A Book is a Face


The Definition
The book, like a face, is easily judged by its cover which serves its purpose to entice you into taking a peek into the mind of another. The stories are for nothing if there is nobody to listen.


The Context
Books are like people, we are pages being written and chapters waiting to start. Our stories are looking for others interested in reading them—in reading us. Like a book cover, our faces are the first thing another sees and what draws them to us.

In a society that values the material and the visible, what happens when an every-day man of convention meets a girl who chooses to defy the norm and instead embrace what is inside?




Flight, 2017

Flight, 2017
Mixed Media
(3560mm x 420mm)

Flight Animated, 2017
(3860 x 480 pixels)

“She lifts her head and her arms towards it…
and together they fly away from this place full of the dead.” 

Having met in school, Zhu who was disguised as a boy fell for the scholar Liang, deciding to reveal herself only after many years. With their families opposing their relationship, Liang lived a lonely life and passed away with Zhu only finding out on the day of her betrothal to another. The day of her marriage, she passes Liang’s grave and begs for the ground to open so that she may be with him. It is as if the heavens heard her because then the earth cracked open and swallowed her entirely. Their spirits are then said to have emerged from the grave and ascended as butterflies.

Created by Deborah Wong
© 2017 Deborah Wong, All Rights Reserved

Banner Exploration


Original exploration of Banner

I tried to play with contrasting colours and light and dark for the original banner but it was not working out very well and it just did not seem to fit.

I then decided to change up the clouds, making them more translucent and less of a focus and more of just an environment for the books. I also added a gradient to ease the transition into Liang’s underworld.

Revised exploration of Banner

The butterfly symbolising Zhu (girl) was also added and it seemed to tie everything together.

Final motif: Zhu’s butterfly

Motif and Banner Exploration

Above Ground (Zhu)

After getting a better idea of how I wanted to proceed with the banner and what elements of the motifs I would like to explore, I then added some more to give variation.

motif2-2 motif2-1

Cloud motifs were added to give the effect of a different world when Zhu reaches down for Liang.



Colour and texture exploration of the hands to differentiate Zhu and Liang’s from the other hands or gestures.

Banner Draft


Only the first half of the banner symbolizing Zhu’s surface world can be seen on the banner here.

Underground (Liang)

After drafting a banner with the motifs, I realised there was a lack of separation between the surface and underworld (where Liang had been laying before Zhu reached out to him in his grave). 

I wanted to stick with the theme of hands and it was suggested to me by our Professor that I could have a pile of hands that could only be identified as hands upon closer inspection.

Having watched Arrival just over the past weekend, I fell in love with the concept art of the aliens, or Heptapods, in the film. They were large slightly menacing beings with a mysterious air around them but not totally frightening. Their look however stuck out to me and made me think of spiders or squids. 

True enough, after doing some research, the concept art was mostly inspired by squids as well as by the image the director got from Ted Chiang’s short story- which Arrival was based on.


I started the process of the hands symbolising the underground by looking at creature design and spier leg anatomy. 

The idea of grotesque limbs with extra parts to them came to mind, with the spider legs being 7 parts and all. I imagined these thin, human limbs that looked peculiar and not entirely normal.


I then started sketching out potential arm positions for the next few larger drawings. The following 3 arms were then inked with a brushpen on an A2 sized paper which was later cut up for ease of scanning.


Motif Exploration

Initial Exploration

I first went with the basic exploration of sketching traditionally the more literal elements of the Butterfly Lovers, namely figures, butterflies, skulls and clouds.


I first attempted to see how composition would work and I drafted out several long horizontal thumbnail sketches.

However, that was very limiting and felt like this reduced my potential elements and ideas. Hence, ditching that, I just explored with the literal elements themselves, seeing what I liked, what worked and what could be expanded in meaning and variety.


Exploring motifs related to death and the unhappy characters who held the couple apart.


4 5


After I realised that the elements felt rather detached and typical, I decided to try and sketch the with elements that I enjoyed sketching- body parts (but mostly hands).

I thought about how the girl, Zhu, had to subtly show affection or even contain her affection for Liang because of how she had to pretend to be a boy and their families disagreeing with their being together.

I expanded on the idea of gestures and decided to experiment with different hand gestures or body parts that could be isolated in a way to show discomfort or a longing for the other.


The initial rough stages of sketching were very undecided but helped to direct where the following sketches were going.

I then went on to sketching these said gestures and body parts in a way that I felt were subtly expressive of longing and loneliness. Books were also added as part of them motif sketching because of how I liked that their time together in school was probably the most amount of time they would spend together unknowingly.

I used a brushpen for texture and the variation in line width to add more character to the body parts.

small1 small4 small3 small2


Butterfly Lovers



A young girl, Zhu Yingtai dresses as a boy in order to attend school and befriends a young scholar there. They grow close and as she matures, she realises her feelings for Liang Shan Bo.

Dressed as a boy, she tells him she has matchmade him  with his sister whom she is sure he will like. The boy quickly finds out after his arrival that the beautiful sister is indeed the boy he had gone to school with and realises his feelings as well.

Forbidden from seeing each other due to differences in social classes, Zhu is distraught when Liang passes away from an illness upon hearing the news of her being bethrothed.

On the day of her arranged marriage, strong winds prevent her from passing the cemetery where Liang is buried and she pays her respects by his grave. In sorrow, Zhu begs for the grave to open up and it does, allowing her to fall in and join Liang. 

There spirits turn into butterflies and they ascend into the sky away from this place of the dead. 

– Zhang Du,
Xuanshi Zhi


I first looked for an artist reference and then picked from her artworks, the few pieces I thought I could use as inspiration for my own motifs and elements.

I have been following Yuko Shimizu on social media platform Instagram for a while now and her brush work is extremely inspiring and detailed to me. I also really liked her technique of drawing traditionally and then adding colours digitally afterward.

In the mood board, we have three pieces from her original series Unwritten as well as another one of her original artworks (bottom).



Inspired by the protective exoskeletons of beetles, Shell was designed have the same appearance of strength though when coupled with the layered skirt which resembles the insects’ wings, still exudes femininity.

Similar to how some beetles communicate using light, Shell also has LED lights that hide beneath the plume of the skirt which are activated and blink when the ultrasonic sensor recognises when someone from behind the wearer comes just a bit too close for comfort.

Materials: Black faux leather, Arduino Lilypad, LED Strip, Ultrasonic sensor

SKETCH(Initial sketch)

The whole dress by itself is meant to look like a slightly edgier Little Black Dress because of the faux leather and the stiffness of the skirt which gives it its bounce and volume. The lights are also deliberately hidden underneath the plume of the skirt so that the dress is still seen as something easily wearable. The lights are easily switched on by simply flipping the switch on the Arduino LiPower found on the underside of the plume which then powers the LED strip to glow a beautiful blue from the inside of the dress. The lights only start blinking when the small Ultrasonic sensor detects an object or someone coming from behind who may be a bit too close for the wearer’s comfort.

The distance at which the lights blink can be set but the trigger number is currently at about 1m or so.



(Shell from the front, with the LED lights almost invisible, making the dress seem like a normal Little Black Dress)