The final season of Game of Thrones kicked off with a death that was less about whom it befell (sorry Ned Umber!) and more about what kind of threat looms over Winterfell should the Army of the Dead win the Great War. Artist Robert Ball, who has been working on his Beautiful Death series since the beginning, shares how he went into creating a piece of art from the young lord’s horrific demise.
“The way Last Hearth is introduced could be straight out of Bram Stoker,” Ball said. “Castle Dracula on the snowy peaks with Tormund and Beric as fearless vampire hunters! Ned even has a stake through him. It was shot like a mini-horror movie within the episode. I wanted the image to look quite gothic — so lots of heavy blacks, with Last Hearth in the center, mysterious and remote.
“I started out with two thoughts: One was Ned Umber frozen by the Night King, and becoming his tool. The other idea was a waterfall of blood, foreshadowing events to come (I don't know what the events are, but it's bound to get bloody!). A day later I realized I could combine the two, and went with that. As I work on these pictures, an extra 'idea' usually occurs to me that I'll add in. In this case, I wanted Jon Snow's cape to look like a dragon wing to reference the revelation at the end of the episode.”
The artist continued, “I wanted to show the wider impact of the death and the message from the Night King, by picking up a theme from the episode that youth and happiness, and Jon and Daenerys’ brief moments together, will ‘never last.’ I used an image of Ned Umber from the episode where he's pardoned by Jon Snow — arguably setting him on the path that led to his doom.”
Check out the final concept and drafts below: