Nailing the throne
Marc explains how he drew George RR Martin’s initially very elusive but now very famous Iron Throne for Game of Thrones
For me the Iron Throne was one of the major fantasy icons that hadn’t been nailed. I had the idea of a correct shape, but it still didn’t work well with George. What made it work was the moment I decided to paint its whole environment first. In the books there are very few descriptions of the throne room. All we know is that it’s in the Red Keep, and that there were a lot of dragon skulls in it. So making a huge, beautiful, symmetrical place very impressive but very regular and boring in its shapes, made the ugly and twisted Iron Throne work. Both of the elements were inspired by San Pietro in the Vatican. But one was clearly majestic and regal, while the other one was clearly evil. This is just a composition tool that made the design of the throne work. It was a big, big lesson for me.
art director can really help make a great illustration.”
Marc rents a small flat above his apartment, which he uses as a workspace. He sits at a big desk – two screens, Cintiq 27QHD graphics tablet – and works mainly in Photoshop. He also uses Modo, ZBrush, 3D-Coat and Cinema 4D. An average illustration project takes him between two and five days to complete.
“My only routine,” he says, “is to work every day, the whole day, whether I have a lot of work or none at all. To be training or working constantly makes the progression, and to get better every day is vital. A perfect workday is the day I can finally finish a picture that I love, then begin a new project that I’m very excited about.”
Marc is currently working on two projects that offer the kind of creative freedom he enjoys most. He’s drawing interior illustrations and cover art for the Shannara trilogy by Terry Brooks and Frank Herbert’s Dune Messiah. He always reads the book he’s illustrating – not all artists do. He also does a lot of extra research to ensure these illustrations are accurate.
As a working artist, his goal is always to please the client. But until the image is finished, he doesn’t think about anyone but himself. Whether working freely or within a more strict commission, Marc says that what comes out on the page is always a product of what’s already inside him.
“There’s more freedom illustrating a small sci-fi novel: I just have to be faithful to the text and make a beautiful picture to sell the book. When I do concept art for games or movies, my goal isn’t to make a final product. It’s all about solving problems: how the mood should be, how to design some props, how some parts could work. So I have to be faithful with the visual identity of the game or movie. I’m just a small part of a team, so all my assets have to be clean and crystal clear to make them usable in 3D later on.
“I like constructive criticism, but I don’t know how to handle compliments. I’m perfectly okay with people expressing themselves. Not everyone has to like my stuff. But you can take any of my illustrations, keep the same composition, lighting and colours, but change the setting – say, from fantasy to steampunk – and it will still work. I try to adapt myself to each book and each theme, but I can only work with my own personality, my own feelings, my own choices.”
My only routine is to work every day, all day, whether I have work or none at all
iron throne Now the most famous chair in fiction, it took Marc Simonetti over 50 iterations to gain George RR Martin’s approval.
This is a fake cover art for American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Marc tried to do something different, more personal too. Marc’s moody, atmospheric piece for 2014 dark fantasy calendar published by Le Pré aux Clercs. The cover for Estelle Faye’s novel Les Seigneurs de Bohen features Marc’s spellbinding representation of the story. This piece for Le Pré aux Clercs’ dark fantasy calendar shows Marc’s talents for scale and space. Am erican Gods Les Seigneurs de Bohen Th e Doors Th e Red Process ion