to me. When I had the general mood and culture, I began making thumbnails of the huge mothership and of course tp make it as epic as possible.

Exploration Sketches and ship 3D assets - Jonas

Jonas Nathanael: A close look at the 3D assets I made for the keyframe. I ended up not showing a lot of the 3D assets because of the perspective of the composition. Before doing any of the 3D assets, I like to also do some exploration sketches to get into the flow of the shape language and architecture. Furthermore, I do a lot of over-paint over the 3D model to give it a more painterly feeling and make it feel more moody.

Wendy Agostinho: Adrian and her brother are on the main ship of the Peacocks. The Peacocks are a faction of merchants whose design is inspired by Tibetan, Nepalese, and Chinese elements. This faction dominates the seas and has developed massive ships that they spend most of their lives in. In this keyshot moment, Adrian has to say goodbye to her brother and continue with her journey.

Peacocks Interior Keyframe - Wendy

For the making of this piece, I had a lot of cool references to Nepalese bedrooms where there is an abundance of really nice hand-painted elements on wood and I tried to bring some of that into these props. I also imagined that the Peacocks would use a lot of cloth to hide the appearance of their old ships, so there are a lot of curtains everywhere. They would even have their ways of dealing with disease, for example, the constant incense burning, the healing plants, etc. Added a big endless knot at the head of the bed symbolizing "the endless cycle of suffering of birth, death and rebirth" which is almost like an omen as regards to the characters.

Peacocks Asset Exploration- Wendy

Mads Hendriksen: I was really excited to get into the vehicle design for this project, as I love creating them.

The Caravan - Mads

Creating a vehicle without following traditional automotive mechanics was certainly a challenge, as I was limited by the technology available.
Ultimately, I drew inspiration from the early days of automotive and steam engines to shape my design.

The Caravan - Mads

Collaboration and Team Dynamics

Since this was a group project about world-building and creating an art book with a consistent story and style, we had to work together and find a solution to what we wanted to achieve.

We all had a background in Computer Graphics Art from The Animation Workshop, so using Blender was a no-brainer to fill our creative needs. Since Blender has become a common software to use within the concept art industry, we chose to specialise in that particular software.

To create a consistent style throughout the art book, we created a shared library of assets we could utilise. This meant we had to put less effort into copying a specific style and more effort into designing and creating good compositions.

Our team was like a potluck dinner of skills: some of us were pros with a paintbrush, while others were all about the 3D magic. It was a project where everyone had their moment to shine.

Huge Miro Board

For collaboration and planning, we used Miro. This tool was a huge timesaver and helped not only to plan but also to organize and have an overview of the entire project.

In the image you can see how big the Miro board became, so we ended up dissecting the board up into two boards. One for the project and one for visual references for each faction.

Concept Progress Bar

One of my favourite aspects of our Miro board was the “Concept Progress Bar”. We would frequently add what we worked on and update it for every meeting. This not only gave an overview but also inspiration for how much we have created in such a short amount of time. Under each keyframe, there was a snippet of the story we created before working on any paintings. This helped with a consistent narrative and tied it all nicely.

Apart from this, the Miro also contained the “world-bible” which is the rules for how the world functions. All from faction relationships and faction architecture to how resources were scattered in this world.

In the end, this might seem excessive and might not have been featured in the final product. However, it all brought the world alive and gave a clear idea of how this world functions. And who knows, maybe this world can be recreated in another medium in the distant future.

Wrapping up part 1 of the article, if you're interested in how some of the images were created and want tips for aspiring artists, head over to part 2! Part 2 will also include the final art book PDF.

Reach out to the team here: Mads Hendriksen | Wendy Agostinho | Valentina Pantaleoni | Jonas Nathanael.