Game of Thrones author reveals his favourite art

George R R Martin on his love of fantasy book cover art, and his single motivation for finishing the book series.

George R R Martin talks about his favourite art

Artist John Picacio has made his name creating art for book covers, and this one of Arya Stark is one of his favourites

With the Game of Thrones TV series snapping at the heels of the books, one sure-fire way of pissing George R R Martin off is to ask him when the next book will be released. (The latest news is that The Winds of Winter will be come out before the sixth series of Game of Thrones in 2016. Handy, as that season will be covering material from the book.)

What Martin is more than happy talking about, however, is the wealth of art who've been inspired by his world of Ice and Fire – much of it commissioned by him.

Creative Bloq caught up with the author and talked about the art that first drew him to books, the benefits of obscure steamboats, and why he loves, "all the characters. Even the ones I kill horribly."

You were inspired by the books of Asimov and HP Lovecraft as a child, but when did art make an impact on you?

There wasn't a lot of art around other than cover art -– this is from my childhood, so we're talking from the 1950s.

There was two primary forms of packaging for sci-fi and fantasy in those days: Richard Powers covers, which were very surreal, abstract things with floating shapes and twisted elements. Then there was the more illustrative work by Ed Emshwiller and Frank Kelly Freas.

George R R Martin talks about his favourite art

Richard Powers made his name in the 1950s with his surreal book cover art

They were both great in their own way. I have an original Powers in my collection, and several Emshwillers and a Freas, but certainly as a kid I preferred the Freas/Emsh approach where you were actually seeing spaceships and aliens, than the more abstract art look.

I really didn't start getting into the sci-fi art per se until I started going to the conventions in the early 70s – the first was 1971.

George R R Martin talks about his favourite art

Frank Kelly Freas created more illustrative book covers, including this one that was reused by a certain rock band called Queen

And of course then they had the art show, where you could go in and see a lot of the originals without the typography, and a lot of artists in those days would put their original paintings in there alongside some aspiring artists and amateurs and the work was available, looking back now, for ridiculously low prices.

I wish I had any money back then to buy them, but I didn't.

Ice and Fire seems linked to a medieval time. Do you like the art of that period?

Medieval-period art is a little too crude for my tastes. I mean, these days, it looks very stylised. In terms of classic art I respond more to the later period – the Dutch masters and the Flemish masters, and the Pre-Raphaelites.

I went to a show about the Pre-Raphaelites that was going around the US in 2013 and it was amazing – all of that lush, romantic stuff, and a lot of it drawing on Romantic themes, though it wasn't painted in medieval times. You know, knights and ladies and all of that. That stuff’s gorgeous. I like that movement in general.

George R R Martin talks about his favourite art

Lush textures poured over with light, John Everett Millais’s oil-on-wood painting Mariana (1851) is of a character from Shakespeare‘s Measure for Measure

When we talk about artistic movements of the past, some of them are just scholars looking at people and grouping artists together and saying, 'they were doing a movement'.

But with the Pre-Raphaelites they actually were a movement, they all knew each other, they hung out together and they said, 'we are the Pre-Raphaelites'.

Next page: The one artist who got it right, and killing his characters horribly