Demon’s Reverie – A Concept Art Showcase

James Huang

See it On Campus: Level 1

Visitor Info

East Entrance outside D1390

Hello! Thanks for visiting!
I’m James Huang, a concept artist based in Vancouver with a specialty in character design for games.

Bringing in magic through storytelling in fantastical worlds to bring characters to life, is what I do!

My grad exhibition, Demon’s Reverie (2024) is a concept art showcase in character design and worldbuilding for games.

This project explores four game worlds in a focus on character storytelling under the theme “Inner Demons”:

Fighting Duo – Chunk and Chonk (2024)
Fighting Solo – Snowfire (2024)
Self Acceptance – Final Heart (2024)
Societal Responsibility – Xingbao (2023)

Each section is open for personal interpretation.


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Chunk and Chonk – (Fighting Duo)

Following two friends, a Bao and SiuMai, living in a steamer basket with their other Dim
Sum comrades. However one mysterious day, their friends starts devouring one another.
Unaffected from this seeming demonic curse but bewildered in the chaos, the two joined forces
but not without their differing beliefs – one who wishes to save their home and one who wishes
to know the hard truth beyond themselves.

Genre: 2D Hack and Slash + 3D Shooter, Roguelike
Selling Point: 2D/3D Quickswap Gameplay

Chonk is a front-line protector, allowing Chunk to dish out damage by soaking in the attention through his range. He is designed with inspiration from European knights, in contrast with Chunk. The samurai-like hat connects their motifs together, which he takes off as a shield!

Chunk, the fighter samurai DPS with guerilla-styled combat weaving in and out. He is designed to feel calculated but also wild when need be, depicted by the Siu Mai motif more openly exposed in his design. His chopsticks is also customizable, allowing the player to battle with the weight of wood or steel.

I figure different ways to make the steamer basket motifs fit without feeling too repetitive or unnatural. I wanted each compartment to have a design function (ex, the baskets in the back operates as plugged-in soup that helps propel the bao projectiles from his hands).

Chunk’s design is relatively more simple, focused mostly on executing the feel of a samurai rather than the functional technicality of Chonk’s design.

If only the Switch can work like that, but I thought it would be cool if the player can rapidly change states to control the momentum of the battle, similar to Paper Mario’s flip ability! Or what if this is two players split-screen scenario? How would each provide assistance that the other may not have?

Chunk’s chopsticks are designed to snap in half (and change forms), allowing a variety of slashes and throws. Chonk can shoot mini and big baos from his palms.

Interestingly despite Chonk being a frontline vanguard, he excels more in the backline once his shield is down, allowing Chunk to take the stage. This is to break the mold of the traditional frontline-backline composition and give more flexibility to gameplay variance, which is what this game is designed for!

Even though they may be fighting as allies, the dissonance they have was something I also wanted to highlight. At this time, I also was experiencing something similar and was able to draw upon my experiences to inform the design between these two friends: a piece of reminiscence.

Final story beat moment of when they are out of the basket. Dim Sum drinking bubble tea? Sounds like a great new recipe.


At the start, the idea of conflicted duo with 2 hedgehogs was my original plan but that leaned closer to Sonic I realized. Exploring magnets, goober-like dwarfs , and plants …until I landed onto the idea of soup dumplings (xiaolongbao) pots drifting apart.

Chonk’s bulky suit was harder to pin down, finding the balance between believable functionality and overall shape appeal. I wanted it to feel traditional and hand-crafted but also solid like it wasn’t going to fall apart.

The “enemies” of the game – lore-wise, the former-friends of our duo. For gameplay, I opted them to have similar themes of dumpling (and a cha-siu) to inform silhouette readability. The insides of their mouths contain contents of their inspired Dim Sum.

For the moodboard, I largely focused on the feel of the gameplay (side scroller + shooter). Forgot to add Paper Mario!

Promo poster! Had fun with 3D transitioning to 2D at the bottom.
Pre-order, coming out in restaurants and fridges near you!

End of Chunk and Chonk

Snowfire – (Fighting Solo)

A spinoff from Snow White, where upon taking a bite of the apple, engulfed her entire
village in flames and losing her arm that held the apple in the process.
Now she seeks the “witch’s” village for vengeance, with fiery dwarf spirits by her side
and the fire wings of her once-bitten apple guiding as a mysterious compass.

Genre: 3D Action RPG, Dungeon Crawler, Strategy
Selling Point: Playing as Boss/Villain

This design takes from the keyword “Snowfire”. You play as a game boss/villain with 2 phases depending on the stage of the game. Her petticoat houses 7 shards like a Horcrux: representing the 7 spirit dwarves. Upon death of a spirit, a shard will shatter and upon all 7, Snowfire faces her vulnerability and loss of her power.

This phase serves as a nocturnal and base form, a stealthier mage-like archetype. Her appearance resembles similarly to the “witch” who gave her the apple. Would she be treading the same path? I wanted a Victorian look inspired by present-day high fashion.

In this phase at the end of the straw, her apple shoulder bone will release a skeletal arm that provides her with added mobility and physical strength. The winter cloak almost like an extension of her hair, and the supernatural aspect of her flame/skeleton motifs representing her past scars, meant to give the eerie yet graceful look.

Seven dwarves animated by the mysterious apple compass. Serving as sentinels or mobile turrets in gameplay, they are the protectors of Snowfire. From their chest hangs an apple bone shard, similar to the one on Snowfire’s shoulders; which can be shattered to end a dwarf spirit.

As a sorcery-focused Phase 1, I want the VFX be fast when casted – but slow and sweeping upon impact, giving weight to the ease out animation as if effortless, confident, and relaxed. For reference, I hope we can look at butterflies and their way of moving. The dwarfs serves as roguelike turrets whenever Snowfire casts a spell.

Phase 2 VFX is sharp and urgent. She feels threatened, her secret arm serving as spider legs when she sits on top of it. The ease in animation would be slower but ease out would be rapid and snappy. Dwarves are now on the offense.
The top-most VFX is a reference to the apple bone motif but dragon form.


The keyword being “Snowfire” for the theme of Snow White, I stuck for the aesthetic of snow maiden. With the ideations, I started Frankenstein-ing thumbnails: cherry-picking the elements that could potentially fit. I kept the petticoat and its flames, the sharp shoulder bone, and other aspects like the long coat. I also kept the idea of Snowfire losing an arm and the apple as a storytelling point.

For dwarves, I wanted a combination of cute in shape, gruff in appearance, and intangible as a spirit. I did consider legs at one point but felt too animated watching a bunch of supposingly mysterious dwarfs marching on the ground.

Mood concepts for how Snowfire will hold herself both in and outside of battle. I wanted to keep that sense of humanity in her and her companionship with her dwarves.

Breakdown of how her arm and hand bones are built. Thumbs on each side are attached to their respective side of their hands. I want the arms to feel menacing and incomprehensible like venus traps.

Maleficent was the inspiration as a grey character in her story and the struggles prior to how she got to where is. Leaning toward ballroom and formal fashion but break that silhouette to appear more jarred and teared-down, like how the petticoat is shown like a skeletal structure rather than just an elegant dress.

Story arc to Snowfire’s character.
The irony of the apple – the one that burnt her village to the ground after being bitten, is also the very one guiding her to the witch.
What is the mystery behind the apple?

End of Snowfire

Final Heart – (Self Acceptance)

A touching story about self-acceptance in a fantastical post-war world, where humans and inner demons live in “peace”. Due to
a curse, humans no longer pass from old age, but by the mark of Inner Demons who devours their soul by a certain time.
Demons are unable to be harmed by their Human counterpart.

This story follows an unlikely friendship between the devourer and devoured, and that like all things, must ultimately come to a close.
Thank you to Brandon Vuong and talented peers in the process of this design, for paintovers and feedback, to bring this project
to a final curtain call.

Genre: JRPG, Roguelike, Slice of Life
Selling Point: Emotion-Invested Story, Character Growth


Human veteran who was looking for the meaning of life, but was cut short marked by his assigned Inner Demon.
However, this Inner Demon stumbles clumsily and is not of the sinister image as expected, leading gradually to an unexpected and initially rocky friendship.
Demeanor intimidating even to the demon, he gradually sheds the hardness of his heart as he guides the demon to finishing his job.


Demon spirit that was supposed to end the Human’s life. This particular one thinks, or perceives to be taught, that the more broken their spirit-links are, the more they need its attention, love, and care (but taken out of context).
Occasionally stumbling and clumsy, accidentally setting things on fire, and misunderstanding his tasks for the job. It seeks guidance, but to the least expected from that of its own prey that it was originally intended to devour.

The Demon was designed to look strong – big chest and armor equipped for battle, but the goofiness of his proportions implies a character that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Personally, he’s one of my favorite designs so far!
He reflects a lot of my inner energy along with his curiosities of the world.

A traumatized Human, granted immortality, is bound to relive the memories of his war-trodden past. He is designed to appear more demonic than his “Inner Demon” with a baggage that is mysteriously unknown. He hunts other people’s demons for them as they cannot do it themselves.

He’s a wiggly and bouncy goober and loves sharing (and eating) food! The eye on his chest loves eating too but desires something else.
One thing I wanted to show in the character sheet is that though he has a job to do, he still decides to share the joys of his “heart”.

His hair is great for emoting, like a tail but on his head. No need to comb as long as he stays in one emotional state, which may be hard for a Demon.

Because Demon’s bouncy personality shines the brightest from his colorful large body, designing his props to be more serious brings out that contrast more. The armor also grounds in the world they are in: serious and dark.

The grimoire is given by the Demon faction as a manual…which he resourcefully uses as a sandwich holder, dirtying it with his crumbs.
Reading is definitely not in his books.

Stoic but when in action, swings! Narrative-wise, the Human is a dynamic character compared to the Demon, who is a more static character in the story. How he changes and evolves, comes from growing with and accepting his Inner Demon.
But what does that acceptance look like? I’m sure that answer is in each one of us, whether we know or yet to know, in different and varying ways.

The eyes in his baggage and weapon came from other people – or rather other people’s demons. Each belt is a representation of the Demons he had slayed, given that humans cannot hurt their own demons so he does it for them.

But in this world, even after that link has been severed forcefully, the human becomes a husk of themselves, devoid of emotions…mirroring as a metaphor of running away from acceptance.


From the very start, I wanted to flip the script around – Human as a “demonized” character and the Demon more “human” than the human itself. I focused on shape motifs – both the outside silhouette and the inside shapes, to deliver a somber first impression for Human.

As for the Demon, I focused on the roundness and “bounciness” of his shapes. At one point, showcasing his flamboyancy through a dress. At another, a travelling buddy who carries essentials while the Human is carrying something for his own benefit. I’m considering how to connect the two of them together with early motifs like the belt.

For Demon, I began settling for the backpack design to compare and contrast with Human. I ended up taking a bit of each: “A”’s silhouette recognizability + body structure + sandwich, “B”’s chest eyes, and “C”’s waist garments.
A feedback with Demon not having legs, help differentiate the two characters more, while giving the Demon disproportioned silhouette (big top -> smaller bottom) can help sell the goofy goober.

For Human, I began honing in on the baggage themed design. Some amazing feedback that impacted my final design, were that the roundness of the silhouette was too similar to the Demon (which he became more stoically angular later) and how the corrupted weapon was not grounded in reality, giving the viewer less relatability (which became a halberd).

As you have seen from previous iterations, each part/motif was designed intentionally to compare/contrast with the other character, which I learned is called “Joint Thumbnailing”. This was the stage where I began to lock in the idea of belts and how it can create intrigue for Human. What if, plot twist – Human was actually a Demon! How would that happen! The method of demon-devouring are through their pupils + “shine”, which are actually mouth + teeth.

Figuring out how old Human is, at what stage of his life and how energetic the Demon is, are attributed to the color choices I chose.

Demon originally carried maps but feedback was that it cluttered the silhouette which was what originally defined the two apart.

Final push! Demon’s design changed accommodate the world’s realistic vibe and all thanks to awesome feedback that he is the sweet bean he is today. The Human while receiving less changes, his colors placements, weapon and armor shape were altered to give the more angular and closed-off look.

End of Final Heart

Xingbao – (Societal)

An ongoing world-building project based in Xingbao (星堡), a layered hovering city where stars are used as a primary energy and light source. They are pulled from the sky by humanity with the power of 12 ZodiArts, wielders of powerful art forms that are used to manifest and shape space.

Each one of these wielders are given a ShengDi (生帝), Zodiac Spirits, who grants said power and are passed down through generations of the 12 zodiac clans. However, these Spirits hides a demonic form called “Primals” when their Year of the Animal hits and hidden from the public, are chained up to power the city.
For the price of interfering with the stars to build an entire city on pillars of such energy, is as fragile as putting all of one’s eggs in one basket…

Genre: 3D Open World, Exploration, Action RPG and/or Turn based
Selling Point: Environmental Exploration + Story Thriller, Character-Focused


Initial Inspiration:

A passing thought on the Skytrain, watching Vancouver lights spanning in the night.
It was strange, how much human beings admires the stars in the skies, that their own cities outshine them
so that their shine is no longer in the dark skies – but in the very cities they live in.

Metaphorically almost as if the stars are pulled down so humans can live with them,
but ignorantly unfazed by the consequences the future brings.

My project goal, then expanded to my roots to explore more of my Chinese heritage and history, using the
zodiac as a vehicle to expand on this exploration and metaphor.

This city is powered by mysterious stars that humanity pulled from the sky, each granting the people who received them a Zodiac “Spirit” or a “ShengDi”. The stars feel familiar yet alien in our eyes but to the average Xingbao citizen, it is normal in their daily lives, fashion and architecture.. This city exists in a vacuum and is unknown if anything exists beyond it but whether there are consequences for “star-pulling” are already evident in Spirits turning Primal.

Because the city is vertical, the stars powers the pillars and provides energy for the city to float + stand on its own. To minimize resources needed for architecture, energized pillars are used instead. However imagine if the stars suddenly abruptly stopped functioning: there will be fatal consequences. For further reference, think layered Zaun and Piltover but floating.

Another visually cool idea, is that players at night can see the star power running through the city pillars like veins. During the day, it is still there but invisible, giving the illusion of floating buildings. They can change colors depending on Primals which we discuss below…

Who powers the stars in the city? The Zodiac Spirits going Primal do. During New years (or the Nian festival) while the citizens are celebrating, the zodiac of that year goes primal. Kept a secret from the public, the Zodiac Spirit is locked up and drained of their energy to feed their respective star for a whole year.

Without them, the city would collapse. What if one day, per say, a Zodiac or their leader refuses and fails to uphold this order? And for what purpose does this city exist for?

To ensure order, the zodiacs are sorted into 4 art factions under 4 Gods: Azure Dragon of Music (peacekeepers), Vermillion Bird of Painting (creators), White Tiger of Calligraphy (documenters), and Black Tortoise of Weiqi (military).
To ensure everything is in order, these Gods watches their clans. Leaders are established in each clan to follow their will, with their powers granted by their respective zodiac.

Jianhe (剑和) – Initial Character Inspiration

The very first character that kickstarted the Xingbao project in 2022-2023

Jianhe was originally designed as a standalone character with his gimmick being able to wield a reality-bending brush. In his later design, he fits more in his story as a timid leader, while this one feels more confident and assured of himself. While this design could work by itself, his costume design does not pop out with his story.

Looking back now, Jianhe didn’t have a grounding in the world he lived in or with other characters.
How will he interact with others that would change him to be this version of him? What does he do with his brush? How will he discover what’s bigger than himself?
It started off from costume design, to now telling stories through characters…


Recap of terms:

Xingbao (星堡) – Vertical hovering skyscraper city, layers supported by pillars powered by stars.

ShengDi (生帝) – Zodiac Spirits that are passed down to each zodiac clan Leader, granting them Zodiart powers.

Zodiart – Space-manipulative art powers(music, painting, calligraphy, weiqi) given to leaders.

Leaders – Guiders and spirit-holders of clan. Position can be passed down.

Factions – Each housing a cohort of 3 clans, responsible for upholding order within the city…for a purpose.

Gods – 4 deities overlooking the city and each faction’s promise upheld. Azure Dragon of Music (peacekeepers), Vermillion Bird of Painting (creators), White Tiger of Calligraphy (documenters), and Black Tortoise of Weiqi (military).

Clan – Zodiac group. 12 in total.

Stars – Mysterious energies pulled from the sky a millennia ago, related to the appearance of Spirits and Gods over the city.

Weiqi – Chinese “chess”, a strategy board game revolving around capturing territory

Primal Form – Spirit-turned feral, happening every Nian festival or New Year, unknown to the public celebrating.

Primal Emotion – The main emotion governing primal forms in which the Spirit must overcome (and accept) with their Leaders.

Weiqi Faction

Faction responsible for military defenses in Xingbao enforced by the God of Weiqi, Black Tortoise.
Inspired by real life weiqi, this group uses a board consisting of triangular movement. With shoals of enemies emerging from the skies, the unknown beyond combined with internal suspicious movement in the city, keeps this faction on their toes.


Huilin, unlike other clans, is a ShengDi who leads the She clan of the Snake herself. She is a sly strategist of the Weiqi, whereas those chosen as human Leaders, serve as her masked attendants. Incredibly swift and precise with her predictions on the battlefield, she serves as the direct advisor on behalf of the Black Tortoise.

Even though on the outside she may be intimidating, for those she trusts, her home is a safe haven and her heart can be relied on for those who seek her guidance. Her protection over the city may seem eternal with her immortality as a ShengDi but when the time comes for her to become Primal, who would step in?
. . .
Three Pillars: Snake with Weiqi Thematic (Art),
War Strategist with a Soft Heart (Narrative),
Command and Conquer, Chess (Gameplay)

Primal Emotion: Betrayal
Clan: She clan of Snake
Zodiart: Weiqi
God: Black Tortoise of Weiqi


Liefeng and Zheming are twin sisters and the heads of Shu clan of the Rat. As warrior sisters under the command of Huilin, the Snake Spirit, they charge into battle…with questionable cooperation.

Constantly bickering, both siblings were compromised and neither were willing to listen. Liefeng (left) does not seek mercy for the sake of protecting the citizens while Zheming (right) seeks a more calculated and thoughtful approach to protect their soldiers.
But Huilin advised, “Allow them their own ways, for both will mirror and fill for the other’s weaknesses.”
. . .
Three Pillars: Warrior Sisters (Art),
Sibling Moral Conflicts (Narrative),
Chaotic + Close Combat + Conflicting Movesets (Gameplay)

Primal Emotion: Loneliness
Clan: Shu clan of Rat
Zodiart: Weiqi
God: Black Tortoise of Weiqi


Yongjin is the head of Zhu clan of the Pig. Alongside his ShengDi serving as the frontline, the duo sweeps the battlefield upon their entrance. Seen as heroes, they are given the upmost respect – as the highest symbols of courage and admiration within this generation.
But what if the inseparable duo were to split? How will become of the pride of the city?
. . .
Three Pillars: Heroic War General (Art),

Admired Warrior with Inseparable Duo (Narrative),
Spear/Axe, Sweeping Mobility, Heavy-hitting Close Combat (Gameplay)

Primal Emotion: Fear
Clan: Zhu clan of Pig
Zodiart: Weiqi
God: Black Tortoise of Weiqi

Painting Faction

Faction responsible for creations in Xingbao sent by the God of Painting, the Vermillion Bird.
They use powerful brush techniques to manifest and shape space, but now only a shadow of the former architects of the city.
With a new generation and a disappearance, this cast brews uncertainty in its role and perhaps to do with the root of Xingbao.


Jianhe is the head of Tu clan of the Rabbit, wielding the painting brush that manipulates reality. Inexperienced and following his ShengDi’s mischievous advice, Jianhe has yet to be dowsed in the harsh politics of Xingbao and take up the role of the Zodiart after his father’s mysterious passing.

However, such frivolous matters only delays the price that one must pay for interfering with the stars, especially with his Spirit involving itself into the Dragon Spirit’s “crimes”. With the help with Dragon leader Ruiren, will this newfound leader see beyond the surface for what the city really is?
. . .
Three Pillars: Brush Wielding Leader (Art),
Unfledged Politician with a Mischievous Partner (Narrative),
Calligraphy Magic, Aerial, Untrained (Gameplay)

Primal Emotion: Unworthiness
Clan: Tu clan of Rabbit
Zodiart: Painting
God: Vermillion Bird of Painting


Miaoyun is the head of Ji clan of the Rooster. She is an elegant dancer, using Painting magic to create streaks across the sky with her flowing fabrics. For every occasion, including the big Nian Festival, she will be seen present alongside her mentee, Qiuqiu in delivering the hope within their people.
Despite her position and open nature, there is a lot more than she lets on as her disappearance after the Rooster year left questions. For years before the Dog Year, why did she choose to reappear after taking position as the Ji Clan years later?
. . .
Three Pillars: Elegant Fabric Dancer (Art),
Mentor with a Mystery (Narrative),
Dance Painting, Fabric Movement, Aerial Acrobatics (Gameplay)

Primal Emotion: Anger
Clan: Ji clan of Rooster
Zodiart: Painting
God: Vermillion Bird of Painting


Xingxing is the young leader of Hou clan of the Monkey, supported by the ShengDi. Using the hand painters the Spirit has created for his early ascension, he has become a ball of energy smearing paint all over the city. His Spirit in dilemma whether to confiscate the hand brush, have never served such a young master.
With a story of coming of age, will Xingxing be able to take care of his Spirit when the time comes?
. . .
Three Pillars: Excited Hand Painting Child (Art),
Spirit Caretaker Nurturing of Younger One (Narrative),
Hand Painting, Ball of Energy, Colorful Splashes (Gameplay)

Primal Emotion: Grief
Clan: Hou clan of Monkey
Zodiart: Painting
God: Vermillion Bird of Painting

Music Faction

Faction responsible for peacemaking and celebration in Xingbao guided by the God of Painting, the Azure Dragon.
Using music to protect and regulate the citizens – the symbols of percussion, pipes and strings keeps the city flowing, particularly on the day of the 100 Drums or Nian’s New Year festival in a time of uncertainty.


Qiuqiu, the head of the Gou clan of the Dog, is the lead drum dancer of the Nian festival of the New Years. Taking on the position after her father’s passing, she hopes to inspire joy and hope into people’s hearts with the 100 Drums Performance, just like her father did.

Beloved by all, her trusty ShengDi and her mentor Miaoyun by her side, helps bring extra flair as she brings joy for the people. However, no matter how many decades and millennia, the truth of this celebration is not as pure as the city may comprehend. If then, will Qiuqiu still bear her legacy?
. . .
Three Pillars: Festive Drum Dancer (Art),
Leader Carrying Unknown Legacy (Narrative),
Drum Beat Magic, Acrobatic, Sweeping (Gameplay)

Primal Emotion: Exclusion
Clan: Gou clan of Dog
Zodiart: Music
God: Azure Dragon of Music


Xinlao is the head of Niu clan of the Ox. During the day, he is seen as a kind grandpa to youngsters and young parents. While his ShengDi helps them out above, his real duty lies hidden within the city. At night, lit by the lamps of his making and traversing the labyrinth of pillars that needs repairing, he makes sure the city is in no danger of collapsing.

For a duty shadowed from the public eye, a ShengDi’s defiance during a New Year is catastrophic for all and he makes sure the contract with the Gods are fulfilled. For the sake of the safety within everyone in the city, as long as the secret of the city is not forsaken, there is still time.

Three Pillars: Wooden Grandpa Cyborg with Pipes (Art),
Maintainer of City Infrastructure (Narrative),
Pipes Magic, Rolling Mobility, Fixer (Gameplay)

Primal Emotion: Envy
Clan: Niu clan of Ox
Zodiart: Music
God: Azure Dragon of Music


Maqiping is the head of Ma clan of the Horse. He is the lead law enforcer and main conductor at Xingbao. His music calms the emotions of many and is regularly heard down in the layers of the city each midnight. When needed, he will ride down with his speedy ShengDi to make sure law is reinforced. It’s a blessing that the soothing sounds are heard every night, because if not…
. . .
Three Pillars: Music Conductor Officer (Art),
Lead Law and Peace Enforcer (Narrative),
Hypnotic Music Waves, Speedy on Spirit (Gameplay)

Primal Emotion: Sorrow
Clan: Ma clan of Horse
Zodiart: Music
God: Azure Dragon of Music

Calligraphy Faction

Faction responsible for documentations in the present and history of Xingbao regulated by the God of Calligraphy, White Tiger.
They are intelligence-holders, preserver of secrets and engrave records from the shadows. But the times and circumstances have changed, with this clan no longer under dormant terms and are now stepping up to shape history themselves.


Ruiren is the head of Long clan of the Dragon. Snappy and sharp, he makes sure things go his way as his plans rarely fail. Despite serving the God of Calligraphy, he seldomly has such powers, relying solely on his wit.

This due to his spirit ShengDi, who originally served the Azure Dragon, chose defiantly to break its path despite its timid and shy personality. In disobedience of the Gods, Wolf was sent to execute the little dragon, only to be saved by the Rabbit spirit.

With the identity of the Dragon clan in peril, the two are in misalignment with one another; one who demands action and one who…puts their head in a pillow. However with the Rabbit spirit and Jianhe’s help, they may be able to salvage what would soon become the twist of all of the city’s and the Gods’ secrets.
. . .
Three Pillars: Guerilla Leader (Art),
Sharp leader and Innocent Helpless Offender (Narrative),
Stealth, Hands-on combat, Leap on Rooftops (Gameplay)

Primal Emotion: Embarrassment
Clan: Long clan of Dragon
Zodiart: Calligraphy
God: White Tiger of Calligraphy

(Spirit: Originally Azure Dragon of Music)


Benyin is the head of Hu clan of the Tiger, holding her spirit-crafted Guitar brush. Despite her path, she commands the crowd with her intense music and live calligraphic stunts, bringing onto new trends beyond the traditional styles that Xingbao holds. She rose to take her role on the stage, inspiring the younger generation, hoping to create new history from within them.

Even then not longer after, the Spirit chose her to lead the movement of voices…and never would she dream, even in spirit for the uprising against the Gods.
. . .
Three Pillars: Metal Grandma on Roller-skates (Art),
Rising Up of Elderly Artist (Narrative),
Fast-paced Roller-skating, Rapid Calligraphy, Acrobatics (Gameplay)

Primal Emotion: Shame
Clan: Hu clan of Tiger
Zodiart: Calligraphy
God: White Tiger of Calligraphy


Cangmo, the head of Yang clan of the Goat, wields a more obscure use of the calligraphical arts. Very few knows of her operations behind the scenes, given little public representation as a clan leader, but very little also know of how the Xingbao operates, aside from her infamous documentations that her floating ears record. Her actions are unknown for how she would use what she knows, whether it be for the good of the city.

Three Pillars: Calligraphical Seer (Art), Misunderstood Secret Holder in the Shadows (Narrative),
Calligraphy Magic, Controlled, Sly (Gameplay)

Primal Emotion: Guilt
Clan: Yang clan of Goat
Zodiart: Calligraphy
God: White Tiger of Calligraphy


This was an earlier idea of Black Tortoise as a more physical manifestation than a God in spirit. While I enjoyed the overall aesthetics of this character, it lacked a grounding in the world similar to Jianhe. It was here that I switched gears and focused on the zodiac as the main pioneers of the story.

For extra context, the Black Tortoise is usually seen in combination with the snake. Even though I did not keep the idea, I thought it would be interesting to include non-traditional weapons like guns in a more traditional setting. But it was not in vain as the design became a jumping-off point for Huilin of Snake.

At this stage, Xingbao was not a layered city but an open world like many RPGs. These ideations were exploring the way I can stretch architecture shape motifs to embody places zodiacs can live in. But similar to Black Tortoise’s concept, something was missing a spark.

I began going back and thinking more about the way the Zodiac clans live: how their interpretation of their stars shaped their aesthetics, fashion and way of living, as the stars were so imperative to their civilization.

I had to solidify the concept of the stars. It had to feel alien but familiar enough to be recognizable. Some questions were, would each zodiac house a star or would they be housed under each art faction? Since the theme of art can be interpreted in so many different ways, it was difficult pining down one star to represent such a broad concept.

Looking forward, I would like to revise and explore more of Chinese culture and geography (and pulling from other cultures) to inform more of my world design.
For example, Huizhou’s architecture in residential houses are prominent in the way families live in these lower stories houses. Rather than having just pillars support such structures in my world – have them support houses built above them, as a way to support growing family branches.

Some samples of notebook world-building explorations of the workings between the Gods, Zodiacs, their Leaders, the citizens, and city infrastructure.
The thrill of connecting plot points! Writing was important for me to record my thoughts without needing to draw them. I enjoyed doing these in cafes.

Early on, I knew I wanted to twist some expected traits or stereotypes of the zodiac. What if Dragon is shy and goofy? What if Ox is seen as more calm rather than aggressive? What if Horse doesn’t have long legs for running? What if Rat is a war general and is not swift in movement? What if Snake is the most trustworthy ally? What if Pig is seen as a hero and deeply respected?

Some story ideas include the Dragon Spirit’s tail bitten off by the Wolf, leading to a friendship when the Rabbit Spirit chased the Wolf off (hence their race placements). Or how Tiger’s stripes can float off its body as an attack, a callout to calligraphy. Or if Rabbit Spirit’s primal form is a Sabretooth tiger and Goat’s horns grew infinitely like a tree until its stuck.

Primal designs inspired by insects and marine creatures. I wanted them to feel grotesque, devoid of their original forms. For aesthetics, I was inspired by Madoka Magica and Final Fantasy’s Eikon use of familiar but warped representation in their designs.

I remembered being satisfied with the direction of these concepts, especially the goat one. Looking back, they did not have grounding with one another because lack of story and motifs with their respective stars. Rather, they had become caricatures of their zodiac animals instead of people with their own motives.

I was also originally happy with the snake design…but it didn’t feel of Eastern origin. Iterated from Black Turtoise and the goal to design a kind snake general, the concept of the Spirit as head of the clan (now Huilin) stuck well but solidfying cultural design language helped it move forward. This was an example of a more straightforward design process with clear keyword pillars that needed a few tweaks in design cohesion.

Rooster’s (now Miaoyun) color palette was interesting, but design was incredibly simple. Her only identity in her design was her color silhouette. It became apparent that these designs needed more story structure when I tried to pattern the fabric in an attempt to make it more interesting.

As a celebration for the designs, I posed Jianhe with Rooster. They were originally the “mascots” or protagonists of the story (now Jianhe and Ruiren). However, I was constantly changing Rooster’s design until I noticed I was desperately improvising her design in order to better fit the composition.

In the end, this piece gave me more insight on where to focus next: creating a cohesive cast that finalizes design + narrative choices that the original concepts were still debating on.

Here are some examples of re-designs to fit the character’s clans (above). Each clan were attributed a negative emotion to fight (ex, Huilin of Snake fears Betrayal) which the primal forms were based off of. I follow the clans’ Zodiart instrument, faction purpose, and individual motive much closely.

Some samples of notable colour explorations. It was hard to decide for Goat (Cangmo) and Snake (Huilin) as they all work well. Chinese color palettes (as noted on top left) tend to have a more pastel and less saturated feel.

I wanted Rabbit (Jianhe) and Dragon (Ruiren) to contrast one another through values and temperature to sell their differences, in timid vs. brash.



The original cast was more in-line with their intended art factions. However the new cast had an individual uniqueness that each character embodies while still referencing to their factions. They now have more of story to tell; the way carry themselves, the garments they choose to wear, and the interactions they have with other Zodiac members along with their Spirits.

I hope to keep researching and tie in more real-world elements in to give the final grounding these designs need. It has come some ways but much to improve!

End of Xingbao

Extra Concepts

The following takes reference as inspiration by a quick impromptu design out of it. This allows for fun exercise to design on the fly using shapes, color, or what pops out to you directly from the image.

For more Concepts, visit:

As we come to a close of Demon’s Reverie, telling stories of whether they would resonate or not, I realized is not in my control – at least for the audience part of it. I have only shared a small part of myself and the most I can do is…convey narratives. Whether it be through Chunk and Chonk’s conflicted dilemmas, Snowfire’s lonely climb from grief, Human and Demon’s unlikely companionship, or Xingbao’s collective burdens, I hope the audience can connect to these intimate part of these stories beyond just survival and power fantasies.


⬇️ Keep Scrolling for ⬇️
3D Modelling, Animation, Illustration and MORE!


Molding a simple cube into a full-on set was something I did not expect to learn – especially the intimidation of the complexity of 3D software. I was introduced slowly to it by Thomas Groppi, who patiently guided us through Modo. I was taught about a leap of faith; if we could make furniture, we can make a whole scene.


First big 3D assignment, and to see it from sketch to final, felt like a dream… in a dream room.
I enjoyed sculpting every object in this scene, from texturing, color iterating and lighting.

Original Sketch -> Final (Night Version)

It came really close to
my original sketch!


I wanted to design a more complex functional object rather than a scene. While not perfect in how parts are sculpted, I used a lot of geometry mashed together to guide my readability for the ship.

Sci-fi Chair

This was a chair-sofa from childhood (except the lights) I created before leaping into “Dream Room”.

End of 3D Modeling


Over my time at ECU, I had the opportunity to work with a variety of Senior animation films as concept and background artist.

Learning to coordinate, adapt to different workflows, and iterate alongside each unique team, was such a cool experience, especially seeing the final film being unveiled. Thank you to all the art directors who put their trust and patience in me, you were all really incredible to work with!

“Me Myself and the Moon” (2023), Christine Lee
“Galactic Canine Space Force” (2023), Anya Amarillo
“2006-2016” (2022), Sharon Cheng
“Sea Cucumber” (2020), Tyler Friso
“Sparkles” (2020), Catelyn Ma

Also my own experimental demo reel at the end.
Enjoy the following and please check out these amazing films!

Concept Artist/ Background Painter
for “Me Myself and the Moon”(2023)

Directed by Christine Lee

This film had a more texture and saturated feel, utilizing specific texture brushes and following style guide closely.
Putting characters required me to think more about layered readability between foreground and background.

Concepts of the gym – exploring lighting, composition, color and vibe at the same time -> narrowing down.

Even small tweaks of light placements changed the feel of the scene and we discussed ways where lights won’t distract from the character, which we chose to remove in the end.

Combining the team’s favorite sets to narrow down further.

More scenarios exploring the “after-school” feeling of the scene, keeping in mind the point of the story (somber feeling, as Rabbit is unable to capture the attention of her old Fox friend).

I am grateful to had the honor to design and work on the
credit scene! Keeping the scrapbook feeling with
stickers and doodles brings me back to elementary.

The composition is purposely designed to flow from each section, allowing the camera to catch little details while also designed to maintain a well balanced composition for each shot it lingers on.

Concept Artist/ Background Painter
for “Galactic Canine
Space Force”(2023)
Directed by Anya Armarillo

With a style similar to Me Myself and the Moon, I was continuing to apply what I learned (also with texture brushes) to this project!

Character Mock Ups + Finished BG

Trying to find combinations of green-yellow colors that fit the film. We went through a lot of iterations to explore that mood.

Helped expand the hallway concert to a more concrete concept for final execution into layouts.
We also kept in mind what flies by during what sequence of this chase scene.

Background Painter
for “Sea Cucumber”(2020
Directed by Tyler Friso

Blue being my favorite, I really enjoyed iterating and painting backgrounds to implement the underwater feeling! I got to iterate on what the surface under the sea looks like.

Background Painter
for “2006-2016
Directed by Sharon Cheng

The background for this project stylistically imitates aesthetics from a certain
time period between 2006 – 2016. Got to use a lot of grain and effects in following images.

Goal: 2009

Goal: 2006

Goal: 2006

Since the film uses 3D camera work with 2D characters, we had to paint these scenes with a believable 3D outcome.

Goal: 2016

Background Painter
for “Sparkles”(202
Directed by Catelyn Ma

This was my first concept project working under a director, for the beginning sequence of the film. It was memorable that it was the first time I learned to iterate with feedback and put my skills to the test. I remember feeling challenged and really excited at the time.

Design choice during our process was to have the mother’s silhouette highlighted by the screen, while her kid will have her little art station, depicting the relation and character between the two.

The mother and child sharing a space together but the environmental display of the mother’s profession as a scientist, overshadows the child’s young artistic aspirations.

My Demo Reel (2021)

My 2D experimental animation demo reel as of 3 years ago, with different mediums!

I admire those who animate, given the dedication and polish required.
My favorite from the reel, “Ship” (2019) was a first-year class ani-jam where we animate symbols as a starting point and pass on to the next animator for the next shape (triangle for mine). In my Kim Jung Gi phase, I used the opportunity to practice drawing ships and surprised myself that I could animate when I put my mind to it.

End of Animation

MUSIC (2021)

Music is what makes we create so immersive: it comes from within ourselves.
I never imagined I would “write” them until I found myself in a NMSA class (New Media + Sound Arts). Reigniting my old passion for piano, learning more about music theory and mixing sound, I wanted to bring my concepts in a new medium, using Reaper.
I hope these 9 tracks bring you the immersive game worlds crafted with different energies and with my very limited understanding of music.

Please enjoy leaping into these worlds –
In the Sounds Within.

Please scroll to see the rest of the tracks.
For mobile users, click below for the EP:

Runner’s high with music is bliss.
Reminiscence of watching the sun rise while running on the bridge, parallel to an orange-lit Science World.

End of Music


A big part of ECU for me was involved in the traditional arts.
The novelty of my earlier days as a student, exploring new mediums like sculpture, crowquill, brush pens and ink pens from Japanese stores (LOTS of them) was a breather from the digital work I did in high school.

As an early student, using dollar-store supplies was my go-to, not just for its price but without bounding myself by the perfectionism that comes from more expensive supplies.
It was about the draftsmanship that was important to me, no matter the material.

First Project at ECU (2018)

I learned of Kim Jung Gi and fell in love with his work on the very first days and became a prominent inspiration if. It was so different from my illustrative work, which was what charmed me to the gritty yet clean feel of black ink used so deliberately. Throughout my first and second year, I studied him relentlessly, leading ultimately to my Foundation show…

Foundation Show (2019)

My first big challenge at ECU, an assignment using 25 pieces of paper only, which I transformed into a 15 ft installation. Taking my learnings from my classes, exploring critical themes, and reigniting my passion for traditional arts, I used the sketchbook at the bottom of the installation as a study sketchbook.
It was exhilarating creating straight from pen like Kim Jung Gi did, without sketch lines – purely line-after-line improvisation.

Second Year (2019)

The second year, I tried something similar. While
not new, my draftsmanship has improved and the
way I tell stories are slowly coming to light.

I recall being restless that I wasn’t trying something new even if the project was big.
A big part of my work comes from my personality fueled by the hunger of being challenged and watching the progress of what I didn’t know become known.

And I didn’t feel that. It was at this point, I diverge into concept art, something I always wanted but didn’t think I could do…

Inktober – Character Design (2019)

For a class’ Inktober project, I decided to design 31
characters with full sketch explorations for each
of them. Many were done on transit, to which the
sketchbook was small to begin with, was bulging
with extra pages by the end. It was satisfying watching it
gradually grow beyond its original size.

I felt the drive again. I was combining the technical aspects of pen I have developed, along with designing with intent that was new to me at the time. Storytelling began opening…

Lots and lots of drawing in 2018-2019. There were times I needed a break, hence a change of pace in sculpture…

Night City (2019)

An interactable installation piece of a “child’s” room, a glow up of a
layered city using dollar-store paper and advance planning.
Because everything can’t be done in one-go like drawing can be,
this project tested my patience from beginning to end (especially
transportation). The chaotic nature of found materials satisfied my inner child.

Mock Movie Screenshot (2018)

Mock-up screenshot from Avatar, this was so much fun! Finding
materials that roughly represents each element of the scene, felt
like painting but with found materials. I can see the potential of a stop
motion production.

End of Traditional Art


Fun sketches from the inner vibe of me as an individual and the personal inner artist. When we are so focused on improving, we forget to relax sometimes. Go wild!

End of Sketches


Vegetables. Not necessarily fresh. But the more we study, the stronger we get.
For me, I see studies less of a way to draw better but as a way to communicate better.

Values and base color. Temperature and light. Hard and lost edges. Studies on one layer emulate oil painting, which teaches you to layer the mentioned above and emphasizes focal point control. After graduation, I have still a lot of work to define edges, understand functional and historical contexts of what I may be drawing.

Texture studies aiming to improve readability through as minimal brushstrokes as I can handle.

Please enjoy the following daily morning studies.
Note that this is a curated gallery so messy studies, which are part of the process, are not included here.

Source: Pinterest

Hope you enjoy these studies. I put my mind to readability first and foremost.
That way, each line I put or revisit, I ask myself “does this section read clearly of what I want to represent? If not, how can I revise it?”
After this show, I would like to study more of…

-Storytelling and composition through film studies
-Landscape master studies for painting anatomy
-Understanding function to reinforce design believability
-Observing the world to ground design representation
-Learning cultural + historical contexts and identifying them in observation.
-Game UI + media history

So much to learn still!

End of Studies


Illustration is the major I chose. Being it so broad, was the perfect medium to feed my hunger to draw more.
As time passed, I discovered that passion came from storytelling via design and not entirely from the technical making of highly rendered illustration. It is thanks to the early days of illustrating that slowly molded the makings of this concept artist.

Delivery From Space (2020)

One of my top favorite and most timeless pieces that resonates with me. It embodies a lot of my sense of curiosity and an eagerness for adventure, while being cozy in an inner place that I know I can call home.

United Sea (2021)

Runner’s High (2020)

Galaxy Grandma (2022)

Galaxy Grandma was inspired by my grandmother, who was a professional basketball player and still energetic today at the age of 80.

Runner high and music is bliss.
Reminiscence of watching the sun rise while running on the bridge, parallel to the orange-lit Science World.

Reminiscence (2020)

Mood in the thick of pandemic. Listening to music, I yearned for what it was like to be around people after a whole year.
I loved cafes for its liveliness and little did I know it would take another 2-3 years before I was in one again.

Bird-Watching (2020)

Operation Nova (2020)

London Fog (2020)

When I tried London Fog from the school cafeteria, an idea of this piece popped in my head and was an incredibly straight forward process. As a token to a companionship I had with a good friend of mine at the time, I wanted the piece to embody the warmness of our hearts when we feel our deepest gratitude.

When I listen to music, I hear colors and waves weave in-and-out. A tribute for my music-writing.

Halloween celebrations!
Testing out shifting atmosphere using largely adjustment layers (Color Balance, Curves + lasso) without the need to overhaul the painting.

Calm Before (2021)

Awaiting (2020)

I love city nights – observing the bustle but from a quiet place. This is a tribute as an improvement piece to high school’s James.

End of Illustration

What are you inspired by?

Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, League of Legends, Honkai Star Rail, Genshin Impact, Pokémon, and so much more. RPGs and movies telling rich and thought-provoking stories are my favorite.

What is your favorite brush?

I love Default Hard Round. It’s straightforward, gets the job done, and tests our fundamentals, beyond reliance on fancy brushes!

How do you see yourself in the future in your career?

I see myself sharing my passion for designing and storytelling in the games industry. I want players to be wowed by a story moment, captured by their characters and come out of it feeling impacted.

To tell stories and giving people a place to be seen and recognized in even deeper facets within our human lives, is also where I see myself standing as a Director in the far future.

I will be exhibiting on the
first floor, east entrance by D1390
with an artbook and free stickers!

This was only a small portion of my work!

For more environment concept art, professional work,
fan designs, splash illustrations, please visit socials below.


I hope you enjoyed! Until next time.

James Huang

I'm seeking opportunities
Contact Me

Hi! My name is James Huang, a concept artist based in Vancouver specializing in character design for games.

My work aims to create resonating impact for players through storytelling in gameplay. I love worlds and characters exploring thought-provoking thematics in their stories. The thrill of the intensive process of problem solving, and my hunger to create and learn, is the passion keeping me on my toes.
When I’m not drawing, you can find me enjoying hot bubble tea, plotting my next pun and serving my cat Dingding.

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