Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hand it to George R.R. Martin

By Donato

Amber Prison    1996     Donato Giancola
Ever since tackling my first commission for Wizards of the Coast by painting a hand as the dominant design element, I have reveled in the chance to create art around the human hand.  I find the hand to be as expressive as the face, displaying as much emotion, history, and character all without the problems which come with rendering a face!  Not to say it is easy to work out the other anatomical issues with hands...but hands have come easily for me ever since studying how historical artists successfully interpreted them while I attended Syracuse University.  Other artists may shun the hands, I run eagerly to them!

I am grateful to Wizards of the Coast for providing the chance to explore my passion and develop my craft with hands.  In my earlier years on Magic I came to be known as a go to artist for artifact cards with the art directors, knowing that I would likely include a hand within the composition. This is one of those instances when it was a pleasure to be pigeon holed!

Sisay's Ring    1996    Donato Giancola
Sword of Kaldra     2001   Donato Giancola

Unfortunately outside of Magic not many other opportunities presented themselves within the illustration marketplace where such a prominent display of hands was warranted.  I pushed what boundaries I could, sliding in a clasping set of Human and Neanderthal hands on Robert Sawyer's novels Humans and Hybrids.  But I had to be content with attaching hands to bodies which then attached to faces, carrying out the prevailing theme for much cover art these past decades - the portrait.

This all changed last year.

With a new commission undertaken to illustrate the 2015 Calendar for George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, I knew that at least one of these works had to be that of hands!  I pitched ideas to Dave Stevenson, Anne Groell and George Martin, and was thrilled when the green light was given for The Road to King's Landing.  For those of you not familiar with the story, this image is not an exact depiction of the battle between Jamie Lannister and Brienne of Tarth.  Rather it is a play on the title to the second novel, A Storm of Swords, and is representational of the implied violence, close conflict, and chaos exhibited in medieval warfare.  The illustration of hands here allows the display of the uniqueness of an individual without the viewer getting bound up in focusing on the likeness portrait of the character - these could be the hands of the actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who plays Jamie in the HBO series A Game of Thrones or they may not.  It does not matter.  The point here is that they represent one of the greatest swordsman of Westeros just before he looses his right hand (his sword hand!)

So thank you Random House and George R.R. Martin for the chance to share with you, and your fans, my passion for the human body and strengthening my resolve to pursue this direction in my art.
It is time to re-embrace this theme as a dominant element, and I look forward to the images it will inspire!

The Road to King's Landing    2013     Donato Giancola     Collection of George R.R. Martin
Rough Drawings for the 2015 Calendar      Donato Giancola
Preliminary Drawing   The Road to King's Landing    2013   Donato Giancola


7 comments:

  1. Amazing! I think this illustration conveys that moment and the entire book A Storm of Swords perfectly. So much story and emotion told with those hands. Now I definitely need this calendar in my life. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I also love hands. Thank you for sharing this beautiful painting with us.

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  3. I love your work. It is absolutely stunning.

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  4. I cannot express how absolutely fantastic this is , Donato. An incredibly difficult and brave approach to convince any AD to go with, but so perfect and effective. There's so much character in these gestures and the light... I just love it.

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  5. Gorgeous innovative composition Donato! I love those grimy finger nails.

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