The Stranger’s Kiss art blog is inaugurating today a new art endeavour that’s going to be known as Illustrating Westeros: ASOIAF Artists Speak, consisting of a series of talks with remarkable artists whose works are renowned in the fandom. Being great admirers of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy books and the art it has inspired, we were drawn by the similar interviews project Talks with Tolkien Artists hosted by artist MirachRavaia, who amiably encouraged us to pursue our own version to spread appreciation for art inspired by George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books and HBO’s adaptation Game of Thrones. As with our source of inspiration, our project’s main purpose is to get more widespread recognition for the talent and dedication of those artists professional and hobbyist that have contributed to enriching the still-developing section of ASOIAF non-official artworks. And in addition to that, we also want to encourage future production of quality art pieces by artists that haven’t yet done any, and in greater quantities that would significantly boost the segment of ASOIAF fan art.
In this first edition, we talk with Mathia Arkoniel, a veteran illustrator that 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.
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.
Since posting artworks in an irregular manner has become a commonplace issue, we thought we’d give some basic guidelines so people can share art properly on Tumblr:
These guidelines are meant to serve as reminders on how to proceed with artwork posting. It’s advisable that you follow them, because not doing so has also a detrimental effect on the morale of the fan clients and fan artists, whose only desire is to share art on subjects they’re passionate about. Many talented artists have ceased doing fan art because of the disrespectful attitude of the fanbase, and others are keeping their pieces private and unshared to prevent these unfortunate incidents, which is negative for the wider fandom that would appreciate them. This segment of the ASOIAF fandom is quickly becoming known for the high quality of artworks, and a respectful attitude would be most encouraging to those people whose fan endeavours have been enjoyed by so many at no cost for themselves.
"One of the recognizable features of the authentic masterpiece is its capacity to renew itself, to endure the loss of some kinds of immediate relevance while still answering the most important questions men can ask, including new ones they are just learning how to frame."