12/31 – Jon Snow

12/31 – Jon Snow

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You knew he was coming, of course!

I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire (which I insist on calling it even though GoT has long become a staple of mainstream culture) in 2003, and somehow had the incredible luck to latch on to one of the few characters who, by now, have neither died (permanently) nor raped anyone, which is a frigging accomplishment for that series.

The funny thing is that, while everybody talks about the deaths and the violence and the rapes and the new genre “Grimdark” which ASoIaF/GoT helped define, these things didn’t really occur to me back then. Of course, it becomes clear very early on that this book series was not like your average Fantasy series (“The things I do for love!”), but the violence and dying seemed to me coincidental, not genre-defining. The art I did for the books in those early years reflects that, as did a lot of other artwork by others done pre-HBO.

I never subscribed to the whole “Grimdark” idea. I remember very clearly that doing dark and grim stuff was slowly becoming the norm around the early 2000s. It was as if artists were trying to set themselves apart from the naive RPG art that had been the thing in the 1990s. Around the same time I drew these ASoIaF works, which was also the heyday of artist forums (ah! ColorMeCynical, ConceptArt and Epilogue!), I actually got a serious critique from someone who’s now pretty big in the industry that while my style was quite good, it wasn’t fu**ed up enough. Even I took that seriously enough to defend myself, and then even went on to try and prove how fu**ed up I my drawings could get. (The results were, you guessed it, really, really pathetic.)

Today, “Grimdark” is totally established. I like to look at it though I’ve accepted I can’t do it. And for some reason, that makes it easier, not harder, for me to follow that subversive little current of the whimsical. I haven’t had to defend my lack of fu**ed-upness in years, and that’s nice.

But maybe I’m just getting older.

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