A couple of years back, whilst doing some research on concept art and fantasy art I came across an amazing artist/illustrator from New Jersey called Matthew Stewart. Inspired after reading ‘The Hobbit’, he set his mind on creating fantasy artwork and has made a successful career by doing so, working for book publishers and gaming companies over the years.
Looking through Matthew’s portfolio for the first time struck me like a bolt from Zeus, his beautifully detailed paintings truly are awe-inspiring and provide a stunning visual element to the narratives they are taken from; the paintings of Matthew’s that I am keenest on are of course his Tolkien inspired works. I decided immediately that I would make a post about Matthew’s astoundingly talented paintings but between one thing and another have had to put it off, especially with the amount of coursework and essays I’ve had since I discovered his work. Now however, I have had the chance to sit down and write the post I’ve been meaning to for a while, with the hope of introducing others to this incredibly skillful fantasy artist.
To begin with, I’ve chosen a Tolkien inspired drawing of Gandalf in Moria, according to Matthew Stewart’s blog, this is a fairly recent drawing. This drawing alone for me is like looking at the work of one of the old masters but on a personal level, much more valuable as it’s a combination of my favourite type of art mixed with my favourite literature, a true winner in my eyes and close to impossible to beat. This evokes in me an unbelievable sense of inspiration and motivation to just spend every second of my life creating art. If you have read Tolkien’s work, especially ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, this drawing will hold an even greater sense of narrative than it already does on its own merit.
The use of red pencil on toned paper really breathes life into the image as well, although beautiful drawings are easily achievable with normal graphite and white paper, there’s something more classical about this approach and it gives the drawing more of an atmosphere.
“All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost” – JRR Tolkien – The Fellowship of the Ring
This skillfully painted scene shows Strider sitting in the Prancing Pony Inn, as is told in ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’; Strider sits in the dark corner of the room, his face concealed by the shadows, smoking his pipe and observant of his surroundings.
The detail in this piece of work is incredible, from the candle flame to Strider’s weather-beaten boots, there’s not a single element out of place and the image is perfectly harmonious to the writings that came before it; even down to the muddy footprints left by his boots from where he has been wandering the wet and wild wilderness before arriving at the Inn. Again the use of the pipe smoke further highlight Matthew Stewart’s talents as an artist and add to the ambience of the scene.
“The last thing that Pippin saw, as sleep took him, was a glimpse of the old wizard huddled on the floor, shielding a glowing chip in his gnarled hands between his knees. The flicker for a moment showed a sharp nose, and a puff of smoke.” – JRR Tolkien – The Fellowship of the Ring
Back to Gandalf again, this time painted with oils and shown in more detail than the sketch shown previously, again with the trademark pipe and smoke. In true wizard fashion, Gandalf is shown with a mysterious and thoughtful expression, looking to the left as opposed to looking straight out at the viewer, creating a stronger sense of narrative values.
This is a perfect depiction of the old wizard, it’s as though Gandalf has posed for Matthew Stewart for a portrait painting to be made of him, capturing not only his likeness but his personality at the same time.
This aesthetically pleasing composition shows the man Aragorn, and his Elven beauty Arwen, embracing each other lovingly and staring longingly into each other’s eyes. This particular painting is reminiscent of the works of the old masters of the High Renaissance.
The wonderfully painted forest backdrop works in harmony with the beauty of the rest of the piece and the detailed interpretation of this scene is one of serenity, romance and everlasting love.
The narrative aspects of this piece speak volumes about the love of this pair, enclosed into the scene by an Elven looking border of an intertwining floral pattern. The robes of both characters are brilliantly portrayed and show the pureness of this relationship, despite the implications of the mixed races of the couple, their love is pure and eternal, never failing and always growing stronger.
Last but not least, the horn of Boromir, of the paintings I have chosen to feature on my blog, this one is the most narrative and akin to concept art as is used in the production of movies. This piece shows how well Matthew Stewart could have worked alongside the creative geniuses John Howe and Alan Lee with the concept design for Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies.
This shows the point in the books and film, just before Boromir dies; defending the Hobbits Merry and Pippin to his last breath from the horde of Uruk Hai sent to capture them and destroy the rest of the fellowship.
The mass of figures depicted in this scene and the level of skill and attention to detail that has gone into is something of an achievement. Although I love the previous paintings, this one is probably my favourite of the lot. It tells the story of Boromir’s fate perfectly; you can see the enemies he has already slain and he is still surrounded by too many to possibly fight and come out of victorious or alive. Boromir is shown blowing the horn of Gondor, an instrument that puts fear into his enemies, but they eventually push forward and Boromir dies a warrior’s death. The scene reeks of death, even all the trees shown in forest surroundings look dead and add to the atmosphere of the epic battle being fought.
That’s it for this ‘Featured Artist’ post and although a fairly short show of Matthew Stewart’s artworks, I hope it may be enough to encourage more people to check him out and look at his work, he’s an incredible artist and deserves the recognition he has worked so hard for.
As said before, for me, this is the perfect combination of my interests, Tolkien’s writing turned into visual artworks that are painted in a traditional fashion and hold a strong narrative; this is the type of artwork that appeals to me more than any and is a great joy to discover and research.
At the beginning of this post I did add a link for Matthew Stewart’s website, but if you missed that – “Click Here” – and you his website will open in a new window for you to be able to explore his works and blog for yourself.