This self-promotional piece was created to mark the launch of Game of Thrones, season 7. The aim was to create a montage image, giving a sense of events coming together, as the series builds to its grand finale.
I begin most artwork by doodling thumbnail sketches to explore compositions, and jotting down notes about things I want to include. These are pretty unintelligible to anyone but me I expect!
I then make some more detailed pencil roughs until I arrive at a composition I'm happy with. Things are still pretty scrappy at this point, as I'm more concerned with layout than drawing.
I work up the composition sketch to a full size drawing - this one was about A2 size. I still keep things loose, as this is just the basis for a final charcoal drawing, so I don't want to tie things down too much at this stage.
I begin to work into the drawing, laying down some tonal washes in ink and working over them in charcoal and pencil. I use compressed charcoal and wax pencil for the deep blacks. Sometimes I'll complete the entire piece in this way, with only minor digital retouching at the end. In this case though, this is about as far as I went with the basic drawing.
The next step was to create the additional elements which I would be combining digitally in Photoshop. These ranged from drips, splats and brushstrokes, to some more controlled elements like the throne of swords and the silhouette of Daenerys.
The final element was Daenerys' face. I painted various quick, stylised portraits of Daenerys using brush and ink, until I arrived at one I was happy with.
Finally, I combined all of these elements in Photoshop, gradually building up the image while also adding colour and tweaking parts of the drawing I wasn't happy with. (If you compare Jon Snow's face, bottom left, with the original charcoal drawing, you'll see it's changed quite a lot!)
I really like this combination of working traditionally and digitally. There are certain marks, textures and happy accidents that happen with traditional media that you just can't replicate on a computer (especially with a messy medium like charcoal.) But the power to digitally combine elements, control colour and fix areas of drawing, gives you tremendous freedom to experiment without having to worry that you'll mess the whole thing up. I'd have been pretty nervous putting some of those drips and splats onto a finished drawing, but digitally, you can put just the right drip in just the right place.