Over the past few months, we've featured Hugo-nominated artist John Picacio's fascinating tutorials on the process behind the artwork in his 2012 calendar for George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Now, at last, here's the sixth and final process post — which might be the most exciting yet. For it features Arya Stark, Ned Stark's youngest daughter. Here's how Picacio learned to draw her with the pointy end.

In recent weeks, io9 has featured process posts behind my artwork for Eddard Stark, Bran Stark, Sansa Stark and the Hound, Jon Snow and Ghost, and Melisandre. Today I'm going to share some of the inspiration and key decisions that helped shape my Arya Stark artwork for the 2012 George R. R. Martin / A Song of Ice and Fire Calendar.

Arya Stark is known for her impetuosity and her bold spirit. And the initial spark of inspiration for those things came from this little one — my daughter Samantha who was born during the process of making the calendar artwork.

I wanted to do an iconic image of Arya with her sword Needle, but initially, I thought it might be fun to show a cat or two that she chased while honing her fighting abilities, and refining her quickness and reflexes. The idea was interesting, but I think this crude sketch was deemed questionable as it suggested that she might in fact be threatening the cat with the sword. I'm not sure whether Anne Groell (George's editor) said it first, or Dave Stevenson (Random House art director), but I thought it was a good point (no pun intended).

I tried a birds'-eye view instead that might show a couple of cats scampering away as Arya spun to face a possible threat. This wasn't illustrating a particular scene from the books, as much as just imagining a moment that would be complementary rather than literal.

A good friend mentioned that two of his best friends had a daughter that resembled a possible Arya Stark. Bear in mind that this is several months before the HBO show Game of Thrones even aired, and I'm not sure if HBO had even cast Maisie Williams as Arya Stark by this point. At any rate, my job was to not worry about the TV show that was in production, but build my own vision of the characters and settings as per George's books. And that was what I set out to do. I shot some quick reference photos and this terrific girl was a great springboard toward me figuring out what I wanted my own Arya to look like.

Next, I did a final pencil drawing of Arya on Strathmore 500 illustration board. By this point, I decided that the cats might be more distracting than enhancing. So I eliminated them in favor of simplicity.

Here's a closeup detail of that pencil work before I import it into my Mac and start compositing color on top of it. Much of this pencil work was done in the hospital after Samantha was born. The calendar work was a marathon and I was juggling other regular cover work during the making of it, so it required me to keep working, non-stop. The Arya Stark artwork is dedicated to Samantha because of both girls' common spunk, but also the fact that both drawing and daughter came into the world during the same week.

Here's the final artwork. Notice one significant move that I made from the initial pencil drawing. Notice that in the pencil drawing, Arya feels like she's less dynamic because she feels like she's not poised on the balls of her feet. However, in the final, she is. I digitally rotated the figure portion of the pencil drawing by about 5 degrees and that made all the difference in the world. The final color version of Arya looks much more poised for action.

And here's a closeup detail from that final color artwork for Arya Stark.

It was a great honor to live for a year in Westeros and create the artwork for the 2012 A Song of Ice and Fire Calendar. I learned so much as an artist. Thanks to io9 for giving me the opportunity to share these posts with you these last several weeks!

John Picacio is a 2012 Hugo Award finalist for Best Professional Artist, and a 2012 Chesley Award nominee. Stay tuned to www.johnpicacio.com and his blog, when this month, he'll unveil how you can purchase limited-edition archival prints of all of his A Song of Ice and Fire Calendar artwork. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnPicacio. for those announcements.