One of my favorite fandom artists goes by the moniker ChillyRavenArt. During the height of anticipation for Season 8 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and after the publication of George R.R. Martin’s imaginary history of the Targaryens: Fire and Blood, her artistic renderings supported Targaryen fans’ imaginative speculations about our favorites.
With the same goals in mind, more than one author of a fic on Archive of our Own has commissioned her work.
Fanfiction’s Archive of Our Own deservedly won a HUGO award in 2019 for Best Related Work, and I’ve written before about the gifted writers to be found there, but I want to turn our attention to fan art and illustration. Without it, loyal book and film fans would be so much poorer in spirit and community.
Dreams Imagined and Fulfilled
Members of fandoms have long participated in the narratives of favorite stories whether by honoring favorite characters through cosplay or by creatively envisioning different endings to popular stories. Usually, fans place their own interpretation into a character and/or narrative. Literary theorists call this Reader Response Theory and, in short, it means that the text is not complete until someone reads it. We all bring our own lived experiences to stories we read, watch, and/or hear.
Fan artists are no exception to this instinct to interpret and respond to stories, and they help build community among fandoms by being part of participatory, creative communities, and by helping to envision alternative versions of those same stories. This is a fulfilling form of imaginative play for fans, many of whom are artists, writers, and performers. ChillyRavenArt’s commission requests also provide insight into the love and admiration fans have for their favorite characters.
Many of ChillyRavenArt’s commissioners find her on DeviantArt, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Reddit. Because of this, she is a talented contributor to several fandom communities, most notably the A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones fandom, The Lord of the Rings fandom, The Witcher, and others .
In the spirit of creative, alternative interpretations, she provides literary commentary with her work such as her recent piece with an accompanying reflection on the trope of the Evil Prince and the Innocent Maiden. “One of my favorite things about RxL (Rhaegar and Lyanna) is the subversion of the “evil knight/prince kidnapping the innocent maiden” trope so I name this piece The Dragon Prince and the Knight.
ChillyRavenArt also creates pieces that appreciate the fashionable style of many fantasy characters.
Interview With ChillyRavenArt
I recently reached out to ChillyRavenArt, whose first name is Yasmin, to find out more about her work.
How long have you been an artist, and what led to your interest in art for fantasy and mythology?
I’ve been drawing on and off for most of my life, but school/university got in the way and I was only able to fully resume about 4 years ago. As a child, I was fascinated by ancient Egyptian and Greek mythology, and I consumed a lot of visual and literary media based on those subjects. Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings consumed my childhood and teen years, introducing me to the fantasy genre. In 2013, I became immersed in ASOIAF and started doodling soon after!
Was there a particular character or story that first inspired you to draw?
I would draw a lot of Harry Potter art when I was younger, as well as characters from various other favourite books. I loved characters and stories from fantasy, horror, and supernatural genres because they really piqued my curiosity, and I would spend hours designing and drawing my own versions as a child.
With ASOIAF it was definitely Rhaegar Targaryen who sparked my interest, who was arguably the main reason I took up drawing again. I was so taken by his enigmatic and melancholy character, as well as his relationship with Lyanna Stark. Daenerys, Jon and Arya were also massive favourites, their narratives and character arcs were the most intriguing for me.
After reading ASOIAF, I found myself eager for more and read the novellas (A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, The Rogue Prince, The Princess and the Queen etc) which showcased the politics and drama in Westeros but with the added bonus of dragons! I was hooked. Then Fire and Blood was released and I fell headfirst into all things House Targaryen and those beautiful dragonlords just took over my life. In more recent years, I’ve been obsessed with The Silmarillion which has fed my insatiable thirst for pretty elves and heartbreaking character arcs.
What is the background and meaning of your moniker ChillyRavenArt?
It’s rather banal and not very exciting at all but I combined elements of ASOIAF, the gothic genre (shoutout to Edgar Allan Poe) and the multiple meanings behind the word chilly: cold and spicy- which is me in a nutshell!
What mediums (watercolor, pencil, digital art) of visual art do you prefer and do you utilize other artistic mediums that you do not post online? (such as oil painting, sculpture, pottery etc.)
I mainly draw digitally because it gives me a lot of leeway and editing options, as well as colouring, proportioning and it saves me from buying art supplies. I do however indulge in oil and acrylic painting when I get the chance, but I mainly draw other subjects; architecture, still life etc.
How would you describe your artistic style?
It’s very slapdash. I try to incorporate a lot onto my drawing style, often inspired by other artworks and images. I’d say it’s mainly digital lineart with some elements of realism. I started off drawing with an attempt at hyper-realistic rendering which followed a traditional “painterly” style, but that was very time consuming, so I taught myself to draw lineart instead.
Who are some of your favorite fandom artists?
There are so many talented artists in the ASOIAF fandom. @riotarttherite, @denismaznev.art, @cosmiart, @tosquinha, @sam_artworks, @naomimakesart and Rae Lavergne are all ASOIAF artists I have come across regularly. I also love other fandom artists such as Abigail Larson, Elena Tormen, Morgan Rogers (@silmaspenns), Ana (@maedictus on IG), @snguine (IG), Even Amundsen and Stephanie Pepper, as well as many others! Morgan and Ana are brilliant LoTR artists who have drawn extensive art based on The Silmarillion and inspire me so much. I love the attention to detail in their art, especially composition, anatomy, clothing and original designs which always inspire me too. I’ve also learnt a lot about composition and anatomy through studying other artists.
Some of my favourite official ASOIAF artists are Chase Stone, Magali Villeneuve, Marc Simonetti, Gary Gianni and Sam Hogg. I fell in love with their work for The World of Ice and Fire as well as the ASOIAF calendars and the sheer scale of the scenes, the detail, the technical skill and the way they portray the immensity of the specific scene just blows me away.
Who are some of your favorite artists who work in other genres (children’s books, comics, sculpture, painting)?
I’ve always loved classical artists such as JS Sargent, JW Waterhouse, Edmund Blair Leighton, Rubens and Paul Delaroche and Jean Leon Gerome. They all share certain similarities with one another, especially their portrayal of medievalism, romanticism, the occult, the “orient” and their attention to detail with clothing, anatomical poses, colours and designs. Illustrators I really admire are Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Chris Riddell and Posy Simmonds. Their art reminds me of the old-school nostalgic drawings I grew up admiring.
I also love online artists such as Abigail Larson, Elena Tormen, Morgan Rogers (@silmaspenns), Ana (@maedictus on IG), @snguine (IG), Even Amundsen and Stephanie Pepper (non-ASOIAF but artists whose technical skill I really admire) as well as so many others! They all range from traditional to digital art and inspire me so much.
Do you help others with their goals for artistic and creative work? For ex: Do you teach workshops or do you attend them? If so, what are some examples? or what are some creative events that you enjoy?
I haven’t taught or attended any workshops, but I do get the occasional family member or friend/acquaintance ask me for tips and advice on drawing or pursuing art etc. I’ve also been asked for advice from people who enjoy my art online and have always been happy to share some of my methods and processes – even though I’m very much a novice myself!
What are some terms that fandom artists use that most people might not know (such as professional terms, terms about craft, slang, etc.)
I’m the worst person to ask about slang and vernacular/phraseology mainly because I’m still learning and unfamiliar with a lot of it myself. WIP (work in progress), OCs (original characters) and artblock are some words that are commonly used! I’m not that well versed on professional terminology because I am self-taught and did not receive instruction in artistic vernacular.
Do companies, conventions, and fans commission you and other fandom artists for their events? What are suggestions you have for commissioning your work and that of other artists?
Yes I’ve been very fortunate to have been commissioned by the fandom, other artists and people who enjoy my work. I’ve also been commissioned by writers working on their own novels/characters who have asked me to bring their creations to life which has been a huge honour. I always appreciate it when I’m given plenty of time and artistic freedom to draw, it’s the best way to ensure original and inspiring content.
What are some ways you have connected with fans of books and shows? Describe some experiences.
I’ve been able to connect vastly through social media and of course, art itself! I’ve met and been inspired by so many people who share the same passions and interests, and it’s really motivated me to improve my own style and draw things I wouldn’t normally draw. It’s just a huge morale booster. It is also very fulfilling to receive positive feedback and this has led to a lot of discussion and dialogue with other fans.
When Fire and Blood was released in November 2018, George R.R Martin proclaimed November to be Targaryen Month and since then, myself and a number of Targaryen fans have upheld the tradition of drawing scenes from Fire and Blood as well as other Targaryen related content. It’s really brought the fans together and is now an annual event across Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram, and one I look forward to every year!
We’ve briefly discussed the international dimension of the Targaryen fandom. Can you expand more on these themes? In what way are these connections necessary for understanding favorite characters and parts or all of the fandom community?
The Targaryen fandom is very diverse, and it appeals to people from all over the world. In my personal experience, the vast majority of Targaryen fans who interact with me and my art on social media tend to be PoC and female. I see a lot of fans sharing an affinity and complex understanding of characters like Daenerys Targaryen who speak to the social and psychological struggles and experiences of so many fans.
The Targaryens are seen as aliens and outsiders, their cultural practises and way of life as well as their connection to dragons are unconventional and foreign in the Westerosi landscape. Similarly, Daenerys is a young girl without a home or a family, a survivor and a fighter, someone with compassion, soul and determination who has endured the worst things life has thrown at her whilst retaining her humanity despite having flaws and making mistakes. That definitely appeals to a huge portion of the demographic who love her because her story is arguably their story.
I’ve always loved how diverse the Targaryen fandom is because of our personal stories and experiences. It’s no surprise that fans from different parts of the world or from ethnic backgrounds can relate to that so much. We also have a lot of literature and information on House Targaryen (thank you George): there are elements of magic, the occult, romance, villainy, betrayal and feats of excellence and bravery. Characters like Rhaegar, Daemon, Rhaenyra and Aegon V really draw fans in too for various reasons; they’re complex and nuanced and have different layers of intrigue built around them.
Characters like Rhaenyra and Dany really appeal to fans because they shine a light on the inherent misogyny deeply rooted within our history as well as our present. House Targaryen really encompasses the morally grey, questionable and human aspect of real life so well and as fans we are able to relate to the nuance and the problematic aspects of these characters. Real life is never always about righteous convictions and noble causes, as much as we’d like it to be.
Do you create your own characters or is this something you might do in the future?
Not yet, but I absolutely intend to! I have some ideas in the works, and I hope to execute them some time this year!
What advice do you have for others who want to become involved in developing and participating in creating fandom art?
Simply this: it’s so easy to want to conform and please others when it comes to drawing subjects, but it’s SO important to draw what you love because firstly, you’ll enjoy it more and secondly, the passion always shines through. I started off drawing art based on Game of Thrones, but it was only when I started drawing Targaryens that my art really gained traction.
I would also advise others to practise regularly, but do not be cowed by other artists’ levels of complexity or skill. We have all got to start somewhere and none of us were prolific artists when we began. Trust the process and trust your work. Make it a source of joy and escapism, make it something you enjoy doing without it feeling like a chore.
The practice of art as a means of building community emerged out of the idea of cultural democracy after WWII and the free expression of ideas. ChillyRavenArt’s work is engaging and inspiring because of her talent as an artist, but she also makes a valuable contribution to fandom communities by engaging with fans’ imaginative interpretations of mythical, fantastical stories.
Images courtesy of ChillyRavenArt
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