Tuesday, July 19, 2011

2012 ASoIaF Calendar Release Day

Today’s a big day. The 2012 A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE Calendar releases across North America, courtesy of Bantam. I created all twelve months’ worth of artwork. When Bantam hired me, they said they wanted my vision of George’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE books. Meanwhile, HBO was creating a TV series based on the books, and production had begun. I made a conscious effort to not look at what they were doing, so I could keep my vision independent. George himself felt strongly that these Bantam calendars should reflect the artist’s vision of his books, and should be their own entity, completely separate from the TV series. I’m grateful for that.

All of my artworks in this calendar are a hybrid of traditional pencil drawing and traditional paint, digitally composited together. I love drawing with pencils on a piece of good Strathmore illustration board. Working up those original underdrawings, through the buildups of color, and on to the final layerings, was a labor of love.

I lived in Westeros for many months while doing this work. It was one of the greatest trips of my life, to date. I learned a lot. I would return again in a heartbeat. Thanks to the family members and friends who were my reference models and helped me channel my visions into better drawings and paintings.

Today’s a day to celebrate. Feast your eyes on all twelve calendar images below – revealed for the first time -- along with my brief thoughts about inspirations, insights, and makings. Enjoy!

Bran Stark (January)

I love when I see artists illustrate an unwritten moment in a story, or an unspoken beat between sentences. For this artwork, Bran Stark is completely at peace, at the blind side of the First Keep, high above Winterfell.

Jon Snow and Ghost (February)

It's hard to say which one I enjoyed drawing more -- Jon Snow or Ghost. They're two of my very favorites in the series. Night’s Watch black, albino direwolf, and powder white snow – those elements never fail to reward simple picture-making.

Daenerys Targaryen (March)

The key challenge to drawing Dany is combining naivete and compassion with pride and strength. That’s a fine line to balance. For me, one of her most resonant scenes is what happens at the city of Yunkai.


Robb Stark (April)

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is one of my all-time favorite films. I love the way David Lean could make a closeup feel both intimate and epic at the same time. I thought about that a lot when I was drawing this picture.


Arya Stark (May)

“Stick ‘em with the pointy end!” My daughter, Samantha Kate, was born during the making of this calendar. Her feistiness was my inspiration while drawing Arya. This one is dedicated to my 1-year-old little beastie, and to all fierce daughters everywhere.

Tyrion Lannister (June)

Tyrion’s my other favorite besides Jon Snow and Ghost. When I turned in my rough sketches, George noted that Tyrion’s beard and long hair were missing. He reminded that, by the time of the Battle of the Blackwater, Tyrion has not only grown out a scraggly beard, but has shaggy hair. Strangely, my reading had never pictured him that way, but it was true. Once I revised that, the important thing to me was conveying the inner Tyrion, not just his outer form. Tywin Lannister may not believe him a lion of Lannister, but I do.

Melisandre (July)

A tip of the hat to Gustav Klimt and Robert McGinnis -- two very different painters, but I’ve always admired the way both of them paint women. Those paintings have timeless soul and power. I wasn’t interested in this picture looking like their work, but that strength of character was an aspiration.

Jaime Lannister (August)

The zodiac symbol for Leos is the lion. I couldn’t resist featuring a Lannister for this month. If you search the books for specific passages featuring Jaime in battle, there aren’t many. And yet, in our mind’s eye, we always know what a brash and fearsome warrior he is. If I was Eddard Karstark or Daryn Hornwood at the battle of Riverrun, I imagine this is what they saw.


The Mountain vs. The Red Viper (September)

Once I had assembled my initial grocery list of characters and ideas, George then contributed his own small wish list. The Mountain vs. the Red Viper was one of several good calls on his part. Thanks, George.

Sansa Stark and The Hound (October)

Beauty and the Beast! This one is for all of the fans who are passionate about these two. The Battle of the Blackwater is raging outside, and with the strange light of those wildfires, and this ghoulish face, what better time to feature the Hound than a season of fall leaves and Halloween?

The Others (November)

Not many artists have tackled the Others yet. Some versions tend to depict them almost like Tolkien’s Ringwraiths, which never matched the images George’s words conjured in my head. Instead I saw them as more ghostly and ethereal. I knew I was on the right track when George asked the comic book artist for GAME OF THRONES to seek out my version for inspiration.

Eddard Stark (December)

Winter is coming. ‘Nuff said.

George and I will be appearing all weekend at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. We'll be appearing at AA21 from 3p-5p on Friday. Calendars will be available at my booth #4600 all weekend, as well as Random House's booth #1515. All ASoIaF and Game of Thrones fans should stop by and visit.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing job!! Congrats on your stunning pictures! So much here to absorb....exquisite. Can't wait to meet u this weekend :) Where will be the best place to have you and GRRM sign the calendar at the same time at CC? thanks for your amazing work!

3:09 AM  
Blogger Lori Ono said...

I love this calendar. I appreciate your taking the time to explain your image choices for each month. It's always extremely interesting to learn what choices an artist makes when doing work.

Thanks!

4:03 AM  
Blogger Hackett said...

Love it!

7:12 AM  
Blogger Carl V. said...

Really great stuff John, and I appreciate the description of how you created them. I'm not an artist myself, but am always interested in the process and materials artists use to create their works. This has obviously been a labor of love for you and I am thrilled for you getting the chance to do it. I hope it sells like gangbusters.

10:13 AM  
Blogger Adrian Johnson said...

Wow, John! Just wow!
That's a hell of a treat to see all the images in full.

You grabbed the brass ring and then took a few victory laps with it.

2:49 PM  
Blogger SA_Avenger said...

gorgeous but I have to say Robb is my fave. Totally expressive and somehow close to R. Madden. Great work :)

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Gloria Oliver said...

These are totally awesome! Gotta send the link to my daughter. She loves the books and I'm sure she'll love your renditions.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Rothgo said...

One can only imagine the reaction were you to have printed the above into the calander itself John!

Granted, printed at the back, as you wouldn't want to color the viewer's mind before they had the oppertunity to reacted to it in an open way.

5:21 AM  
Blogger Kathy Empson said...

I love the image of Sansa and the Hound so much! Terrific that you did them together.

9:11 AM  
Anonymous dasNdanger said...

Wow. Just beautiful! So very well done. The detail, the expressions...the color...all so amazing! Now I'm mad that I have yet to read any GRRM. :P

9:56 AM  
Anonymous A. Mirg said...

I think you've captured each character perfectly, they're almost exactly how I envisioned them. Now they're totally living in my imagination thanks to your gorgeous vision. I am ordering this right now.

10:28 PM  
Blogger John Picacio said...

Hi, folks -- Sorry for the belated reply. Was in the middle of San Diego Comic Con chaos when your replies came in. Hugely appreciate the shoutouts and kind words! Thanks so much. Means the world to hear that these images connect with you.

1:25 AM  

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