From the thrilling TV show to a thriv­ing Fan­tasy Flight Games se­ries and 14-month cal­en­dars by the best in the busi­ness, A Song of Ice and Fire has be­come an in­spir­ing fan­tasy tale for artists

ImagineFX - - Imaginenation Artist Q&a -

To­bias Man­newitz took to cross­ing the street in his lunch break – when­ever he had time for one – and en­ter­ing a ver­i­ta­ble vil­lage of crafts­men forg­ing swords, test­ing cat­a­pults, paint­ing mu­rals and pre­par­ing four huge sets for film­ing.

“Es­sen­tially, all of North­ern Ire­land is the set for Game of Thrones,” says the vis­ual ef­fects con­cept artist. “But at the heart of it is the for­mer wharf build­ing Paint Hall,” lo­cated on Belfast’s re­claimed Queen’s Is­land. “Be­ing able to walk into these sets gives you such a great feel­ing of be­ing in­volved in the process, and our work on the CG pieces greatly ben­e­fited from that,” says To­bias.

While the se­ries lo­ca­tions in­clude Malta and Ice­land, it was his Belfast-in­spired sec­ond sea­son work that won To­bias an Emmy for spe­cial vis­ual ef­fects in 2012. Yet he nearly didn’t work on it at all.

Rest­less af­ter years of gen­er­at­ing con­cept art for games, To­bias was look­ing for a new chal­lenge. In 2011 his Berlin-based stu­dio Karak­ter was told about a po­ten­tial job for a new fan­tasy TV se­ries, and it was, un­der­stand­ably, in­trigued. In fact, hir­ing artists for the new HBO se­ries A Game of Thrones wasn’t go­ing great. “The team had a very dif­fi­cult time re­cruit­ing VFX con­cept artists for the show, be­cause no one knew

Walk­ing into the sets was a great feel­ing and our CG work re­ally ben­e­fited

whether it was any good, or whether it’d be worth spend­ing a full sum­mer in rainy Belfast,” ad­mits To­bias. Then, in­spired by a poster of a trou­bled Ed­dard Stark sat on the Iron Throne, Karak­ter threw its hat into the ring, and got the job.

The source

He’s not the only artist to fall un­der the spell of Ge­orge RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novel se­ries – a fan­tasy epic fu­elled by power-lust and de­ceit with all-too-hu­man char­ac­ters loom­ing large, only to van­ish like breath on a ra­zor blade. Since the 1996 pub­li­ca­tion of the first book A Game of Thrones, artists have been se­duced by its gritty, un­cen­sored ac­tion.

Fan­tasy Flight Games (FFG) re­leased two art books-worth of in­spired art. Six

tow­er­ing fan­tasy artists, in­clud­ing Michael Ko­marck and John Pi­ca­cio, worked on as many cal­en­dars, with Donato Giancola cur­rently fin­ish­ing one for 2015. The im­mi­nent re­lease of the mas­sive en­cy­clopae­dia A World of Ice and Fire is the lat­est in a string of books fea­tur­ing orig­i­nal art, with French il­lus­tra­tor Marc Si­mon­etti leading the charge.

At the heart of it all is Ge­orge RR Martin, al­though he’s keen to tell us that his du­ties as Over­seer Of All Ice and Fire Art aren’t what they used to be. Speak­ing from his Santa Fe, New Mex­ico home, at the desk where he’s penned ev­ery word of the se­ries so far, he ad­mits, “It’s just be­come too much! Re­mem­ber, I’ve been do­ing this for a long time. When I started with Fan­tasy Flight Games, I was very heav­ily in­volved, ap­prov­ing ev­ery paint­ing. In the­ory that’s fine, but then you’re do­ing noth­ing but ap­prov­ing and com­ment­ing on paint­ings. I just do spe­cific char­ac­ters now.”

And what char­ac­ters! Divine, grotesque, chival­ric and ne­far­i­ous – in a genre fond of de­pict­ing moral­ity in terms of black and

It’s like a par­ent choos­ing a favourite child, but I have a lot of af­fec­tion for Tyrion, Arya and Daen­erys

white, Martin likes it when op­po­sites col­lide, cast­ing his gaze over the far more in­ter­est­ing greys. Of course, he has his favourite forms of this com­plex colour. “It’s like a par­ent choos­ing their favourite child, but I’ve got to ad­mit I have a lot of af­fec­tion for Tyrion, I have a lot of af­fec­tion for Arya, and for Dany [Daen­erys]… But I love all my char­ac­ters. Even the ones I kill hor­ri­bly.”

With the con­ti­nent of Ice and Fire art shift­ing and ex­pand­ing apace, the au­thor says he’s be­come more lib­eral in al­low­ing how artists de­pict his beloved off­spring. Speak to any­one who’s had an of­fi­cial com­mis­sion how­ever, and there’s a good chance they’ll re­call a crit from the au­thor on how their work stands next to what’s in his head. It seems that, like some of Ge­orge’s more wily char­ac­ters, old habits die hard.

mak­ing a clas­sic For the HBO Game of Thrones TV se­ries, art di­rec­tor Gemma Jack­son and su­per­vis­ing art di­rec­tor Paul Inglis, had a list of things to con­sider be­fore de­ploy­ing their legion of artists and VFX teams. Re­mark­ably, the ex­pec­ta­tions of mil­lions of fans wasn’t

their first con­cern. “With a nor­mal film, there’s 120 pages of script, and ev­ery­thing you need to dis­cover and work from starts there,” ex­plains Paul. “With Game of Thrones there was so much more to con­sider.”

As ev­ery se­ri­ous artist knows, you start with shapes, not de­tail. Get­ting the phi­los­o­phy of each main part of Ge­orge’s Known World was step one. The pro­duc­ers wanted to avoid us­ing sub­ti­tles to cue view­ers as to which part of the world was be­ing shown. “We used colour, tex­ture, level of dec­o­ra­tion, styles of set dress­ing, weight of ar­chi­tec­ture and choice of land­scape to help de­fine each main area of the world,” says Paul. King’s Land­ing was warm-toned and lav­ish, with a “fe­cund feel,” whereas Es­sos, al­though also warm, was arid. The Dothraki world was based on tem­po­rari­ness – build­ings made from wo­ven ma­te­ri­als and lashed tim­bers. “We made Winterfell solid and squat, with a gran­ite-like de­ter­mi­na­tion,” says Paul. Cas­tle Black was de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, its in­te­ri­ors show­ing the rav­ages of ev­ery as­pect of life spent in­side: “The walls al­most drip­ping with ren­dered fat and tal­low”.

By now rev­el­ling in the change of pace from game art, To­bias started on some

ini­tial sketches of the gi­ants – the lat­est, but cer­tainly not the least, char­ac­ter ad­di­tion to the fourth sea­son. They were worked up by stu­dio team­mate Robert Si­mon, who also cre­ated “a fan­tas­tic range of new crea­ture de­signs that we can’t talk about un­til sea­son four has aired,” To­bias re­veals. “I’m very en­vi­ous of Robert’s char­ac­ter work, that’s all I can say.”

John and Ge­orge Ted Nasmith ad­mits bias in choos­ing his favourite fan­tasy writer. As a teenager he sent a let­ter to JRR Tolkien along with an orig­i­nal Lord of the Rings-in­spired paint­ing. The au­thor’s gen­er­ous feed­back en­cour­aged a pas­sion that had al­ready formed roots in the ver­dant Mid­dle-earth.

Hav­ing since given much of his ca­reer to de­pict­ing Tolkien’s uni­verse, Ted has re­cently moved to Martin’s – par­tic­u­larly paint­ing

He of­fers rich im­agery – cas­tles are huge, un­usual, on moun­tains or sea stacks

the cas­tles scat­tered around the three con­ti­nents of the Known World in the 2011 cal­en­dar. “For an artist he of­fers rich im­agery – the cas­tles are great flights of fancy, im­pos­si­bly huge, un­usual, perched on moun­tains or sea stacks, or next to the mas­sive ice wall,” he says.

Al­though it’s more than the mid­dle two ini­tials that link Ge­orge Ray­mond Richard Martin with John Ron­ald Reuel Tolkien, the sim­i­lar­i­ties can be over­stated. “It’s known that Martin was a reader of The Lord of the Rings, but to his credit, he avoided try­ing to im­i­tate Tolkien.”

Dance with Drag­ons A Song of Ice and Fire book cover artist Marc Si­mon­etti shows us a scene to come! Mance ray­der’s camp To­bias and team paint The King-Be­yondthe-Wall’s makeshift strong­hold for sea­son three of the TV se­ries.

walk of shame In this paint­ing from Marc’s 2013 cal­en­dar, Cer­sei seeks atone­ment.

King’s Land­ing Kim­ber­ley Pope of­fers an aerial view of King’s Land­ing, the cap­i­tal of the Seven King­doms and the site of the Iron Throne.

Arya Star Artist John Pi­ca­cio: “I cre­ated this art­work shortly af­ter my daugh­ter was born, hop­ing that she would pos­sess some of Arya’s spunk – and she sure does!”

Throne room To­bias painted im­ages for the des­o­late Har­ren­hal cas­tle, the largest in all Wes­teros. Al­though it’s seen bet­ter days…

steam­ing in Woe be­tide any­one who gets

their 1850s steam boats con­fused in the vicin­ity of

Ge­orge RR Martin.

Born sur­vivor Michael Ko­marck brings his ex­quis­ite de­tail in light and shade, and to the most com­plex char­ac­ter, Tyrion Lan­nis­ter.

A witch’s spell

Donato Giancola painted Melisan­dre, the Red Priest­ess, 12 years ago, but re­cently came back to Martin’s world.

The map room Kim­ber­ley Pope’s fi­nal con­cept piece can be seen here in her paint­ing of Stan­nis’s hide­out on the is­land of Dragon­stone.

Map of the world

Added di­men­sion

Work­ing from hand-drawn maps, Kim­ber­ley de­signs the main fea­ture of

Stan­nis Baratheon’s map room. Left, Michael worked on sev­eral maps of the con­ti­nent Wes­teros, where most of the ac­tion takes place.

In the House of Dust Fans of the books may recog­nise Marc’s de­pic­tion of war­locks in this book cover paint­ing.

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