Welcome to another edition of Illustrating Westeros, Carrie and Evolvana. To begin, tell us how you became an artist, and the influences that have shaped your style.
CARRIE: Hi, there! I really appreciate being invited for this interview. It’s such an honor!
My love for drawing and painting started way early in life and, of course, way before Photoshop or any digital media took hold. I studied Scientific Illustration in college, where I actually used a real airbrush and cut frisket film. And yes, that’s tedious. Another of my favorite traditional media was scratchboard. I always had a special love for drawing wildlife and especially wolves in scratchboard.
To be honest, though, I put fine art aside for many years to study graphic design, which is what I do by day now. Seeing so many amazingly talented people online using digital media is what got me inspired to pick it back up and learn digital painting. I enjoy it as more of a hobby now, but one which complements my career choice nicely. I basically taught (or am teaching) myself what I know in Photoshop by researching all kinds of online tutorials and using the techniques that work best for the semi-realistic style that I want to achieve. I like to try new techniques from time to time because I never want to assume that I know enough already. One of my favorite resources is Clint Cearley’s book “The 10 Most Common Mistakes in Digital Painting and Their Solutions.” I also love watching his videos. Another of my favorite artists is Charlie Bowater. Her style is what I’d really love to emulate.
EVOLVANA: I’ve been drawing since I was a child, just for pleasure, during my free time or at school whenever I had a little free space left in the margins on my notebooks. I liked to draw little comics, and so I improved year after year. But I really started complicated things when I discovered digital painting. I bought a tablet and enjoyed that way of painting very much. I still prefer drawing linearts with a pencil, but for colors I really prefer the digital way. I think I was influenced by the work of concept artists for various videogames, what they do is impressive.
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?
CARRIE: Thank you! I started reading A Game of Thrones shortly before the HBO adaptation began. I learned of the show being in production and so I wanted to hurry and read it first, maybe a year prior to the show. You know what it’s like being addicted to something? I was so hooked on these books right away. I made myself tired from lack of sleep because I couldn’t put them down.
EVOLVANA: In fact, I started by the first season of the Game of Thrones series. It was just starting to become popular, I heard friends talking about it and then I watched it, and loved it! I could not wait for the second season to be released, and I wanted to avoid spoilers as much as possible, so I decided to read all the books.
Who are some of your favourite characters in the series, and is there a scene that is particularly memorable to you?
CARRIE: It’s hard to name a favorite because they vary by the book. Some plotlines are more gripping than others, and then some become more interesting later. Theon, for example, became the most interesting character for me in ADWD. Because his arc took him from being completely despicable to someone whom you really feel genuinely sorry for, and perhaps are now rooting for. It’s amazing how GRRM made him sympathetic after all that he did. If I have to name a favorite character, though, I would say Tyrion. I know that’s an unoriginal fave, but he’s just so intellectually superior to everyone and I see him as one of the best good guys. It’s great to have a hero who isn’t naïve or too honorable. His scene on the show in Season 4 defending himself in court—you know, that tirade—that’s my most memorable scene so far.
EVOLVANA: Jaime Lannister is my favorite character. It was not the case at first, because he seemed arrogant, and pushed Bran from the top of a tower! But when we start to read the chapters with his own point of view, we finally understand the character a lot better, and he is far more complex then what he looked like. I think he is the character who has the best evolution in the books. There are many scenes that I liked, but the one with Jaime rescuing Brienne from the bear is one of my favorites.
After HBO’s Game of Thrones came out, many readers’ inner pictures of characters and scenes have been replaced by actors and settings from the show. Could you tell us about your own mental images of the characters, and if this has been influenced by the show?
CARRIE: I love the cast of the show. I think they all fit the roles so well and have given wonderful performances to bring them to life. So I have to say when I read the books, I do have the actors images in mind. I can’t help it, being a huge fan of the show. When it comes to painting, though, I just enjoy coming up with the characters and costume design from my imagination. It’s part of the creative process that I find fun.
EVOLVANA: Well, as I first started with Season 1 of the show before reading the books, I did not have that problem for the main characters. But for the characters of the other seasons, I was a bit bothered to see the actors for the Mountain and Daario Naharis changed from one season to the next. But I was glad they did not keep the “Tyroshi” style from the book for Daario (blue hair, strange beard . . .). I was very disappointed by the looks of Theon’s sister, I imagined her very differently. But for the others, most of the time I liked the way they looked!
Sansa and Lady depicts the eldest Stark girl with her direwolf pet, Lady, a sweetly serene scene that presents the bond between them in fine detail. Your ASOIAF gallery also shows an interest in capturing depictions of other direwolves readers know and love. Can you tell us about your impetus to create this piece, and about your affiliation with the direwolves on the whole?
CARRIE: I’ve always felt that wildlife illustration might be a strength of mine, so the direwolves are always a welcome challenge. And I love wolves, period. I also have a special interest in drawing female characters. I hope to have a style that brings out female beauty well. That’s why my gallery is mostly filled with female characters. I should branch out, I know, but I also think it’s good to focus on what you really like!
We are impressed by how you capture the beauty and menace that lies beyond the Wall in your Jon Snow illustration. Can you share some behind-the-scenes insight into the creation of this piece, and why you think it has captivated the imagination of so many ASOIAF fans?
EVOLVANA: Jon Snow was my favorite character from Season 1, so I wanted to draw something about him. I also love undead creatures, so it was natural to draw at least one White Walker as well. I wanted to show the threat that was there, so close just beyond the Wall, the unseen danger. Jon feels that something is not right, and Ghost smells something odd, but they do not see anything. The White Walker is hiding, waiting for the right time to reveal himself. Like the forest, everything in that scene is “frozen”, like the calm before the storm.
Melisandre showcases the fiery R'hllor priestess in all her glory, aptly illustrating the book quote you chose in your description, "Many would call her beautiful. She was not beautiful. She was red, and terrible, and red." Was it a challenge to capture the essence of this very powerful woman, and why do you think she remains such an enigmatic temptation for artists?
CARRIE: It was hard for me to capture her character. I’m mostly happy with the painting from a technical and aesthetic view, but I’m not sure that it’s a complete success as a Melisandre portrait. She might be too young in my painting. One of my challenges is portraying a person’s age and personality well. As my skills improve, I may revisit her sometime! She’s a fascinating character because part of you might want to root for her if you’re on team Stannis, but she’s capable of some of the worst evils! You know her moral compass isn’t right.
The Bear of Harrenhal is a dynamic and thrilling look at the scene where Jaime rescues Brienne in A Storm of Swords. What is it about a bear and a maiden fair that inspired your artistic interest?
EVOLVANA: In general, in ASOIAF the atmosphere is dark, the knights are far from the romantic ones from the tales and legends, and reality is very cruel. But strangely, in the middle of these dark times, that heroic (and quite romantic) scene happens, like a flower blooming in the middle of a battlefield. Brienne is not a beautiful princess, Jaime is handsome but is not perfect either, but still, he comes back to save her, and from then she really starts to trust him and to discover the true Jaime. I love the relationship between these two.
Do you have a favourite art technique? And do you have a preference for experimenting with new techniques and styles or for keeping to your established ones?
CARRIE: I’ve grown so familiar with Photoshop that’s it’s really my tool of choice. I still do sketching by pencil because I find it easiest to get the basic sketches down that way. And yes, I do like to try approaching digital painting in new ways from time to time. Lately, I’ve tried using the technique of working in grayscale first and then adding color later to help with tonal values. I think it’s always important to push yourself to try new ways if you think it will help you. You can always revert to the old ways if that’s better.
EVOLVANA: When I want to make a colored painting, I never do any lineart digitally. I first do a pencil sketch on a piece of paper, for the general composition, and keep it aside as a reminder, and I directly paint in colors with my tablet, because I would feel “imprisoned” by the lineart. Especially when you paint fur, or clouds, it is better not having any lineart.
Is there an ASOIAF artist whose work you admire? And/or a piece of ASOIAF art that you have as a personal favourite?
CARRIE: There are so many fan art pieces out there that blow me away! It would be difficult to name a favorite artist, but some of my favorite pieces are Bran Stark by Teiiku, Sansa Stark by elia-illustration (I love her style!), and this beautiful one of Daenerys by hart-coco
EVOLVANA: The work of MarcSimonetti is quite impressive, I love what he does. But there are a lot of very talented artists who did nice artworks about ASOIAF, including Olivier Frot, who did all the covers for the French pocket edition of A Game of Thrones, you can find his work on deviantart under the nickname krukof2
Are there any particular challenges you find with doing ASOIAF fan art? And have you ever attempted a scene and given it up through the process for some reason?
CARRIE: I tried to sketch the dragons and failed. But sometime I'd like to try again. The anatomy of those creatures is daunting to me. I'll try again sometime. There is certainly lots of amazing dragon art to learn from out there.
EVOLVANA: I did not give up yet on any ASOIAF fan art. I had a different composition in mind for the Daenerys one, involving the desert, her dragon and a sandstorm, but it never really happens in the books, so I decided to make something simpler (the dragon is not as big as this yet, but I hope he will!).
Martin is known for being supportive of fan art, and has been personally involved in the creative decisions of the official ASOIAF art for calendars, books and comics, even supplying descriptions to artists and choosing scenes himself. If you could do one official ASOIAF artwork, what would you like to depict?
CARRIE: I would most likely choose Cersei, just because I think she would be such fun to paint. I love to hate her character, but even so it would be a joy to paint her. I don’t really have a reason for why I haven’t painted her already. She’s on my list.
EVOLVANA: I would definitely like to draw something involving one of Daenerys’ dragons, because I love drawing them so much. And Daenerys is interesting to draw with them too, with her long dress and beautiful hair.
Is there a plotline, whether in the North, the Vale, King’s Landing or Essos that you're anxious to see resolved in the next book?
CARRIE: I’m getting more excited about the Others and wights coming down for war. The TV show has me excited for that actually, since the recent Hardhome episode. The books have become so expansive that it would be nice to see some of the various storylines converge around this issue. Maybe it won’t be the next book, but hopefully more of the characters will at least become aware of it and start planning for the war to end all wars! Dany and her dragons could save Westeros from the undead right? I also am wondering what will Bran’s role be in all of this? We haven’t seen enough of him even in the last book. Is he going to warg into a dragon?
EVOLVANA: Yes, I really want to know what will happen to Jaime and Brienne, and I fear the worst…
And lastly, can the fandom expect more ASOIAF art from you in the future?
CARRIE: Yes! I have plans for Arya and Nymeria.
EVOLVANA: Yes, with the release of a new season of the series, and the next book (soon, I hope), I will have even more scenes to choose from for new fan art!
Thank you for talking to us, Carrie and Evolvana! You can see more of their art at: