By now, we’ve all seen the first promo trailer for Game of Thrones season 7, the one where the sigils of the great Houses of Westeros, rendered as statues, tear at each other while characters speak ominous lines from throughout the seasons.
When I first saw that promo, I thought the sigil statues were computer-generated. While there’s obviously some computer-aided animation going on, it turns out the sigils were actually sculpted out of pencil lead by Russian artist Salavat Fidai.
Speaking to Russia Beyond the Headlines, Fidai said that he used to be the vice president of a large company, but left to pursue his artistic dreams. “I was so tired of the daily grind. Nothing but endless meetings. I felt like I was degenerating and living a boring life.” Originally an art school graduate, Fidai was reminded of his old hobby of creating sculptures out of lead after reconnecting with an old friend, and started making new ones in 2014. He started by carving comic book characters like Batman and Star Wars villain Darth Vader, and eventually turned to Game of Thrones. HBO took notice.
Fidai’s tools include a craft knife and a microscope — when you’re working on this small a scale, you need to look as closely at the thing as you can. The pencils he uses are standard issue, but working with that material can be tricky.
Silence is important. Any vibration from the walls or the floor hinders the process. When I work with 0.5-mm diameter lead, I can feel the beat of my own heart on my fingertips. Sometimes I have to hold my breath and work between the heartbeats, otherwise, the sculpture can be damaged.
Fidai shows off more of his work on his Instagram account, including this video of him making a tiny little White Walker.
Fidai’s choice to quit his old job has paid off — in addition to helping HBO, he’s also made graphite figures for use in Miss Perigrin’s Home for Peculiar Children, Planet of the Apes, and Kubo and the Two Strings.
And it doesn’t sound like he lacks for inspiration, which is good news for us.
I’m a movie buff and love a good film. I follow the latest trends, but more often I get ideas from customers and Instagram users. There’s enough for a lifetime, and then some.
Fidai’s graphite artwork can soon be seen at a Game of Thrones art exhibition in Singapore, opening April 22.