Hugo-nonimated artist John Picacio has been leaking glimpses of his artwork for the 2012 A Song of Ice and Fire calendar on his blog. I asked John what surprised him most about working the calendar and what its challenges were.
John Picacio: There have been a ton of artists that preceded me, creating art inspired by these texts. Despite that, it was great to find that there was still so much fertile art territory that hadn’t yet been explored. That was the best surprise, and that made the job even more exciting, if that was even possible. George and Bantam gave me free rein to make my choices of what people and moments I wanted to illustrate. I wanted to do my own takes on Jon Snow, Arya, Bran, Tyrion, Ned, Jaime, and Daenerys, to name a few, without being redundant to what had been done before. The books are so rich that finding my own angles was more fun and less work, in most cases. George and Bantam had the final approval, of course, but they gave me the greenlight for everything I wanted to do. George suggested a few of his favorites that hadn’t been previously explored, and I gladly took on those. I took away a couple of mine, and substituted a few of his.
What makes these books so great as a reader is you take them personally and the characters become a part of you. They did for me. I wanted to convey the emotional nuances of the characters because those are the aspects that affect me so deeply when reading these as a fan. I think my 2012 calendar work goes in a different, more character-driven, emotional direction in contrast to the 2011 calendar, which is a set of stunning paintings of castles and architecture by Ted Naismith. There are moments in my calendar art where I took a page from N.C. Wyeth, and illustrated the unwritten beat before a moment, or after it,but not necessarily the expressly-written text. I think the fans are going to see where I did that.
While I was working on the calendar, the HBO series was in production and making casting choices. I did my best to not look at what they were doing because Bantam had hired me to create visions inspired by George’s novels, not based on the HBO series. I’m grateful for that. It’ll be fun to now compare and contrast the choices I made vs. what’s come before vs. the HBO series. My art is independent of the show, and stands as its own entity, but when the calendar releases in mid-July, it’ll merge into the all-inclusive, nonstop conversation of Westeros, and I’m looking forward to that.
I would’ve loved to have worked on the calendar all by itself with no other jobs or deadlines happening during its making. Life says otherwise sometimes. I had a number of cover commitments already in hand, when the calendar job came knocking. Big, multi-illustration jobs like this calendar, or like the Elric books with all of the interiors, are marathon runs. Doing a single-illustration for a cover is more like running a sprint. The two require completely different mentalities.
I learned a ton while doing all of this. In future, I would definitely do everything possible to not mix too many sprints at the same time, with a giant marathon job. I proved that I could do it though. That’s the most important thing. It feels good knowing I was able to survive, thrive and meet the multiple challenges, even if it practically killed me.
The calendar will be available July 19th. In the meantime, you can keep an eye on John’s blog and hope that he releases a few more sneak previews.