"Sven Sauer's Matte Paintings bring to
life the impressive sets of the
Game of Thrones series"
By Alice Schwab
How did you start working for such a beautiful project as GOT?
This was coincidence. The production was done in Belfast. At that time HBO was looking for a partner in Europa to do the VFX. 8 years ago, the VFX industry was way smaller. Pixomondo won an Oscar with our work on Hugo Cabret. None on us knew what GOT would become in the future. The first season was good, but the fandom and exposition of reach was one year later with season 2. The series was an experiment for us if the TV audience and TV as platform is open for such a complete fantasy series.
What is most exciting about GOT?
I work for GOT since season 2. This is a long time. But it never became boring.
The reason lies in the variety of Locations and the huge world that has been created in the series. Usually a series focusses on one main story line. This often has the result that the locations are limited. True Detective e.g. is in Louisiana, House of Cards in Washington…The theme, on which you work as an artist mostly, are very similar, because they are located in the same environment. In the Game of Thrones this is completely different: the various places range from the burning Dorne, over the dark Harrrenhalt to the snowy Wall. This diversion is fascinating for us artists.
What is most challenging?
The illustrational world of „game of Thrones“ has strict rules. The most remarkable aspect is to hold a balance between the „reliable reality“ and the „unreliable / magical fantasy“. All locations, castles and landscapes fit together as a perfect homogenous image. This is no coincidence.Every season, a group of artists are keen on staying with the design or enlarging it as far as it is possible, without questioning the world of fantasy or making something seem unreliable.
The universe of „A song of ice and fire“ succeeded in making a world full of dragons and magic seem real, reliable, acceptable. This is why we ask ourselves these questions over again: is it reliable what I develop at the moment ? Or does my mind blocks and tells me: This is nonsense!.
Have you learned new technique being in contact with other Matte Painting artists, or does each one keep his own "secret de fabrication »?
On the pictures I see on your web site, are credited by many artists, has each artist his specialty which makes a one whole image?
I´m very convinced that in the world of film there is no lone warriors. A director is dependent on his DoP - a DoP is dependent in his chief lighting director and he is dependent on the set-team…In the VFX its the same. Normally more than 4 artists work on one painting. I think this is extremely enlarging. In addition another artist can also take over, when you’re stuck with a thought or aspect.
About Unseen Westeros Exhibition, I do not understand is that project still on, because the financing is over now, right?
Has it happened, have I missed something, or has it been postponed?
Its a exhibition about the whole pre-story of Game of thrones.The idea behind the exhibition is to send our visitors on a journey through the 4 continents of „the world of ice and fire“. Like Alexander von Humboldt, who travelled through the world and wrote it done in histories…Every room is a new region to be explored.
With Unseen Westeros we succeeded to bring 40 international concept artists together for the first time , creating a big exhibition together. This is not easy. Many participating artists are completely booked over the whole year for feature films and series. Time is limited. To actually convince them to participate meant cancelling paid jobs for them. However, the amount of artists that we could convince show how amazed they are by the book „The World of Ice and Fire“ and the whole world of Westeros. Normally 5-6 concept artist work on a season for Game of Thrones - imagine what a huge potential it is when all 40 artists come together.
It is about a prequel you and your fellow artists have imagined or is it an order from a company, HBO?
It‘s totally created by the GOT artists. Hbo wasn‘t involved in this exhibition. 2015 we sat together, working on the 5th season for Game of Thrones. By coincidence I found the book the world of ice and fire“, as Audiobook. I only wanted to listening briefly…but 17 hours later, I was done with book and I shut done my computer. In this night I developed the idea to create an exhibition about this book. Not more than 2 days later, I won 5 more Game of Thrones Artists for the project…after two weeks we were 15 artists who thew themselves in the book. From this point on we worked 3 years for the project. Finally we had 40 artists, which are spread over the whole world: Vancouver, Wellington, LA, Shanghai, Singapur. I never experienced a film project where so many concept artist worked together at the same time.