After my interview with Jim Burns, I was able to meet Pat Robinson and Irina Ivashova, owners of an amazing sci-fi and fantasy art collection. The original wood carvings created by Jim Burns for the original book covers of GRR Martin’s Game of Thrones series, hung from the walls of their gorgeous house. Pat admits ownership of roughly 200 original Game of Thrones art pieces, the biggest collection of this kind. However, since Martin also has his own collection, we are not too sure on who has the record title.
FB: I understand that this collection has mostly GRR Martin inspired work. What was the impetus behind it?
Pat: Well, it started with collecting the books. GRRM has a lot of amazing old science fiction stories in the old pulp magazines – Asimov’s, Analog, Amazing Stories etc., and I was a fan of those as a boy, and would buy them at the used book store. Then, when I got a little older, I would buy various versions of his books. Some of the older limited editions are quite rare – such as Songs the Dead Men Sing, which was the first limited edition ever published by the now-defunct Dark Harvest Publishing Company. There was also Portraits of His Children, and the Armageddon Rag, which both sell for a nice price when they pop up on eBay.
Then one day, I messaged Bob Eggleton on Facebook. We weren’t friends or anything, but I wanted to know if he had the painting called “Sailing with Dragons”, which was used in the December 2000 Asimov Magazine for a short Daenerys story excerpted from the third book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, Storm of Swords. I had read online that Bob was an easy guy to deal with. He responded the same day, and I recall we chatted for about 10 minutes, and by dinner that night, we had a deal. It was such a great transaction, a few weeks later I emailed him about another GRRM cover for a book called “Hunter’s Run”, which now proudly hangs in our bedroom.
Then, Irina wanted a painting…
Irina: I was born in Russia, and grew up with a lot of books, theatre and galleries, as our education is very focused on culture and the arts. When I saw how amazing Bob’s paintings were in real life, I knew we needed more. Pat mentioned there was another Asimov cover for a series of Daenerys’ stories from 1996, by English artist Paul Youll. So, I made him go buy it for me [laughs]. Paul was a little reluctant to sell, but his brother Stephen Youll – who Pat had bought prints from in the past – convinced Paul to sell. It’s a gorgeous painting.
Pat: Then the art-bug bit hard, and we started buying all sorts of things. We tried to get a lot of GRRM work, as he is my favourite author, but have expanded to buying other themes – and more importantly, things we love and want to stare at for the rest of our lives.
Irina: In some cases, Pat commissions GRRM art from books from artists. Jim Burns did a lovely piece called Rica Dawnstar, who was the villain from a story called Tuf Voyaging. Chris Moore, Larry Elmore, Bob Eggleton, and Mike Hayes are all doing GRRM-themed commissions for us.
FB: What other types of art do you own, besides Game of Thrones?
Pat: There was a series of popular books in the 1980s called “Fighting Fantasy”, where you create an adventure by rolling your statistics with dice, and then chose your own path through the books – like turning to page 25 if you want to go through the red door, and page 300 for the blue door – finding clues and fighting monsters. They were really hard to pass without cheating! Anyhow, I think we have 19 covers from that series. There were 59 books in total. A number of the paintings are with the creators of the series Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson.
Irina: Most of those paintings are pretty gruesome or scary, so they only get brought out of the art rooms at Halloween. Although, two of them by Les Edwards are among my favourites and hang in the living room as part of our permanent collection. I mean, where else are you going to see a tentacle-monster flying a Steampunk spaceship or a three armed fish-demon? And they match the couch!
Pat: There was recently a book published called “You are the Hero” by Jonathan Green, and we got to show off a few pieces in that book, which was fun. It’s a great book about the history of the Fighting Fantasy series.
I also played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons and other role playing games in the 1980s, such as Warhammer and Star Frontiers. So, we have a number of book covers of some of my favourite childhood game books. We have taken up commissioning some of the main illustrators from Dungeons and Dragons, such as Larry Elmore, Jeff Easley, and Clyde Caldwell – so I am sort of making my game-book covers now.
Irina: We also are also doing our own little series of commissions where we take a female singer and have her placed into a fantasy setting. We plan on doing one a year, if all goes well. Last year was a beautiful singer, Candia McKormack, from a UK Pagan-Rock band called Inkubus Sukkubus, posing with a dragon, by fantasy-legend Larry Elmore. This year we had Lana Del Rey in a 1960’s retro Barbarella costume, by James Ryman. We call it Lana Del Ray Gun, as she carries an old-fashioned blaster.
Pat: We are trying to split our commissions between GRRM-related works, and other fun stuff. We are still debating this years’ fantasy-singer painting.
Irina: Jim Burns is now doing some personal pieces involving mythology. I was lucky enough to pose for an upcoming painting for a Russian Goddess, Kupala, who signifies the beginning of Spring. We are looking forward to that one!
We also own some hypermodern realism from an American painter, Adam Rote, and are hoping to get a commission from him sometime soon.
FB: Was this your first ever collection?
Pat: No, I started with the books, and also dabbled in old coins and even rocks. I think I was 8 when my parents bought me a rock-polishing kit. I still have some of the rocks lying around here.
My dad is retired and builds “antique” furniture, and made me some barrister bookshelves for my rare and/or limited GRRM books. I am up to 6 bookshelves, so I guess one could say I collect those too. Thanks dad!
Irina: And he says I am a hoarder if I buy a few pairs of shoes!
FB: What was the hardest item to obtain?
Pat: There is a painting by the late Paul Lehr, called Nightflyers, used in a 1980 cover of Analog Magazine. I think even GRRM had mentioned once he was looking for it. Through a long string of inquiries, it turned out Paul’s wonderful Aunt Susie had it hanging in her place. We spent a long time negotiating, and part of the price was a donation to an upcoming documentary for Paul. She was kind enough to drive 4 hours to hand deliver it to us at Illuxcon – an amazing annual fantasy art show. Unfortunately, due to an emergency, Aunt Susie had to turn the car around and head back, so we never even got to buy her dinner.
Irina: That one is an important piece, as Paul Lehr was a real heavyweight in the art community, but only did 2 GRRM covers. We learned that the other was lent out by Paul, and it was never returned. So, this will probably be the only Paul Lehr/GRRM painting we will ever own. And, it was an absolute pleasure to meet Aunt Susie, so that was a bonus.
Pat: Of course, I guess in fairness, the hardest one is one we still can’t get the artist to part with – who shall remain nameless. He will crack eventually, I hope.
Irina: Someday … It’s often about timing. They know the art will have a good home here, which is important for us and most artists, but it can be hard to let go for some painters as they really put their soul into some pieces.
Pat: One day, we are just going to show up with the proverbial briefcase of money, some wine, and flowers for his wife and refuse to leave without the painting!
Irina: I might have to take the wife shoe-shopping if that is what it takes to close the deal!
FB: Do you have any favourite pieces?
Irina: I like the Jim Burns covers for Game of Thrones. They are on ornate wood, and the time it must have taken to inlay all the bits is incredible. I have become friends with Jim, and he is such a fun person, so when I look at the art, I am reminded of him, which makes me love the art even more. We got to take them to an event with 2 members of the cast of Game of Thrones a few years back, which was kind of fun. Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey were great to talk to.
My other favourite includes one from Marianne Plumridge’s, called Private Audience., which depicts a secret conversation between a bird and a robot.
Pat: I like the Jim Burns ones too, and it’s nice to be ahead of the curve on what has become a major cultural phenomenon. We recently acquired the cover of Wizard’s First Rule, by Terry Goodkind, and it is pretty impressive, so that one is fresh in my mind. I have a lot of art from comic book artist Mike S. Miller, who does a lot of GRRM comic covers. He has a real bold and distinctive style and did a wedding portrait of us as a bit of a present. He also did one of Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage, that I was able to get them to sign – so that was pretty cool.
Jason Edmiston did an official HBO portrait of Daenerys that is among my favourites. Stephen Youll, did what was supposed to be the American First Edition cover that I love, but the book grew too large, so it was only used on the Advanced Reading Copy. Bob Eggleton’s Sailing with Dragons has a special place in my heart for being the first one too.
Irina: It’s tough, because there are so many great pieces, and it’s like comparing apples to oranges.
Pat: … or dragons to spaceships.
Irina: Or shoes to purses!
FB: Bernard Greisinger has opened a Tolkien museum in Switzerland, The Greisinger Museum, in 2013, the world’s largest of its kind. Have you considered opening such a museum, given the amount and importance of the pieces you have?
Pat: Well, admittedly, we are running a little low on wall-space, so it would be nice to have them all hanging somewhere where they can be enjoyed by more people than just our friends and our two cats. George R.R. Martin recently bought a bowling alley that is being converted into an art gallery in New Mexico. He has a huge collection of art related to his works, so I am hoping at some point he creates a standing collection in Santa Fe. We would gladly send our stuff there for display if that were the case.
Irina: At some point it will make sense that some or all of it will have to be displayed elsewhere. Pat and I have sort of made a policy that if we buy it, it will have to be framed so it doesn’t just sit in a drawer. We were lucky to find a great framer – now friend – Candace Larson, at the Christine Klassen Gallery here in Calgary, who does all our framing, and we are about 60% done. We are now at the point where we rotate some of the art on the walls, and we will keep buying and framing and see if anyone wants to exhibit it down the road. If not, I certainly don’t mind having them around – other than some of Pat’s commissions featuring women in skimpy outfits.
Pat: Of course if some huge Game of Thrones fan wants to buy it all as a collection, they can come over with the proverbial briefcase of money and bring some wine …
Irina: … don’t forget the flowers and shoes for the wife!
A big thank you to Pat and Irina, for sharing a part of their life with us and our readers. We do hope that this incredible collection will one day be accessible to all.