In 1994, director James Cameron wrote an 80-page treatment for Avatar, drawing inspiration from “every single science fiction book” he had read in his childhood as well as from adventure novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard. However, Cameron felt that the technology had not caught up with the story and vision that he intended to tell. In February 2006, Cameron revealed that his film Project 880 was “a retooled version of Avatar”, a film that he had tried to make years earlier.

From 2005 to 2007, Cameron worked with a handful of designers, including famed fantasy illustrator Wayne Barlowe and renowned concept artist Jordu Schell, and Seth Engstrom, to shape the design of the Na’vi with paintings and physical sculptures when Cameron felt that 3-D brush renderings were not capturing his vision.

Seth Engstrom worked on early concept designs for the planets Pandora and Polyphemus, also early sketches and paintings for the Na’vi home tree. He has posted some of the great concept art that he created for Avatar and here are some of our favorites. Be sure to check out more of his brilliant art over at his website.

All images © 20the Century Fox, Seth Engstrom.