Lap Pun Cheung reimagined the opening scenes of Final Fantasy VII for us last month in a series of speed paintings that captured the game’s epic sci-fi feel and turned it into brush strokes.
He works as an illustrator and concept artist for Goodgame Studios currently, but has a passion for painting sci-fi scenes of all types outside of that, and also some more traditional fantasy depictions.
Cheung is also an award-winning artist, having come first place in the Level Up Contest 2014 with his painting “The Man of Armadon,” and coming in at second place at the Comicon Challenge 2014 with the painting “The Last Arrow.”
Having found Cheung’s depiction of Final Fantasy VII stunning, Siliconera caught up with him to find out, firstly, more about him, but also why he loves Final Fantasy VII enough to devote an entire series of paintings to it, and what he’ll be painting next.
For starters, could you introduce yourself, tell us what it is you do, and what your history in illustrating and conceptual art is?
So firstly, my name is Lap Pun Cheung, calling me Lap is simpler. I am a concept artist raised in England but currently working in Germany. I graduated from university a few years ago, doing Games Design but my passion has always been art. I joined Goodgame Studios and have been here for two and half years working as a concept artist on multiple games and unannounced projects.
How would you describe your style and techniques? What do you bring to the scenes that you illustrate? What’s your focus?
I would describe myself as pretty frenetic. This shows through in my art I guess. I do vary my style depending on what I’m trying to achieve. For the FFVII series, they are speedpaintings and therefore they are very rough and what I try to capture most is the action of the scene, usually through a lot of lighting techniques and visual effects. The compositions tend to be much more film-like where possible.
You mention that you particularly enjoy depicting sci-fi scenes in your creations. Why is that? And is there a particular type of sci-fi that you prefer over others?
I have a massive interest in all kinds of scifi; space operas, cyberpunk, hard science stuff. I also enjoy fantasy but I feel like science fiction is where humanity can show all it’s strengths and weaknesses and the eventual possibilities of what we can do. I consume of ton of media from this genre! The Culture novels, Gibson’s books, films like Minority Report, The Matrix, Star Wars, etc. I love it all!
How does Final Fantasy VII fall into this interest? Could you tell us what it is about the game that you admire enough to paint it?
FFVII is one of the first games I really played for a story. I started really gaming with the PSOne era and had some crappy games until my bro bought FFVII, VIII and IX. I love all of them (VIII actually holds a special place for me!) But recently as I don’t have a copy of any of these Final Fantasys anymore I watched a Let’s Play of it and it brought back all the emotions of playing it the first time. I felt the overwhelming urge to paint it.
You’ve brought more of a momentous and certainly artistic feel to some of the scenes. Was this your aim? What are you trying to capture and say about Final Fantasy VII with these paintings?
Thank you. Certainly I knew I was going to come across some moments which are so famous that I had to work really hard to do them justice. But the primary aim was actually something different. After finishing the Let’s Play and combined with the fact I love the soundtracks so much I wanted to paint one piece per soundtrack title. That’s what 90% of the titles refer to.
At some point I reached a moment where the soundtrack didn’t cover an important plot point which I felt necessary for some semblance of continuity of my filmstrip, and I would have to fill it with a painting that I titled myself. I am trying to capture that nostalgic feeling that I had when I watched the LP. I wanted to share how I felt about the game with anyone who would look.
Do you plan on creating more paintings of Final Fantasy VII—you’ve called the first group “Part 1” after all.
I actually just chose to do FFVII first in the series of speedpaintings. I will paint until I complete every title of OST, which ends with ‘Staff Roll’ so of course that means I will paint until the very end of the story. I grouped the first section together as part 1 because I am expecting around 6-8 sheets worth of paintings, which will take me several months at one per night. I do have other things to do.
When I finish, if I’m not tired I’ll move straight onto FFVIII. I realised I just wanted to honor some of the biggest games of my teenage years.
Do you feel that Final Fantasy VII stands out more in the Final Fantasy series in the other games in terms of, say, quality and imagination perhaps? If so, why? If not, is it a case of it simply being more of your style?
FFVII is one of the milestone games, from what I’ve read since I didn’t know at the time, there was the big thing about Nintendo not wanting to use disc so Square put the game on the Playstation and it allowed for so much more stuff.
Perhaps because of the time of my life when I played it and the other Final Fantasys it had a huge emotional impact which will always remain, for instance when I hear Cosmo Canyon, it instantly brings an image of Seto and Nanaki. However, I don’t value it more than the other Final Fantasys, and in terms of style I will probably do VIII in a different style, and the same for IX when I eventually get there.
What other games would you like to paint (or perhaps plan on painting), and why? What scenes particularly stand out in your mind as worth painting?
As mentioned I plan on painting VIII and IX of Final Fantasy. I don’t think I want to really paint some of my favourite recent games because a lot of them are already very cinematic in display and it wouldn’t change much through a painting series like this.
I am looking forward to and dreading painting the big scene with Aeris and Sephiroth. It is so well known, I have to think of a way to treat it carefully yet still make it look awesome. I can’t think so far ahead as scenes from the next Final Fantasys. My brain will explode.
Are there any other artists that you enjoy the work of, especially in the realm of painting or drawing art work of video games?
I enjoy a lot of other artists work, especially in the games, animation and film industries, too many to really list. But what I will say is Yoji Shinkawa’s work on the Metal Gear series is one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to apply my art to a gaming direction.