Illustrating Westeros

Our art interview series, Illustrating Westeros, aims to highlight and give recognition to the amazing artists working to create the familiar scenes and characters we love from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin and its adaptation Game of Thrones. The project was started in 2014 with the goal of sharing with readers the perspectives of both official and fan artists, gaining insight into their creative processes, techniques, and the invaluable advice they can impart to other illustrators in the field. We hope you enjoy these interviews and find inspiration from the wonderful art!

Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak I – Mathia Arkoniel
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak II – Bubug
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak III – Eva Maria Toker
Illustrating Westeros: TWOIAF Special Edition
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak V- Kittrose
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak VI – Dejan Delic
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak VII – IrenHorrors
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak VIII – Steamey
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak IX – Oznerol-1516
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak X – ProKrik
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak XI – UrukkiSaki
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak XII – Denkata5698
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak XIII – Mustamirri
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak XIV – Carrie Best & Evolvana
Illustrating Westeros: Special Edition – “Draw ‘Em With the Pointy End”
Illustrating Westeros: Calendar Artists Speak – John Picacio
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak XVII – Joshua Lagman
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak XVIII – Zippo514
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak XIX – Marc Fishman
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak XX – Thaldir
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak XXI – Cabepfir
Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak XXII – Stephen Youll

Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak I 

In this first edition, we talk with Mathia Arkoniel, a veteran illustrator who is amongst the first fan artists to grace the ASOIAF fandom back in the days when the pool was smaller and the variety in styles and interpretations more reduced. She is an artist whose paintings capture the dynamic and sensual world that George R. R. Martin has crafted in his fantasy series. Her pieces are distinguished by a bold use of colour and polished rendering, and each one reveals an expressive emotional quality that highlights not only Mathia’s talent but a perceptive grasp of the source material, which we hope will be enlightening for artists and readers alike.


Rhaegar and Lyanna

Welcome to the first edition of Illustrating Westeros, Mathia. To begin, tell us how you became an artist, and the influences that have shaped your style.

Thank you very much for the honour of inviting me to participate in Illustrating Westeros.

How I became an artist is a rather long story, but I’ll try to keep it as short as possible.  I’ve been drawing since I can remember, but I seriously decided to BE an artist in 5th grade, after watching Sailor Moon on a German TV channel. I began drawing ceaselessly. Later, I attended a school of Fine Arts, but during that time I’d been using only traditional tools. I have a strong dislike of traditional tools in art for several reasons, one of which would be that they are messy and they smell, particularly oils. So I started looking for a better, cleaner way of painting.

That’s how I stumbled on Digital Art, or Digital Painting in my case. I loved it! I have spent most of the past decade teaching myself skills in Photoshop, Manga Studio, Illustrator, etc. I slowly got to know the online world and been inspired by the artwork of some amazing artists like Linda Bergkvist, Pete Amachree, Xiao Bing, Bobby Chiu, and the one man who, to this day, is my absolute favourite digital painter, Michael Komarck.

I was greatly inspired by Michael Komarck’s fantastic paintings. The mood, the lighting, the realism, the textures, all of it simply mind-blowing. My great dream is to be one day good enough to paint as amazingly as he does.



You are an outstanding illustrator of George R. R. Martin’s works. When did you read the A Song of Ice and Fire books for the first time, and what was your initial impression?

To be honest, I can’t recall the exact year when I read A Song of Ice and Fire for the first time, but I think it was around 2005-2007. I remember reading A Game of Thrones, and around the chapter where Tyrion is attacked by Ghost at Winterfell and Jon calls him off, I was thinking, “This is not a ‘bad’ book, but I am not sure I will like this in the long run. Still, let’s read it till the end and decide then.” To me, the beginning wasn’t too captivating, but I think this happens with most books, until one starts to truly be familiar with the characters and feel invested in wanting to know their fate.

Needless to say, I never regretted reading A Game of Thrones till the end. By the end of the book, I couldn’t imagine not reading the rest in a marathon. The writing style, the dialogue, the world, the plot, but especially the characters were beyond anything I’ve ever read before. They were so real, so three-dimensional! From the most despicable to the most lovable characters, I loved them all, because they were SO real. I also loved something else in the books that I did not see before A Song of Ice and Fire in fantasy books: the author was not afraid to write about the ugly stuff. I can’t read novels that are all fluff, as I like to call it. Novels that flinch away from the violence in battle to the mundane need to ‘take a leak’ aren’t novels that I could ever enjoy.

George R. R. Martin’s works don’t flinch away from describing anything. It’s all there. 


Jaime and Catelyn

Who are some of your favourite characters in the series, and is there a scene that is particularly memorable to you?

Hmmm, I have a lot of favourite characters . . . even a lot of most favourite characters, but they are all in different ‘categories’ of favourite.  Let’s see, I am most fascinated by Euron Greyjoy, I am most curious about Darkstar (Ser Gerold Dayne), I most love Arya, and root most for Jaime Lannister to live. I think these would be the characters that I most look forward to reading about. But I also love for various reasons Tyrion Lannister, Sandor Clegane, Sansa Stark, Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Catelyn Stark, Oberyn Martell, Doran Martell, Victarion Greyjoy, Asha Greyjoy, Bran Stark, etc. Truly, there are so many characters I love that there’s no point listing them all, for I’d end up listing all of the characters from the books.

One of the most memorable scenes for me from the novels was the part with Sam and the Night’s Watch when they were beyond the Wall, hearing the horn blast once, twice and then, for a third time, announcing the attack of the White Walkers. I’ve never forgotten that scene. I could almost feel the fear of the characters when the third blast of the horn sounded.

There are, of course, countless other scenes that I loved with Jaime and Brienne, Arya, Victarion, a lot of Daenerys’ scenes, and many more, but the one with the White Walkers was for some reason special. It just stuck with me.


Euron and Falia

After HBO’s Game of Thrones came out, many readers’ inner pictures of characters and scenes have been replaced by actors and settings from the show. Can you tell us about your own mental images of the characters, and if this has been influenced by the show? 

I have watched the show and liked it a lot, of course, but no. The show did not influence my view of the characters whatsoever. I still see them as described in the books, which differs from how they are represented in the show. I’d say the one thing the TV show really helped me with, is visualizing Westeros. I am usually very good with imagining humans or humanoid characters, but I am not so good with imaging environments.

Couples seem to be a recurrent subject in your paintings, from Eddard/Catelyn and Jaime/Cersei to Sandor/Sansa and Rhaegar/Lyanna. What interested you in these pairings and how do you view them?

I love studying, imagining, and painting the interactions between humans, particularly romantic relationships. Hence I am always drawn mostly to painting couples. Each of the above mentioned pairings has something special in it that fascinates me.

Eddard and Catelyn to me are beautiful, because they are the perfect mother and father figures in harmony with each other.

Rhaegar and Lyanna, on the other hand, are the wild passionate kind of love, forbidden, dangerous, impulsive and pretty much doomed to failure/tragedy. Of this pairing, I also enjoyed the fact that Lyanna was not afraid to stand up for what she wanted; something that in a patriarchal world and time like Westeros was difficult for a woman to do.

Jaime and Cersei are fascinating because the author does not flinch at all from representing—very openly—incest. A highly taboo subject. And what’s even more shocking—ignoring Cersei’s stupidity and Jaime’s early vileness—is that he manages to represent this couple in a ‘natural’ and even romantic/beautiful light. I’ve never EVER seen this done in any book to this day.

Lastly, the most popular of all, I think, Sandor and Sansa. In this, I love the contrast between the two. The large, broody killing machine and the slender, genteel songbird. Or simply put, Beauty and the Beast.

Each pairing carries for me something special, some element that fascinates me, and each in its own way is beautiful to me. Hence I love painting them.


Sansa and Sandor

From your gallery, Lannister Gold is literally the gold standard in quality, and we were thoroughly impressed by the piece with respect to composition and mood. What insight can you share on the behind the scenes development of this painting?  

I am a nitpicky perfectionist, and this means that in my eyes that painting is full of mistakes, since it’s so old. It’s way outdated for my style, and I think I could paint it a million times better now, but I must admit I am always very happy to hear that people enjoy the way I represented something from the books—be that one of my old or new paintings.

I will, however, have to disappoint you, for there’s really not much to say about the ‘behind the scenes’ of this piece. The idea behind the painting was born from the simple desire to represent the characters and their relationship, as close to the description of the books as my imagination allowed. The title “Lannister Gold” came to my mind whilst I was contemplating this project, long before actually painting it, and so the title ended up setting the colour scheme for it.


Cersei and Jaime

Compulsions to have old paintings revised notwithstanding, this piece does remain current in terms of a keen erotic quality. How do you capture the eroticism and sexiness in your couple pieces?

As for sexiness in my paintings; the process is very simple. I do my best to imagine what I would find sexy! What I would love to see in couples . . . or in some cases, what I’d like to happen to me, like in a kissing scene, how the man touches the woman, etc. I imagine the scenario, I imagine the feelings, and then I pick a scene/moment/pose which I find the prettiest. Or full of meaning/love. It’s a really anti-climactic process. But I am really, really happy that the poses and expressions of the characters in the paintings have meaning to others as well, not just myself. That’s the greatest reward.

Do you have a favourite art technique? And do you have a preference for experimenting with new techniques and styles or for keeping to your established ones?

If you mean Digital Painting as an art technique, then yes, my favourite art technique is digital painting in Photoshop. 

I am always experimenting with new styles, though. I always try to learn something new, to improve what I already know and can do. So yes, I am definitely looking for learning new and better ways of painting something, or achieving some new effect in my paintings. Sticking to just one thing makes me feel as if I am stagnating, so the quest for improvement never ends.


Darkstar and Myrcella

Is there an ASOIAF artist whose work you admire? And/or a piece of ASOIAF art that you have as a personal favourite?

If “official” ASOIAF artists are also included here, then yes: Michael Komarck. He is my absolutely favourite ASOIAF artist. My favourite ASOIAF artwork from Michael Komarck is the one of Jaime sitting on the Iron Throne. It’s PERFECT! I could never have imagined it better than how he represented that scene from the novels. Naturally, there are countless other amazing artists’ works that I love, but Michael Komarck is always in the first place for me.


Jaime Lannister by Michael Komarck

Please, give us a link or thumbnail from your gallery of the piece you are most proud of:

My favourite piece to this day would be this painting, commissioned in 2013: 


Arya, Catelyn, Sansa

Martin is known for being supportive of fan art, and has been personally involved in the creative decisions of the official ASOIAF art for calendars, books and comics, even supplying descriptions to artists and choosing scenes himself. If you could do one official ASOIAF artwork, what would you like to depict?

Without a doubt, it would have to be the attack of the White Walker on Sam, when he stabbed the White Walker with the dragonglass. Again, that fear, almost terror, Sam’s bravery, the cold, the undead horse with its intestines hanging out—all of it a shocking contrast to the peaceful beauty of the snowy landscape. I would love to paint all of this, but I did not get a clear enough ‘image’ in my mind of the White Walkers. I’d love to ask Mr. Martin for an exact description of how he imagined the White Walkers, down to the smallest detail.


White Walker

Is there a plotline, whether in the North, the Vale, King’s Landing or Essos that you’re anxious to see resolved in the next book?

I want to know all the plotlines, but on the very first place would be the White Walkers against the Lord of Light. I want to know how the great war between the two gods will go, why they fight the war, who will be instrumental—from the mortals—in defeating the White Walkers. The entire books to me are about this god of Fire and the god of Ice. What is happening with the humans is the ‘detail’. But the big picture is about these two. So, the next book is only a ‘bridge‘ book in my mind. I am looking forward to seeing beloved characters, and I’ll be very happy if any of the plotlines get resolved in the next book, but it’s not what I am looking forward to. Sadly, to satisfy my need in this case, the final book would have to be released . . .

And lastly, can the fandom expect more ASOIAF art from you in the future?

I will definitely paint more ASOIAF art in the future, whether I am commissioned to do so or in my free time, though in the case of the latter I cannot promise anything anytime soon, because I am sadly not currently inspired by the world of ASOIAF.  However, inspiration is fickle and unpredictable. It often returns when I least expect it, or when a new book is released. So more illustrations will definitely be forthcoming in the not so distant future. 


Daenerys Targaryen

Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak II

Richly detailed and darkly evocative, Bubug’s ASOIAF artworks are not easily forgettable. Perhaps it is because of the humour and irony that permeates her pieces, easily making you laugh as they simultaneously captivate. Or the answer may lie in the many symbolic details that are weaved through the paintings: challenging our familiarity with these characters whilst deepening our appreciation. Whatever the reason, it is little wonder that Bubug’s style and insight are cherished by so many in the fandom. 


“The Prayer” – Sansa at the Eyrie

Welcome to Illustrating Westeros, Bubug. To begin, tell us how you became an artist, and the influences that have shaped your style.

Hello, and thank you for inviting me.

First,  I’m not an artist; more like a geek who prefers to spend time thinking about fictional characters with their fictional problems instead of finally getting down to some harder work. I mean, I threw my easels and oils into a corner and settled for simple pens, because I’m just that lazy. No tears and sweat of artists for me, therefore it would be totally wrong to usurp this title now, already in my opinion distributed around too lightly.

So how did I become a geek? Easily. A lot of reading from an early age, and later watching movies, with a particular passion for literature and cinematography of the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Surrealism; a lot of appetite for legends, fairy tales, strange things, disturbing and generally creepy. And of course, tons of admiration for book illustrations, especially the works of Vilhelm Pedersen for Hans-Christian Andersen’s fables; very classic, black ink on yellowed pages, and to this day still most vivid in my memory and imagination.

Plenty of inspiration I found also in the artistic creativity of post-Impressionist Henri Rousseau, the pre-Raphaelites William Waterhouse and Edward Burne-Jones, illustrators John Bauer and Alan Lee, the fantastic realist Wojciech Siudmak, Surrealists Zdzisław Beksiński, Rafal Olbiński, Jacek Yerka; and the cinematographic works by Hayao Miyazaki, Tim Burton, Wes Anderson, Emir Kusturica and Jan Jakub Kolski.


You are an outstanding illustrator of George R. R. Martin’s works. When did you read the A Song of Ice and Fire books for the first time, and what was your initial impression?

I think that, like many people in Poland, where Martin’s saga was not as well-known as in the States for example, though still very popular among fans of the genre, I learned about it when HBO aired their TV adaptation. After that, everyone including me knew what it was, and I have to admit that initially the show completely absorbed my attention.

Then there was this scene at the end of the second season, where the Hound throws everything to the devil and I just have to know what will happen next, so the natural course of things was delving into the books. And it was the beginning of a total obsession, with the discovery that beneath the visual layer proposed by television, though very attractive and interesting, lies so much more—the vast expanse of history, images and rich, deep, colorful emotions, limited only by the imagination and the receptivity of the reader. So practically infinite. And it was a great journey, with nail-biting, laughing out loud and weeping on a pillow included.

After that nothing was the same, I still watch episodes when they are released, but rather apathetically and with an annoying tendency to point out inaccuracies and simplifications. Privately, to myself, because no one wants to watch it with me anymore.


Who are some of your favourite characters in the series, and is there a scene that is particularly memorable to you?

Martin’s characters are interesting in that they can be loved for some features while at the same time hated for others, there are no black-and-white divisions; and it’s easier for me to indicate my favorite features in each character than the characters that I could love for everything. Okay, there is One, that I like also for his flaws, but about that later. And thus, I appreciate Tywin for his charisma, visionary and strong will, but absolutely despise him for how he treats his children and all those he considers obstacles in his way to success. I love Tyrion for his wit, cynical humor and heart, for being wronged by fate, but detest his misogyny, et cetera.

But there is one group of characters that I like more and with whom I can more easily identify, and they are those who are like outside of this whole struggle for power, wealth, the throne; who are more observers than active participants in revolutions or authors of intrigues, who just live and let live. In this category are the Starks and their friends, the Night’s Watch, Jorah Mormont, Davos, Brienne, Bronn, Jaqen H’ghar, Jaime to a certain extent, and of course the master of indifference, the Hound. Ah, and my kindred spirit Dolorous Edd, who is not only a sharp observer, but also hilarious and a very accurate commentator on the Westerosi reality.

My favorite scene, which I always wanted to draw too, but for now lack the courage, is Arya’s dream (or not a dream) in which she as Nymeria finds Catelyn’s dead body in the river, and thus learns that she no longer has a mother. It’s so somber, but piercingly sorrowful, a disturbing and dark scene, especially when viewed through the eyes of a half-human half-direwolf with emotions divided between the abandoned, hurt and broken child and the mighty beast guided by its animal instinct. And her short, sedate answer to the Hound’s concern the next day: “It doesn’t matter. I know she’s dead. I saw her in a dream.” The devastating disillusionment contained in that dry statement simply broke my heart.


Lady Stoneheart

After HBO’s Game of Thrones came out, many readers’ inner pictures of characters and scenes have been replaced by actors and settings from the show. Can you tell us about your own mental images of the characters, and if this has been influenced by the show? 

With me it was rather the opposite; since I saw HBO’s show before reading the books, the faces seen on the TV screen in many cases have been replaced by the more suitable to the original descriptions of the author. For example, in the books all the kids and a lot of adults are much younger. But, of course, those that match in my imagination remained the same, and now I just can’t see Davos without the honest face of Liam Cunningham; same with John Bradley’s Samwell, or Ben Crompton’s Edd.

Regarding the scenes and scenery, HBO did a great job. It showed a very colorful and rich world, but there’s no way it could compare to what a superbly written book can evoke in the reader’s imagination. This is a brand new, unlimited universe of sensations and impressions, in addition to actively created in our minds, and not just passively received. For me, nothing can beat that.


Sandor Clegane and Sansa Stark are a recurrent subject in your paintings, together and as individuals. What interested you in these characters and how do you view them?

As I said earlier, these are two characters standing by the sidelines of the main events, and if they take part in them, it’s more due to external factors than their internal will. Sansa is a prisoner of the men with power and Clegane works for them, but they both do not belong there. They do not belong anywhere in fact, they are both orphans, both do not want for themselves nothing more than just something that would make them a little less unhappy. In a world ruled by political games, lust for power and possessions, this attitude seems to me refreshingly innocent.

Individually, I like Sansa for her ordinariness and veracity, that she is just a girl who resists adversities with what Nature gave her. I like female characters that are strong precisely in their femininity, who do not have to imitate men to appear tough. I know that the show’s Sansa may seem boring, but for me in the books she is nothing like that. Of course, mainly because there we can get into her head, we know her thoughts, insights and opinions, which are often surprisingly penetrating and not without a certain amount of dry, slightly dark humor. It’s also interesting to observe the process of changing her perception of the world, the gradual disillusionment, the hardening of her character. Arya’s arc is perhaps more spectacular, but both sisters undergo a similar process of maturation; Sansa’s is perhaps even more difficult, because of not being allowed to express her negative emotions and sense of injustice.

Now, Sandor Clegane . . . How do I describe Sandor Clegane . . .? I could, but then this interview would have been three times longer and in several places probably demanding some serious censor work, so I will only say that I love this big boor, and yes, he’s that One. From an illustrator’s point of view, he’s just an awesome subject to study, a lot of intriguing contrasts and shades in one nicely built package :).


The Unkiss

From your gallery, two portraits stand out as representative of your style: Sansa Stark and In the Garden of Eyrie, which are distinguished by many symbolic elements. What insight can you share on the process of creating these paintings and how you go about selecting your symbolic details? 

The symbolic coating in the case of drawing things based on Martin’s saga is not so difficult to obtain; his prose is densely interwoven with symbolism, visions and prophecies, families are represented by animals, fantastic creatures and objects, each has its own color, sign, everything that we know from the authentic history of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It’s a world that practically translates itself into an image, all that remains is to bring together the relevant elements.

I really like to operate in symbols, because you can get an intriguing and surreal composition, where the fish can exist in the same space as the bird, a vulnerable girl can safely sit in the vicinity of the beasts, and, in addition, beneath the external visual layer you can deduce the true meaning of the whole scene, whose discovery, I hope, is for the recipient just as interesting as for me to hide it.


Sansa Stark


In the Gardens of the Eyrie

Yours is a characteristic art technique that renders illustrations with the appearance of old-fashioned woodcut storybook pieces. Do you experiment with other techniques and styles or keep to your established ones?

Studying, I tried a number of techniques, including painting in oils and watercolors, creating traditional graphics, like linocut, copperplate, etc., but in the end I discovered that operating in simple black pen is the most effective way to obtain the effect I want to achieve. It’s also the least messy, and allows me to control every stage of drawing; in addition, the possibility of retouching it in graphics programs further eliminates the risk of unsuccessful strokes. I know it’s not a “clean” technique and I will be forever jealous of artists who are able to achieve the desired effect only through traditional media, but as I said, I’m not an artist and I like my comforts. So no, I don’t foresee changes in my technique in the near future, but do not rule them out further ahead, if some stray sprite of diligence found me.

Is there an ASOIAF artist whose work you admire? And/or a piece of ASOIAF art that you have as a personal favourite?

Yes, there are quite a lot, actually. I love the work of  Nimbus2005, with her fantastic ability to compose a very complex scenery and a wonderful sense of color.  “The Things I Do For Love” is my favorite of hers ⃰, I could look at it for hours. Then there is Ken Taylor and his magnificent technique for handling line, sharp contrast and meaningful color; Jian Guo with his very original, incredible works full of light in stained glass, Dejan Delic and his crazy, expressive lines and bold coloring; Kallielef, who with an extremely steady hand creates very dynamic, full of heart, beautiful sketches.


The Things I Do For Love by Nimbus2005

Please, give us a link or thumbnail from your gallery of:

a) An ASOIAF illustration you are most proud of?

I think it’d be my first Sansa (“Sansa Stark” illustration shown above); it started my affair with fan art, and probably still is the most popular piece of mine in the ASOIAF fandom.

b) An ASOIAF piece that was the hardest to draw?

I’m not sure whether it was the hardest to draw (as most of the works based on my own ideas, it practically drew itself), but it definitely took me the most time and required a lot of planning.


Under the heart tree

Martin is known for being supportive of fan art, and has been personally involved in the creative decisions of the official ASOIAF art for calendars, books and comics, even supplying descriptions to artists and choosing scenes himself. If you could do one official ASOIAF artwork, what would you like to depict?

Let’s face it, for Martin I’d draw anything, even Daenerys topless on the back of Drogon, but I would be particularly happy if I could illustrate my favorite scene, of which I spoke earlier, or maybe for “The Winds of Winter” a scene showing a certain gravedigger . . .? Just saying. It would be also interesting to face one of the prophecies or oneiric divinations; it could result in quite an intriguing, disturbing, surreal vision.

Is there a plotline, whether in the North, the Vale, King’s Landing or Essos that you’re anxious to see resolved in the next book?

Yes, I want to know the ultimate fates of the Cleganes, especially Sandor’s. I know that the vague circumstances surrounding the deaths of both brothers are more intriguing and romantic the way they’re now, but I want to know. I don’t want to read the next book and get palpitations every time someone mentions the Quiet Isle, or the graveyard, if it doesn’t lead to something satisfyingly substantial, preferably extending over several chapters titled “A Certain Gravedigger.”

Then I would like to find out what will happen to Sansa and how long it will take her to outsmart some vile Mockingbird, who has it coming.

As for the rest, I’ll take whatever the author throws at us, with total conviction that again I’ll cry, laugh and curse aloud. I cannot wait!

And lastly, can the fandom expect more ASOIAF art from you in the future?                                                                                 

Yes, I have a few new ideas in store. There are also a couple of projects to finish, some based on cooperation with other fans, which is always a blast. And several commissions waiting for their turn . . . Martin’s prose still keeps me under its spell, hopefully no leeches were burned during its casting.


The Hound and Arya in the village

Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak III

Eva Maria Toker’s passionate approach to the world of Westeros can readily be appreciated on first viewing of her paintings. In pieces full of detail and depth, she reveals the poignancy and bittersweet quality that have attracted so many to this series and its characters. Eva invites us to wander into these settings and to share the emotions, the mystery, and the drama with its inhabitants. 


King of the Wolves

Welcome to a new edition of Illustrating Westeros, Eva Maria. To begin, tell us how you became an artist, and the influences that have shaped your style.

Thank you so much for the chance to participate in Illustrating Westeros!

I’ve been drawing since I was able to hold a pencil. I always wanted to do art as a career. After high school, I got a job as a graphic designer and then went back to school for animation, so I’ve kind of been all over the place. Now I work as a concept artist for a mobile game company and do freelance illustration on the side.

I would say anime and videogames had a big impact on my art style growing up. My dad is a programmer, so he had me playing my first game when I was 4. I also used to watch him play old-school RPGs and draw his maps so he wouldn’t get lost in endless low-poly dungeons.

Now I’m influenced a lot by the people I work with and the people that work in the fantasy illustration genre. And I take a lot of inspirations from fantasy books that I read, like ASOIAF for example.

You are an outstanding illustrator of George R. R. Martin’s works. When did you read the A Song of Ice and Fire books for the first time, and what was your initial impression?

I read all the books just after the first season of the TV show came out. I liked the TV show, but I liked the books even more. I read them all back to back, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest as soon as they come into existence.

I really like stories that have lots of characters and complicated plots, and ASOIAF has the best of both those things.

Who are some of your favourite characters in the series, and is there a scene that is particularly memorable to you?

I think Arya is my favourite. I like reading stories with lots of characters, and I like all the characters in ASOIAF, but if I could choose one character and make them safe from death, it would be her. I also like the Hound and Sansa. Although I don’t necessarily like Sansa’s personality that much, I really like her story arc and I’m excited to find out where she’s going to end up.

After HBO’s Game of Thrones came out, many readers’ inner pictures of characters and scenes have been replaced by actors and settings from the show. Can you tell us about your own mental images of the characters, and if this has been influenced by the show?

I watched the show—Season 1—before I read the books, so I already had those images stuck in my head when I started reading. Some characters have definitely evolved in my mind, though. Some of the locations look different in my mind, too, especially Essos. Sandor is a little better-looking in my mind :D.  Arya looks different, too. Daenerys is one of the characters that I have a hard time thinking of as looking different than she looks in the show.

We are entranced by the moody and grand landscape locations in your gallery. Can you tell us what role the landscape plays in your art, as both inspiration and actual setting?

When I read books, I literally have mini movies playing in my head, so the landscapes are a big part of that. Unfortunately, my art skills aren’t quite caught up to my imagination, so I’m just trying to do my best to capture what I see in my mind. I’m always working on improving my skills so that hopefully someday I will be able to get much closer to painting things the way I imagine them.

Dragontamer is your latest and, in our opinion, best ASOIAF piece to date, featuring a dramatic face-off between Daenerys and Drogon. Could you share your feelings on this piece and some behind-the-scenes insight on what went into its creation?

I wanted to paint that scene for a long time, but it was kind of a daunting task technically, with the perspective and the coliseum. Last spring, I was lucky enough to be able to take a class at SmArt School with Todd Lockwood and I decided to finally tackle that scene. Having someone to give me advice on things when I got stuck was really awesome. And Todd is a master at drawing dragons, so he was able to give me a lot of advice on the dragon as well. I know the dragons in ASOIAF are only supposed to have two legs, but in my mind they always have four. I like four-legged dragons better than two-legged ones :P .



Do you have a favourite art technique? And do you have a preference for experimenting with new techniques and styles or for keeping to your established ones?

I generally work digitally in Photoshop. Sometimes, I do rough pencil sketches in my sketchbook as well. I feel like I’m still pretty early in my career, and I still haven’t really found my one way of doing things. There’s a few steps that I usually go through, like thumbnails and rough sketches, but I still experiment a lot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Is there an ASOIAF artist whose work you admire? And/or a piece of ASOIAF art that you have as a personal favourite?

Donato Giancola’s work for ASOIAF is really amazing. I had the chance to see some of his paintings in person at IlluxCon a couple of months ago, and they are so beautiful. I’ve also seen some really good fan art out there, like the piece by Mathia Arkoniel with Rhaegar and Lyanna.


Forging the Iron Throne by Donato Giancola

Martin is known for being supportive of fan art, and has been personally involved in the creative decisions of the official ASOIAF art for calendars, books and comics, even supplying descriptions to artists and choosing scenes himself. If you could do one official ASOIAF artwork, what would you like to depict?

I don’t think it really makes a big difference to me whether something is fan art or official art. Fan art is nice, because there’s less pressure and you get to do whatever you want for your own enjoyment. But I think if there was ever another ASOIAF videogame it would be really awesome to make concept art for that.

Is there a plotline, whether in the North, the Vale, King’s Landing or Essos that you’re anxious to see resolved in the next book?

All of them? Haha. I think I’m most anxious to read more about Arya. I’m also curious to see if Sansa and the Hound will ever meet again.

And lastly, can the fandom expect more ASOIAF art from you in the future?

Yes! I think especially when the rest of the books come out I won’t be able to resist the urge to make some more fan art.

Illustrating Westeros: TWOIAF Special Edition

In this first Special Edition of Illustrating Westeros, we are delighted to feature an exclusive interview with Elio Garcia Jr. and Linda Antonsson, the co-authors, along with George R. R. Martin, of the recently published The World of Ice and Fire. The interview offers a detailed and engaging perspective on the artistic development of TWOIAF and the remarkable artists whose paintings so enriched our appreciation of the dynamic milieu of historical Westeros. If you’ve found yourself returning time and again to gaze at the fascinating landscapes and characters illustrated within the book, wondering about Martin’s specific involvement in certain areas, and are looking forward even more anxiously to the release of his next book, The Winds of Winter, this interview is a must read.



Aegon the Conqueror on Balerion the Black Dread by Jordi Gonzalez Escamilla


Aegon and Balerion by Jordi Gonzalez Escamilla


Battle of Seven Stars by John McCambridge


Daemon Targaryen by Marc Simonetti

Welcome to the special edition of Illustrating Westeros, Elio and Linda. Fans agree that the art in The World of Ice and Fire is overall stunning, and would love to know how it was created. Could you share your knowledge on how the process of outsourcing the artists, selecting the scenes to illustrate and supervising it till the final printing layout went?

One of the very first things George said when the deal for the book was concluded is that he envisioned this as being a really beautiful, richly illustrated coffee table book. He’s always been keen on saying talented artists turn their abilities to depicting his world and characters, and this was a fantastic opportunity. A number of artists were immediately on the table—fan-favorites like Marc Simonetti and Michael Komarck, prestigious artists such as Ted Nasmith and Justin Sweet—and it turns out that most (but not all, alas!) of the artists on the “wish list” were available to contribute.

A very significant amount of money was budgeted for the artwork. Eventually, once the book was reaching the point of having a full first draft, the layout and design of the book was outsourced to Becker & Mayer! For them, this kind of book is their bread-and-butter, and they’ve a lot of experience in this field (they’ve become the go-to guys for the official Star Wars guides). We owe a lot to them—especially to Delia Greve and Rosebud Eustace, the two lead designers for the book—as well as to Erich Schoeneweiss, the art director at Bantam.

When B&M were brought on board, the log of artists involved grew substantially. Early on, artists like Ted Nasmith and Justin Sweet were already commissioned—in fact, the art used in the 2011 A Song of Ice and Fire Calendar was intended for the book originally, but the long wait in getting the book done plus some issues with the calendar made it appear there first—but with the book swelling from its originally planned 50,000 word count to 180,000, much more art was needed. The good folks at B&M had a number of recommendations (artists such as Chase Stone and José Cabrera Peña), George had some additional suggestions, and we ourselves directed them to an artist or three we thought might be suitable.

And on top of that, there was a rich catalog of art already extant thanks to Fantasy Flight Games, and some of those pieces saw use in the book.

As to the scene selection, a lot of the scenes were decided by B&M and our editor Anne Groell as they went through the drafts, and a few were specific suggestions from George, Linda, and I. For example, George wanted portraits of characters like Aegon the Unworthy’s mistresses and various scenes from Targaryen history, and we’re the ones who suggested a depiction of a child of the forest, the moment when Rhaegar gave the flowers to Lyanna Stark, and the ruins of Chroyane.

As far as the layout process goes, there were several design revisions until we got to what you see now. The sidebars were treated differently to begin with, the look of the parchment texture was tweaked, and so on.


Battle of the Trident by Justin Sweet


The Battle at Stonebridge by Marc Simonetti

We’ve all seen the awe-inspiring depiction of the Iron Throne done by Marc Simonetti, and Martin has praised this as reflecting his ideal vision of Aegon the Conqueror’s creation. Can you share any details on Martin’s involvement in other seminal symbols and scenes in Westeros?

George offered brief remarks on many images, but there’s two sets of images in particular where his involvement was much more substantial. First and foremost, George worked hand-in-hand with Ted Nasmith on his depictions of castles and other places of note. We have a series of email exchanges between them—Linda and I were asked to help out by providing Ted whatever concrete details existed in the books about these various places—where George provides some detailed descriptions of the places as he envisioned them. So Ted’s castles are really as “canonical” as they’re going to get, unless George takes some art classes.

One of Ted’s last pieces was, of course, his depiction of Valyria before the Doom. That was one where we shared what little we had—the “topless towers” line from Catelyn, the magically sculpted stones of Dragonstone—and suggested some ideas. The initial sketch was amazing, but when George saw it he felt it was much too “elvish” . . . and so what followed was a brief essay from him describing Valyria as you see it in the final painting: canals of lava, sculpted towers reaching far above the heat, dragons flitting between them. It was jaw-dropping.

The other place George had some very specific commentary was Aegon the Unworthy’s mistresses. Magali Villeneuve’s initial sketch was very good, but George pointed out that he had a number of very specific ideas about how each of the women should look and Magali revised accordingly. Long ago, George said he had a notion of a novel about Aegon the Unworthy (after ASOIAF is completed, of course) and I suspect that that was why he was so particular.


Sunspear by Ted Nasmith


Riverrun by Ted Nasmith

Martin has mentioned before that certain scenes and places, such as Dragonstone, were a hard challenge for illustrators to do accurately. Do you know of any other scenes that were especially difficult for artists to translate into an image?

The mistresses of Aegon the Unworthy stand out, because George had such a specific idea. Paolo Puggioni’s Storming of the Dragonpit was one that took a lot of work as well, and Paolo discusses it with a great deal of interesting perspective on the process of developing the image from initial concept to final rendition at his blog. (He also provided us that terrific Rhaegar crowning Lyanna as Queen of Love and Beauty image that we had requested.)

The dragons can be very hard for artists, sometimes.


Storming of the Dragonpit by Paolo Puggioni


Rhaegar’s crowning of Lyanna by Paolo Puggioni

You’ve had words of praise for Spaniard artist José Cabrera Peña’s impressive expertise on medieval knights’ arms and armour that surpasses in realism what most artists depict, giving it a more “military magazine” appearance than a fantastical one. Can you tell us more about which scenes specifically you have as favourites by him?

Oh, he was a real “find” by B&M! Don’t know if they’ve worked with him before, but he was one of the artists they proposed, and he just floored Linda and I. His attention to period detail—down to arguing with us a bit about how Barristan’s armor should look!—was something we found very attractive. His depiction of Daemon Blackfyre leading the charge at the Redgrass Field was really great. But I have to say, our favorite is his depiction of a Sword of the Morning. There’s a beautiful romanticism to the desert sunlight behind him, and of course that attention to detail again—drawing from the kinds of arms and armor in our world that fit what George describes for Dorne—was perfect.


A young Barristan slaying Maelys I Blackfyre during the War of the Ninepenny Kings


Daemon Blackfyre’s last charge at Redgrass Field


A Sword of the Morning

Can you also pinpoint additional favourite scenes and portraits by other artists, and were you surprised by any depiction in particular?

Nasmith’s Valyria, absolutely. Doug Wheatley’s child of the forest. J. K. Drummond’s Nymeria. Philip Straub’s Chroyane. Chase Stone’s Dunk facing off against the Laughing Storm, and his death of Meraxes (and the King Who Knelt, and the death of Lucerys Velaryon, and . . . Stone was both very prolific for us, and very very good!). Magali Villeneuve’s Queen Rhaenys meeting the Yellow Toad in Sunspear. Rhaenyra’s last moments as Sunfyre looms by Arthur Bozonnet.  


Nymeria by J.K. Drummond


Chroyane by Philip Straub


Ser Duncan the Tall in trial by combat by Chase Stone


The Death of Meraxes by Chase Stone


The King Who Knelt by Chase Stone


The deaths of Prince Lucerys and his dragon by Chase Stone


Queen Rhaenys meeting the Yellow Toad in Sunspear by Magali Villeneuve

Readers have lamented the absence of illustrations for determined scenes and characters, such as those in the Northern sphere. Were there any illustrations that were cut and not included for some reason? And were there scenes from the book you’d have wished to see illustrated yet in the end couldn’t be done?

There was never really an idea of doing book scenes, although one—Arya looking at the dragon skulls beneath the Red Keep, by Justin Sweet—did sneak in (since we could use it in relation to some text concerning dragons). Sweet’s paintings were commissioned and mostly completed at a time when originally the book was going to also contain a “Who’s Who” of characters from the novels, and the art that was commissioned would include depictions of characters from the series. But that fell by the wayside—the “Who’s Who” that we wrote became the foundation for the A World of Ice and Fire app—but still, we had this amazing art, so we found a way to use it.

As to anything that was cut, originally there were plans for a portrait of the Dragonknight, and that never happened, alas.


Arya with the Skull of Balerion the Black Dread by Justin Sweet

Many new sigils are featured in the World Book and some seem to have been redesigned. Was heraldic information from real history ever used in creating these, or are they purely the artists’ interpretation of the text?

Many of these were based on our own original depictions at our website’s heraldry section which in turn were drawn from notes George provided to us many years ago. George was very particular in some cases to make sure heraldic rules were followed . . . and in other cases he deliberately broke heraldic rules; for example, traditionally there are rules regarding which colors can be used together, and George threw those out the window (sometimes to his rue—he admitted that the black-on-brown of House Darry, a real no-no in the real world because of clarity, was more problematic than he imagined it would be).

Fantasy works are known for their grand world-building and expansive landscapes, and Martin is certainly carrying on the tradition, sparking our imagination about mysterious places like Valyria and Asshai, and the familiar imposing castles of Westeros. Is there any illustrated landscape that was particularly impressive to you and/or deepened your appreciation/interest in the location in the series?

Valyria, again! The details George provided really brought to life this sorcerous city that was well and truly unlike anything anyone had imagined. That the Fourteen Flames were in the vicinity, sure, we all knew that. That the towers were tall and sculpted, sure. But that the lava of the volcanoes was deliberately channelled through the city, and that the towers were so tall that the dragonlords would be above the heat—would, in some cases, never set their feet on the ground of Valyria, but instead spend their lives in the city flitting from tower to tower on dragon-back—was just amazing to us.


The Fourteen Flames coursing through Valyria by Ted Nasmith

We consider that all artists were good choices in terms of talent, but also wonder if there was an artist that you or GRRM would’ve loved to work with for this book but that wasn’t possible to hire?

Oh, many. I recall three particular artists George mentioned that he’d like to have seen contribute: Mélanie Delon (who recently did a stunning depiction of Daenerys Targaryen for ImagineFX), Marc Fishman (a Chesley Award-winning artist who provided the illustrations for the Subterranean Press limited edition of A Dance with Dragons), and Roman Papsuev (also known as Amok, the first fan artist to get wide attention because he sought—and received—George’s advice on his prolific depictions). We would have loved to see them all included, but schedules are what they are. 


Daenerys Targaryen by Mélanie Delon


Daenerys and Viserion by Marc Fishman

As our regular interviews have borne out, there’s no shortage of fan artists out there dedicating their time and talent to Martin’s world. Do you have any personal advice for those who might hope to move into doing official work, based on your experience in this process?

I think a big thing is to branch out—don’t just do ASOIAF work, even if that’s what primarily interests you! Some of the artists George praised have very wide portfolios, and some of them he became aware of through that other work. Working in the SF/F genre doesn’t hurt, because George keeps an eye on hot and upcoming artists therein—or so is our impression. For example, he gets the annual SPECTRUM art books which collect some of the finest genre art each year, and some of the artists he wanted involved in this project have had contributions there.

The other thing is that getting professional work in the ASOIAF sphere isn’t a terrible idea—some of the contributing artists came to George’s attention through their work for Fantasy Flight Games (Michael Komarck most famously of all). FFG has recently announced that after 12 years, they’re going to relaunch their A Game of Thrones card game in a 2nd edition, and that will likely lead to many opportunities for artists to depict their favorite characters or places . . . and for George to maybe see their work.


A Game of Thrones LCG: Trystane Martell by Thaldir


Bran Stark for Fantasy Flight Games by Victor Garcia

Given your heightened appreciation for the value of illustrations and the joy they bring to the text, is there a favourite scene you have in the current timeline of the series that you might one day like to have illustrated?

Excellent question. So many scenes to choose from . . . and yet, as we think about it, a lot of them have already been depicted! A lot of what we’ve always wanted to see are actually “history” in ASOIAF—stuff from Robert’s Rebellion, for example. But in the present day, the first thing that sprang to mind was Jaime Lannister’s dream of himself and Brienne in the darkness, facing the ghosts of his dead sworn brothers and Prince Rhaegar. I think that actually has been depicted, though, in Fantasy Flight Games’s The Art of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. So, too, has been Bran’s first sight of the Three-eyed Crow, by Marc Simonetti in the 2013 ASOIAF calendar.

Perhaps the arrival of Prince Oberyn and his glittering train of Dornish lords and ladies would make a nice subject. The acclamation of Euron Greyjoy at the Kingsmoot as well. And as fans of the Knight of Flowers, showing him at the Hand’s tourney in both his sets of armor, riding against the likes of Gregor Clegane, would be good fun.


Jaime’s dream by Sam Hogg


The Three-Eyed Crow by Marc Simonetti

Of course, TWOIAF only whets the appetite for Martin’s next juggernaut release: the highly anticipated The Winds of Winter. If you had to pick one region in the upcoming novel that you think could hold the most artistic value/inspiration for artists, what would it be?

Artists should start eyeing the variety of ways in which you can depict snow and ice . . .

. . . and fire, too. As to a specific region, I think there may be some very interesting things going on in the Vale of Arryn.


The Vale of Arryn by Ted Nasmith

Thank you for this enlightening talk, Elio and Linda! You can discuss The World of Ice and Fire at this subforum

Our deepest gratitude to the following artists for granting permission to reuse their artwork here:

Ted Nasmith, Marc Fishman, José Cabrera Peña, Jordi González Escamilla, Marc Simonetti, Justin Sweet, and Paolo Puggioni.


Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak V

Bringing her distinctive style to the characters as portrayed in the TV series Game of Thrones, Kittrose’s portraits have the ability to mesmerise immediately upon viewing. Skillfully realistic depictions are set against intensely coloured backgrounds, lending the paintings a forceful energy that is fitting for the dynamic actors and actresses who have captured the hearts and minds of audiences worldwide. Keep reading for compelling revelations on Kittrose’s artistic development and inspiration, along with astute observations on the ASOIAF books that belie her status as a “newbie” reader. 



Welcome to another edition of Illustrating Westeros, Kittrose. To begin, tell us how you became an artist, and the influences that have shaped your style.

Thank you for inviting me! As far as I can remember, I’ve always been drawing and making fan art, even before knowing it was actually called that way. As a child, I was an avid reader and I watched a lot of animation—Disney and Japanese anime like Sailor MoonSaint SeiyaRanma ½ and many others. It was completely natural for me to draw the characters I loved; it felt like being able to spend some time with them, to bring them to life in a way. So the first influences that shaped my style are definitely those coming from anime and manga. I still have several old sketchbooks full of anime-style drawings stuffed somewhere!

As I grew up, I became more and more interested in realism. After graduating from high-school I finally decided to attend the Academy of Fine Arts, where I approached new techniques like oil painting, and I was introduced to the artworks of the masters of fantasy art, Luis Royo in particular. A few years later I joined DeviantArt and discovered digital painting, which was a turning point in my art.

Since then, I’ve been simultaneously attracted to different painting styles and greatly influenced by the work of artists like Jeff Simpson, Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme, Marta Dahlig, Euclase, Alice X. Zhang, Marta Nael, Karla Ortiz, James Jean, João Ruas, and many others. However, being an artist but most importantly a fan artist, my biggest source of inspiration is fiction and pop culture: movies, comics, TV-shows, novels, but sometimes even advertising or fashion photography.


Blood of the Dragon

Your outstanding artworks are mainly show-based, but it’s evident that you’re also a books fan. When did you read the A Song of Ice and Fire books for the first time, and what was your initial impression?

I’m a newbie! I only read the books for the first time last year. I’ve watched Game of Thrones since it first aired, and I immediately loved it; but I was reluctant to begin a long, potentially endless book series, even though I was curious about it. Then the Red Wedding happened in Season 3—probably one of the most shocking moments in the history of television—and I remember asking myself, “How can this not be a deal-breaker? How can the story continue after such a tragic event? Is there still hope?” So I bought the first three books in a bundle and I devoured them, and then I read the remaining two. I really enjoyed them because, already knowing the structure of the story, I could focus on the characters and take my time to appreciate the smaller details. I found that Martin’s prose is fluid and rich at the same time and the POV narrative structure allowed me to identify with multiple characters at once. Reading ASOIAF also gave me an idea of how much the show deviates from the books after the first season; being a book reader, I have now a deeper understanding of aspects that GOT failed to highlight. 


Lyanna Stark

Who are some of your favourite characters in the series, and is there a scene that is particularly memorable to you?

One of the greatest things about this saga is how incredibly layered the characters are. I think all the POV characters, and even some who don’t have a POV, piqued my interest or moved me at some point. I have a soft spot for well-written character evolution and this is why Sansa and Jaime are two of my absolute favourites. I didn’t care that much for either of them at the beginning (Well, this is an understatement in Jaime’s case, because I genuinely hated him for pushing Bran!), but they both snuck up on me and little by little they won me with their inner monologues and life-shattering experiences that completely changed my perception of them.

I love to be surprised by characters, to be proven wrong. I had a similar experience with Theon’s arc in A Dance with Dragons and with Sandor Clegane. I love characters who have an inner conflict going on in their hearts, who are controversial and broken. It’s fascinating how they subvert the traditional concept of knighthood, ironically being the ones who best embody the struggle to stick to one’s ideals, or to become a better person despite everyone else thinking you’re beyond redemption. This is also why I love Brienne, because she’s the truest, purest knight in a world that denies her the right to be formally considered one.

Beyond that, what can I say? I’m a Stark girl. I love the Stark kids with all my heart, no exception, and I want all of them to survive the series and finally reunite in Winterfell.

Speaking of Brienne, the bear pit scene, when Jaime saves her from the bear, is probably one of my favourite book scenes ever. I am a big Jaime/Brienne fan, but even beyond that, I truly loved to see a morally ambiguous character like Jaime Lannister do something genuinely selfless and heroic for a girl like Brienne, who is the epitome of honesty and decency. I think it’s a scene that really stands out among so much heartbreak, bloodshed and vile betrayals; it gives me hope that everyone, even the most morally compromised character, can contribute positively to the story at some point.


Jaime Lannister

After HBO’s Game of Thrones came out, many readers’ inner pictures of characters and scenes have been replaced by actors and settings from the show. Can you tell us about your own mental images of the characters, and if this has been influenced by the show?

As you might imagine, being a formerly show-only fan, Game of Thrones has heavily influenced my mental images of the characters and the way I depict them. Since my style is semi-realistic, I usually find it more practical to use the HBO actors as references for my works. Besides, there are characters I really can’t separate from their show counterparts, especially Sansa, Tyrion, Ned, Jaime, Dany, Viserys, Varys, Littlefinger. In other cases, my mental image is some kind of hybrid between the actor and the author’s description, like Brienne, Arya, Jon, Asha, Theon, Catelyn to some extent, and a few others. 

In your gallery we can appreciate many artworks in portrait style that use the show actors and show scenes as inspiration, with the recurrent characters being Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). What insight can you share on your motivation for developing these paintings?

It might sound banal, but to me the first, most immediate motivation for making a fan art portrait is the pleasure of drawing the facial features of a character I love, capturing their peculiar expressions, making them as realistic and “alive” as I can. I usually keep the composition relatively simple and minimalistic, so that the focus is all on the character; but I also try to enrich it with symbolic touches that can highlight some aspects of the subject. I pay a lot of attention to the color scheme to begin with, because it immediately sets a mood. I like working with color symbolism, chiaroscuro and light sources, to create a dramatic effect and an evocative atmosphere. Lately I’ve been using some animal symbolism too, which is a recurring theme in art history and traditional portraiture, one that I find particularly fascinating and that can be applied to A Song of Ice and Fire in many interesting ways, since a lot of characters are directly associated with animals or have strong animal symbolism in their storylines.


Sansa Stark “Little Bird”

The Last Greenseer features an abstract and strikingly atmospheric painting of Brandon Stark, the character in Martin’s universe who is most closely associated to the old gods. What inspired the creation of this piece and the painterly style in which you rendered it? 

The idea behind this painting was really simple: I wanted to associate Bran with the animal that most strongly symbolizes his magical powers, the crow. But I wanted to keep a certain ambiguity in the image. The crow is both a brooding presence and a protector; it’s the Three-Eyed Crow, a.k.a. Bloodraven, Bran’s master, but it is also an alter-ego of Bran himself, whose powers are growing stronger and stronger. So I drew a human-sized raven that is almost the prosecution of Bran’s disabled body, as Bran’s greensight and warging powers will, in my opinion, allow him to overcome his physical disability in a way that he doesn’t even fully understand yet. The painterly style also came natural—I drew a quick, raw sketch to set the composition and I decided that I needed to preserve the raw spontaneity of it in the final picture. I was strongly inspired by Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme’s art in the making of this piece.


Bran Stark “The Last Greenseer”

Do you have a favourite art technique? And do you have a preference for experimenting with new techniques and styles or for keeping to your established ones?

I’ve experimented with various techniques, such as charcoal, oil, ink, ballpoint pen; but in the end I keep coming back to those I feel most comfortable with: pencil on paper and digital painting. The former is the technique I’ve always used since I was a kid, so it’s really immediate and natural for me. The latter gives me a range of possibilities (coloring, fixing mistakes, overlays effects, combining different concepts in one image, etc.) that is unprecedented in traditional art and never ceases to thrill me. I think I’ve only began to scrape the surface of this medium’s potential. I also love combining the two media. As for the style, I like experimenting: sometimes I’m in the mood for a refined, realistic, soft style, other times I use sharp brush strokes and violent color contrasts, etc.



Is there an ASOIAF artist whose work you admire? And/or a piece of ASOIAF art that you have as a personal favourite?

At the moment, I’m really in awe with Bubug’s works. She has such a personal style and I love how her artwork reminds of old-school engraving, but with a modern spin that makes me think of Tim Burton. Among the official ASOIAF illustrations, my favorites are Michael Komarck’s Sansa Stark in the godswood at the Eyrie and Ser Jaime Lannister slays Aerys II. I also love Marc Simonetti’s depiction of the Iron Throne: he succeeded in making the throne a monstrosity, some kind of iron dinosaur that is no less intimidating than the skulls of the dead dragons. This is how the Iron Throne should look, definitely.


The Iron Throne by Marc Simonetti

Martin is known for being supportive of fan art, and has been personally involved in the creative decisions of the official ASOIAF art for calendars, books and comics, even supplying descriptions to artists and choosing scenes himself. Have you considered doing books-only fan illustrations, and what would you like to depict?  

I wish! I’m intrigued by Lyanna Stark, I would like to make a portrait of her as the Knight of the Laughing Tree, or in the Tower of Joy. Since I find the dream/prophetic aspect in ASOIAF really fascinating, it would be amazing to illustrate some version of Jaime’s weirwood dream in A Storm of Swords; or Daenerys’s vision of Rhaegar, Elia and baby Aegon in the House of the Undying; or even Sansa “slaying a giant in a castle built of snow.”

I’d also love to draw a scene featuring Brienne and Lady Stoneheart, because I haven’t seen a lot of depictions of their dynamics.

Is there a plotline, whether in the North, the Vale, King’s Landing or Essos that you’re anxious to see resolved in the next book?

I can’t wait to see what Martin has in store for Jaime and Brienne, and if they will escape from Lady Stoneheart’s trap. There’s the possibility that either or both die, and I’m really nervous about that. I’m also anxious to know what happens to Jon Snow, I wonder if he is going to spend a significant portion of his storyline in Ghost’s body, and how will this affect him. But most importantly, after reading the ominous catchphrase “Winter is coming” for five books, I want to know what happens to Westeros now that winter has finally come. Time to reap what you’ve sown, George.

And lastly, can the fandom expect more ASOIAF/GOT art from you in the future?

Definitely! I’m a bit slow, so I’m afraid I don’t produce tons of artwork, but I have several new ideas and a few sketches that demand to be worked on!


Shireen Baratheon