Game of Thrones – Aemon Targaryen

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“What is honor compared to a woman’s love? What is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms, or the memory of a brother’s smile? Wind and words. Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.”

It was necessary to make this the next priority in the ‘Portraits of Westeros’ project. Sadly actor Peter Vaughan – who portrayed the noble and wise blind-man Maester Aemon, formerly a Targaryan and now a man of the Night’s Watch – passed away on December 6th, 2016. Vaughan breathed life into this role with generosity and finesse. There was an honesty and a subtlety to his portrayal that is rarely achieved. He was a prolific actor in British television, cinema, and theater. He will surely be missed by those who knew him, and we are certainly saddened to learn that the flame of his talent has been extinguished.

Aemon Targaryen, whose character has quietly disregarded his own surname, is the maester at Castle Black and is an important adviser to the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. When Maester Aemon is first introduced, he is elderly and frail, blind, but clearly intuitive, wildly intelligent, and serves under Commander Jeor Mormont.

Aemon is the last known Targaryen in Westeros, the great-uncle of Daenerys Targaryen. Unknown to all of the principle character of ‘Game of Thrones,’ Maester Aemon is also the great-great uncle of Jon Snow, a tremendous irony given Aemon’s affinity to (and advocacy for) Jon Snow’s ascent within the ranks of the Night’s Watch.

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Game of Thrones – Eddard Stark

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“The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.”

In this modern world of long-form story-telling on television, the quality of ‘virtue’ almost always proves to be a death sentence. Although “Game of Thrones” is based on a series of novels that were initially published in the mid-1990s, this new age of “literate programming” has brought audiences a greater depth of character development and a newfound fearlessness on behalf of networks, writers, and show-runners to visit harm on beloved characters.

If audiences don’t care about the characters on the screen, audiences won’t feel anything if a terrible fate befalls them. That’s why we are seeing fewer and fewer “immortal” characters (central characters that audiences know will never ever die). With “Game of Thrones,” the show-runners established, during the climactic moments of season one, that absolutely nobody is safe. This ramps up interest in the story and multiplies the value of the drama.

Eddard “Ned” Stark is the enduring symbol that expresses how dangerous the continent of Westeros actually is.

In the series, Ned Stark is arguably the most honorable character, ruling over the northern kingdom of Winterfell, patriarch of House Stark. He is the moral compass of the story, inherently compelled to remain away from politics, courtly intrigue, and deception. Literarily, the family name, Stark, serves as a clever indication of his resistance to moral compromise.

After being appointed the “hand of the king,” he is duty-bound to travel to the capital city of King’s Landing. After the accident death of King Robert, we watch as Ned becomes increasingly entangled in the political upheaval of the city. He begins to struggle as his own sense of honor draws him into corrupt dealings at court. Near the end of his story arc, he is forced to choose between his family’s safety and his own sense of honor.

This is one of many paintings I have made in my ongoing series, “The Portraits of Westeros.” I hope you enjoy the work, and implore you to tell me who you would like me to paint next!

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Game of Thrones – Robb Stark

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Despite the decidedly older version we get in HBO’s adaptation of “A Song Of Ice And Fire,” Robb Stark is introduced to us as a fourteen-year-old boy in the novel “A Game of Thrones.” The eldest legitimate son of Eddard and Catelyn Stark, he is the heir to the northern kingdom of Winterfell and instructed in manners of finance, history, warfare, and diplomacy.

His character arc is an epic one. At first, he appears to be a quiet and reasonably disciplined – however inert – background character. Once his father is relocated to King’s Landing in the south (in service of the King of Westeros), Robb remains behind to rule Winterfell in his father’s absence. His ascent to the title of ‘King In The North’ quickly follows, but I’ve decided to forego possible spoilers by discussing any of those details here; despite how old the story-line is at this point in time, I have discovered that there are many people (like myself) who have only recently begun to watch “A Game of Thrones” and read the book series.

This portrait is the most recent in a series of portraits I have been making based on characters from the show. I intend, however long it may take, to complete portraits not just of the fan favorites or the core characters, but the secondary and tertiary characters as well. This should keep me busy for a while.

Please let me know what you think in the comments below, and let me know if you have a favorite character you would like to see me do next! Cheers!

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Game of Thrones – Catelyn Stark

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Born into House Tully of Riverrun, Catelyn Stark was initially introduced to audiences as the wife of Eddard (Ned) Stark, as the Lady of Winterfell. Her marriage to Ned was arranged, but it’s clear from the beginning of the series that this is an arranged marriage that has experienced unique success; the love between Catelyn and Ned is apparent, and they have a brood of handsome children as proof.

Proud, strong, kind, and generous, Catelyn also flexes her political and diplomatic skills after the death of her husband and the ascension of her eldest son, Robb, as the King In The North. Like other prominent female figures in Westeros (especially as a foil for Cersei Lannister), Catelyn is predominantly guided by the desire to protect her children.

Little good that does Catelyn. Little good that does for Cersei, for that matter.

Despite her abrupt and tragic end, fans of the novels were hopeful that Catelyn would be resurrected (as she was in the books). None of us would be so lucky, it seems, but actress Michelle Fairley won critical acclaim for her final performance in “The Rains of Castamere” in season three.

We love and miss you Catelyn.

Let me know what you think about House Stark in the comments. And don’t forget to Like LenseBender on Facebook and Follow Me On Twitter.

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Game of Thrones – Ygritte

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Arguably my personal favorite (it must be the Scottish brogue), Ygritte is a galvanizing character that, to some degree, helped awaken the passions and leadership skills of Jon Snow. While their love affair was short-lived, her character is the essential plot device that motivates Jon Snow to develop sympathy for the Wildlings, a group that has heretofore been reviled by the Night’s Watch and the rest of Westeros south of The Wall. When Jon unifies with Ygritte – even if he didn’t intend to ultimately join the ranks of the Wildlings – he managed to ultimately forge an alliance with the warrior tribes from north of the wall.

My guess is that their assistance will prove helpful beyond just “The Battle of the Bastards.” They will unify with the standing armies of Westeros and take up arms against the Night King in the concluding chapter of the series.

Ygritte is, in many ways, a force of nature, a fierce warrior woman referred to by her cohort as a “spearwife.” Additionally, she is known for her shock of red hair, a powerful sign of luck among the Wildlings. Because of this, she’s also known to have been “kissed by fire.”

Her character arc runs full-circle, and it seems somewhat clear in later episodes that Jon Snow holds onto her memory and his unique love for her; his experience with her has steeled his resolve to persevere in the conflicts to come.

Let me know who your favorite character is in the comment section, and don’t forget to tell me why. Who would you like me to paint a portrait next? There are certainly many more to come.

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Game of Thrones – Brienne of Tarth

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“Brienne’s ugly, and pig-head stubborn. But she lacks the wits to be a liar, and she is loyal past the point of sense.”
~Jaime Lannister

The distinctly un-feminine Brienne of Tarth makes her first appearance in the second season of Game of Thrones, besting Loris Tyrell in a tourney and winning a seat in the kingsguard in the service of Renly Baratheon. Because of her stature (standing at six-foot three-inches), Brienne is considered extremely unattractive by Westerosi standards, and she is often mockingly referred to as “Brienne the Beauty.” But the tall, muscular woman with straw-colored hair is one of the most honorific characters in the entire series.

Like Eddard Stark, her sense of honor and duty often works against her interests.

Her character, much like Samwell Tarly’s, is a sympathetic one. As a child, she was met with mockery when attempting to dress and act like a proper lady. Once she turned to a career more suited to her talents as a warrior, she likewise received contempt and resentment because of her gender, despite her obvious and considerable skill. Having spent most of her life as an object of scorn and rejection, Brienne yearns for respect and acceptance, and she easily gives her love and loyalty to those few who treat her with courtesy.

Renly Baratheon, Catelyn Stark, and Jaime Lannister are the primary objects of Brienne’s friendship, love, and service.

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Game of Thrones – Samwell Tarly

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In a television series where no character is safe, the innocent and noble characters naturally become more valuable to us. When the threat of death is ubiquitous, the audience is more likely to become more emotionally invested. In years past, principle characters suffered from a certain invulnerability in television; no amount of danger they confront is insurmountable. When the audience knows, almost to a certainty, that no lasting harm with visit them, the drama isn’t as pronounced or effective as it could be. When we expect a happy ending, and when that expectation isn’t ever violated, storytelling becomes predictable – it becomes boring.

A number of television shows have begun to address this, but none with such success as Game of Thrones. Certainly, Dexter Morgan’s girlfriend was slain by the Trinity Killer in season four of that woefully mismanaged series. And years before that, Curtis “Lemonhead” Lemansky was killed off near the end of FX’s flagship program The Shield. So, from The Sopranos to The Shield and Game of Thrones to The Walking Dead, the killing of important or beloved characters isn’t entirely a brand new phenomenon. It began in earnest about fifteen years ago with cable television; network dramas and serialized storytelling doesn’t allow for the kind of jolt killing a main character provides. And I’m confident that there is a whole legal and contractual end to this discussion that I know absolutely nothing about (other than, of course, when a character is killed, the actor no long has a role to play and is, in one way or another, removed from payroll). Game of Thrones, unlike its predecessors, has managed to take things to the next level, obliterating audience expectations with a spectacle of violence and the elimination of beloved characters unlike anything else in television.

Unlike Dexter or The Shield – or any other of the modern television dramas with the story-telling courage to kill main characters – Game of Thrones has developed a reputation for mass slayings. The Red Wedding, The Battle of Blackwater, the wildfire incident at the Sept of Baelor, and the Battle of the Bastards – these didn’t see a single linchpin character die abruptly and needlessly. No, no – Instead we witnessed entire factions, whole families, entire congregations meeting their violent end.

With the possibility for such narrative mayhem, audiences gravitate toward the honorable characters and worry about their fates. Jon Snow is certainly a fan favorite, but he still wields the sword, struggles with his conscience, and is conflicted about his upbringing and lineage. In later episodes, we even find sympathy for previously reviled characters like the incestuous Jaime Lannister, and even more sympathy for his dwarf brother Tyrion. Out of the entire ensemble, in my humblest of opinions, the most innocent character – perhaps aside from Hodor, whose mental incapacities automatically make him more sympathetic – is Samwell. A coward, he finds bravery when defending the innocent. He is not headstrong and he speaks true, never using his words or his sword to harm his brothers.

As I launch a new series of illustrated portraits – all of the characters in Game of Thrones – I decided to begin with the most likable and honorable of characters. So today, available at my online storefront, are prints of this illustration of Samwell Tarly of the Nights Watch, the most likable of the crows and the lover of books. I hope you enjoy these portraits as they become available.

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