Illustrator wows with new view of 'Game of Thrones

Creates fan art sensation with Japanese-style reinterpretation of TV series

As "Game of Thrones" fans rejoice as the fourth season of the HBO series premieres, professional animator David Hollin has given them something to talk about with fan art that recasts pivotal scenes to feudal Japan.

Hollin, a 22-year-old Mountain View native, recently set the Internet abuzz when he posted his unique interpretation of "Game of Thrones" fan art. Reimagining key scenes in the series, which is set in medieval Europe, Hollin recast them as scenes in feudal Japan. He illustrated them in the style of traditional Japanese "ukiyo-e" woodblock prints, rendering a set of six highly authentic-looking illustrations that seem a far cry from typical television fan art.

Wondering if there would be interest in such illustrations from the "Game of Thrones" online community, Hollin said he posted a link to his images on a popular "Game of Thrones" fan page on Reddit. They went viral in a matter of days, spreading to other "Game of Thrones" pages, geek culture blogs, even anime and Japanese sites.

Hollin categorizes his work as "absolutely fan art," but also considers it "alternative art," or "art shift," in which an artist takes materials and reassembles them through a different lens, without using sight of the source.

Hollin said his favorite illustration in the series is called "Wedding Banquet by the River," which depicts the tense moments before a pivotal scene in the show's past season. It features many stylized Japanese characters seated at a feast, and a menacing traitor looming with a samurai sword while armed soldiers wait outside, in disguise.

"That was probably the most dramatic scene in the entire series so far, but if you look at fan depictions of it, it is always the carnage aftermath," Hollin said. "For me, the most powerful moment in the show is the moment right before."

Hollin explained that he wanted to illustrate moments in "Game of Thrones" that resonate with fans and spark recognition. But, if the highly stylized illustrations may not immediately evoke "Game of Thrones," descriptive captions under each illustration make the connection clear.

"If you've just watched the television show, the pieces should make sense," he said. "The caption is very important for them to truly be able to understand, especially if they don't have that much knowledge of Japanese culture."

Hollin argues that the link between the two worlds of his illustrations -- medieval Europe and feudal Japan -- is a natural one due to the similar thematic qualities they share.

"(Game of Thrones) reminded me a lot of Japanese classical literature and its recounting of historical time periods in feudal Japan," Hollin said of the books, which were his first encounter with the series. "A lot of manipulation going on, lots of intrigue, political maneuvering ... It almost read more to me like a samurai epic than a European knight tale."

Hollin has some experience in straddling two worlds --> he was raised bi-cultural by his Japanese mother and American father. He said that this exposure to cultural overlap influenced his choice to illustrate Game of Thrones.

"I originally had this idea floating in my head, of doing these pieces, just because I felt it translated so well," he said.

Hollin's "Game of Thrones" illustrations were a side-project. His full-time job is as computer animator at mobile game developer Industrial Toys in Pasadena.

At work, he creates Industrial Toys' newest game, called Midnight Star, animating 3D images. But Hollin also enjoys two-dimensional art, and with his "Game of Thrones" illustrations, he finds another artistic outlet.

"It is so different from what I am doing at work," Hollin said. "It is an interesting back and forth between work, which is a little bit more technical, and (the "Game of Thrones" illustrations), which is purely illustrative and just art."

Since the explosion of popularity of his side-project, Hollin recently opened an online store through redbubble.com, a Mountain View-based company, where enthusiasts can order prints of Hollin's "Game of Thrones" illustrations.

So far, Hollin said he has added two new illustrations to the original six. He has sold 165 prints, and counting, to customers around the world.

"A huge number of the of the orders are coming from Europe and Australia, which is really mind-blowing," Hollin said. "I am not a professional artist, so to have my work sold remotely like that is pretty crazy."

Hollin said he has no plans to continue illustrating scenes from the new season. For now, he is pursuing other projects and sees his "Game of Thrones" fan art as a completed set. Yet, he remains open to creative inspiration.

"There might be a second wave of people interested in the prints once the show is back on the air," Hollin said. "If I get particularly inspired, I may go back and do another one. So, we'll see."

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