After a long and turbulent journey through my Lord of the Rings Project we have finally reached the end of the road. It started off as just an idea and some simple sketches, gradually evolving into a depiction of my favourite scene from the narrative, invented and recorded by the genius J.R.R. Tolkien, then brought to life in the cinema by Peter Jackson.
This is now the final update on my Lord of the Rings Project until I post the finished piece; the last update I posted was going to be the final update but I wasn’t satisfied with how it looked and felt the need to post one more before completion.
Welcome to Part III of my Lord of the Rings art project, if you have missed the first two parts click the following links and they will open in a new tab on your browser:
We are now at the halfway point through the journey of this project and this is where things start to get really interesting, no more wandering aimlessly through the lands of Middle-earth, this is the point when direction is provided and the road goes ever on and on.
“I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!”
The aim of this part of the project is to give an insight into the scene of the narrative that I have chosen to depict in my final painting, it’s took a lot of thought and sifting through the vast amount of rich and captivating content available. I have finally made the choice and this post will pick apart the scene both described in JRR Tolkien’s literature and Peter Jackson’s films.
It’s taken me a little while to get around to writing this, partly due to searching out the direction that I intend to go in; also the fact that I’ve spent the last two years in the education system, there has been little opportunity to create the types of work that I personally wanted to create. Throughout college I have worked with the themes and projects I’ve been given and turned them into work that is personal to me, it’s more so the fact that there wasn’t the time to spend on one particular piece of work. The closest I came to creating a narrative artwork in college was my final major project “Coffee Comes to Europe, 1615”.
Anyway, now that I’ve had the time to gather my thoughts and reflect upon the road that I wish to take in this artistic journey, I have finally written my statement and any future works will be true to it; because at this point if you were to look through my portfolio and saw the work that I’ve got in there it could be thought that my work isn’t true to my statement. This small factor will be amended over time with the more work that I produce now that I’m free to work on a personal level.
I find myself driven by a split-personality consisting of a deep thinking, self-analytical perfectionist and an inventive artisan motivated to utilize my creativity ceaselessly. My over-active mind doesn’t allow me to cease thinking and planning creative ventures; at any time I’m not physically producing artworks, I’m mentally creating them.
Through the work I produce I explore the concept of the artist as a storyteller, making narrative artworks and breathing a fresh lease of life into some of the oldest and most ancient legends, myths and folklore of the British Isles, resurrecting onto canvas the tales that have been passed down from generation to generation. In harmony with that, my interest in world history provides me with a wealth of inspirational sources to work with.
In addition to narrative artworks, I also intend to create landscapes in a wide variety of locations; more often than not with my landscapes, I tend to search for a hidden story within my scene, evoking myth and legend into what could otherwise be depicted simply as a scenic view.
My preferred style of painting is traditional or classical, a style that I am currently working towards and learning more about with every stroke of the paintbrush and mark of the pencil; using either oil or watercolour as my preferred media. In light of that, I have no intentions of merely duplicating the styles of old masters; I wish to build upon a knowledge of traditional methods in order to excel my own technique as an artist, working towards a new age of classicism.
The achievement I hope for is that I can make works of art that communicate with the audience, evoking emotions and inspiration, bringing them so close into a narrative that they are as much a part of it as the characters depicted in the unfolding scene. I want my work to leave a lasting impression upon all who partake in this communion of visual storytelling to the point that the audience will describe their experience to others, thus passing the tales on as has been the custom since the dawn of mankind.
Well that’s it, relatively short as is the usual custom as far as I’m aware but to the point and descriptive of my objectives and goals as an artist. The next step now is to create more artworks harmonious to my statement and get them published as soon as possible. I’m currently working on a five part project based on ‘The Lord of the Rings’ which will culminate in a narrative painting that I can be truly happy with.
So I had to come up with an idea for my next artwork project and with my goal of interpreting and bringing back to life British history, myths, legends and folklore, I have decided to work with a popular medieval romance tale that stems from Celtic legend; the story of ²Tristan and Yseult.
There are numerous versions of this tale, but all of them contain prominent features and I will most probably play on the different aspects of each telling that appeal to me the most. As a base idea to work from I might even write up a short version of the story combining the various aspects and suiting to my own interpretation, thus making me able to create more works from this further down the line, that’s not presently set in stone though I’ll have to think about that¹.
With that in mind I won’t go into the nitty gritty details of the legend just yet although I have linked to the Britannica version of the tale.
As promised before, I will use the series of posts and updates on this project to show my preliminary studies, sketches and ideas, as well as a bit of prose or poetry that I intend to write for the particular scene that I will show in my finished painting. I have chosen the scene that I want to capture and have begun sketches, mainly to work out composition and background scenery, I’m also implementing a fair few symbolic features as well so I’ll have to hit the books and see what I come up with; some symbols I am certain of and relate to the story itself and therefore will definitely be added.
I’ll leave that there for now and my next post will contain my preparatory work that I’ve create up until that point, which will most probably be next Wednesday, when my posting schedule is due, this post is more of a taster for what’s to come and to give awareness of the project I am currently pursuing now that I’ve set my heart upon it.
¹More of a note to self than a definitive idea
²Link to the Britannica version of the legend Tristan and Yseult
I’ve structured my days now to help me with my efforts to self-teach different aspects of the art that I wish to learn; the aspects that I have decided to learn are anatomy, figure studies, drawing in many aspects such as observational, still life and drapery, perspective, architecture, and again human form. I also spend time trying different techniques with watercolour paints and I’m slowly experimenting with oil paint; which ultimately will be my medium of choice.
I also have more theoretical subjects to learn and my rotor for those at the moment consists of symbolism in art, colour theory and artist research. Those are the artsy theoretical readings, I’m also always researching history, reading about the ancient Romans in particular and I’m presently reading a book about King Charles I which I will review once finished; as well as Greek mythology, these last few are more for inspirational reasons.
However the reason for that two paragraphs of information is that every month I intend to issue myself a project to work on alongside these other subjects to keep me motivated in creating my own work rather than just all work and no play, I therefore intend to create at least one final work for each project I give myself. I’m thinking ahead a bit here as I don’t intend to issue myself this project until 5th July; that said though, I can here announce my umbrella theme which others will fall under.
My main theme, the subject of artwork that I intend to create for the foreseeable future is British myth, legend and folklore. As an enthusiastic reader of the work of J.R.R Tolkien, it’s my understanding that he created his body of literature around the basis of giving Britain a mythology of its own, one to rival the Greeks and even outdo them in the long run (let’s face it, we’ve all heard of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf and Gollum; how many average people can name four Greek deities). This thought process inspired Tolkien to create the most incredibly well crafted epic fantasy saga that was bursting at the seams with richness and remains the most influential piece of literature of the modern age (that’s my opinion I’m not certain how it stands nowadays with Game of Thrones growing as much as it has). I am of a similar vision, but what I intend to do is bring to life and recreate the existing British mythology and interpret it into a series of visual narratives, both figurative and landscape and breathe new life into our forgotten history.
There is already a wealth of subject matter available to me to work with, more than enough to ensure I’m kept busy for the rest of my life in fact, and who knows, one day I may even start writing my own mythologies and legends of British history, but that’s an idea for a time in the far off future yet. My main inspiration for British myth/legend/folklore/history is the Arthurian legend. Some historians say he lived, others say he didn’t, most scholars deny his existence because of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s fabrications. I stand in an area where I do believe he existed, just that the story of his existence has been contorted somewhat over the centuries since his age, akin to Chinese whispers these legends grow and have bits added and taken away to the current point where some people are expecting Arthur’s second coming; elevating this long dead king to the status of the son of God. The most convincing and realistic telling of the Arthurian legend, albeit a work of historical fiction, was the brilliant saga of books written by Jack Whyte – A Dream of Eagles (original series title in Canada) or Camulod Chronicles (USA series title) or Legends of Camelot (UK series title). Without going into too much detail about this incredible series of books on this post, here’s the link to a short review I wrote about them previously.
With Arthurian legend being my main source of inspiration however, I don’t intend to just limit myself to being known as a painter of Arthurian legend, like I said I want to revive as much of British mythology as I can so I’ll also be focusing on other areas as well, it’s just the that Arthur story is the one I am most drawn to.
All that said then, my next post will probably be before my scheduled post, and will be to announce the exact nature of the project I intend to create. I will post everything related to my project including sketches, research, thoughts and such and then follow all that up with the final piece that I create. So if you have happened to stumble across this post, then please check back every fortnight or so to see updates and some new artwork.
Until next time…..
Featured Image: Edward Burne-Jones – The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon – 1881-1898
By the 17th Century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming increasingly popular across the whole continent. The opposition were overly cautious, calling this new beverage from the Arab lands the “bitter invention of Satan”. With the arrival of coffee to Venice in 1615, the local clergy immediately condemned it; causing a controversy so great that Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene. The Pope decided to try the beverage before making his decision and he found the drink so satisfying that he gave it Papal approval.
In relation to my identity and following the theme “Who are you?”, I wanted to create a piece of work that not only told a story, but also related and described my own personality through symbolism, thus creating an artwork with two meanings.
The painting that I created is a narrative piece and was painted entirely using coffee as my medium. It depicts when coffee first came to Europe, arriving in Venice in 1615 aboard a merchant ship, awaited and opposed by the clergy. This entire piece is full of symbolism pertaining to who I am and my identity, so I’ll have to break it down into further parts.
Coffee as a medium – Every single morning of my life is centred around one very important, and never-changing ritual, coffee. It begins every single morning of my life and continues on into the day. That being the case, plus with the exhibition being set up on a table in the college Atrium Café, it made sense to me to use coffee as my medium to paint with. In my research of coffee I delved into the history and discovered plenty of opportunities to create a narrative painting, which is my favourite form of art, art that tells a story.
Venice – I decided to base my narrative in Venice as this is where coffee came into Europe and the story behind it really appealed to me to create a narrative scene of. Also, I have a very deep fondness of Italy and it is intrinsic to a lot of what I do, to the point that my love of Italy is almost an obsession, this made my choice of story to tell very easy and enjoyable at the same time. My scene is based at Riva Degli Schiavoni, with the isle of San Maggiore faded in the distance across the entrance to Venice’s Grand Canal.
The Clergy – The clergy, depicted standing on a small jetty, in opposition of the merchant ship bringing coffee to port, are symbolic of the opposition I feel I face with artwork, whether real or imagined it seems that in the Contemporary art industry, traditional painting and values are frowned upon and neglected, whilst Conceptual art, Installation and challenging conventions is what is the art that wins awards and sells.
Whilst the clergy show how close I feel to opposition, the distant view of the church San Giorgio di Maggiore shows how far I feel from salvation, not in a religious sense but a metaphorical one, in the industry I’m entering.
Myself – I depicted myself literally into this painting as well; situated to the right of the narrative scene I am sitting in a small boat, sketching the scene before me into a book. This shows my personality, my introversion, close by and very aware of the events unfolding around me and sketching what I see; at the same time situated solitarily, alone but comfortable to be so, concentrating on what I’m seeing and analysing it onto the paper.
This is the first piece of work that I have created entirely how I want to and have been able to project a narrative through which not only tells a story, but describes aspects of myself within it.
This work was exhibited at the Atrium Café for the day in my first real exhibition and the feedback that I received was incredible, very encouraging comments were made and a lot of interest was shown in both the work itself and the meanings behind it.
So many people in this world are scared of change, whether big or little; I see it as an opportunity to adapt, start anew and build up an empire, alas, don’t ever fear change but on the contrary, embrace it. – J Glover
I recently made a decision that was found to be shocking by the people around me, my friends and even my wife, who knows me better than anyone. That decision was that after 2 years of working hard in education in order to go to uni, I will no longer be going. This decision wasn’t an off the cuff spur of the moment change of heart about my future caused by being unsure of what I want from life; my end game is the same, my objective clear and concise, a set destination of immovable strength; it’s just the road that I’m taking to get there that is different.
This was incited by troubles in getting the funding that I needed, a lot of hassle and stress that isn’t needed at the best of times, but this minor tribulation set off a whirlwind of thoughts and deep contemplation, tropical brainstorms and meditating until my pulse stopped, weighing up and reasoning on every aspect of my decision to go to university and the course that was available to me.
I had chosen to take a Fine Art BA (Hons) Degree; now when I initially pictured Fine Art, I had a beautifully romanticized vision of a modern Verrocchio’s workshop. Tutors that would teach me to draw and paint like the masters of the Renaissance, Sculpt like Michelangelo and provide plenty of hours worth of figure studies each and every week. Research on different narratives, mythologies and a study of philosophy. Obviously my definition of Fine Art is very outdated and too far gone to even be sniffed at in a modern Fine Art degree. A Fine Art Atelier would probably be better suited to my needs, but due to lack of funding available for such a course and locality this isn’t an option either.
Instead of what I envisioned, the course has dropped figure studies from its curriculum and the rest is more Contemporary than I would like to be involved in, Conceptual art, challenging conventions and Installation work; whilst I have seen artworks from each category that I have liked, it’s not what I personally want to create or be a part of. From unmade beds to condensation cubes and glittered excrement I found myself questioning if it really was for me. The end result of my contemplation was that I don’t want to invest 3 years and so much debt into something that I’m not 100% dedicated to. I’m not suggesting that the course is worthless or that I wouldn’t have learned anything because that would be a ridiculous idea, it’s just not going to teach me what I want to learn and will involve me spending too much time away from what I do want to do and my personal studies.
My next step now is to self educate, with the power of books and the internet on top of spending every day in practical work I will learn to draw and paint in the way I want to, whether frowned upon or not to prefer the traditional methods, that is what I’m going to do, staying true to myself rather than going to university on a whim for the experience or conforming to the Contemporary art industry. It’s funny really that they spend so much time trying to find new ways to “challenge convention” that they’ve lost their way, it’s turned now to the point that I’m challenging convention more by wanting to draw and paint in the traditional manners and techniques.
Also underlying all of this is the fact that I would love to work as a concept artist, for film,TV or computer games and although a lot of this work would be done digitally through software such as Photoshop, it still offers opportunity to be traditional in the sense of creating a narrative using paint, drawing and sketching, research and practice; these are the things that appeal to me more than anything. The thing that would get me a job in the field of Conceptual Design will be my portfolio based around that area, not a degree and a portfolio full of glittered turds and “this is art because I say it is” pieces.
Time is a very important factor as well, by not attending university five days a week, I have the time to go to London regularly to visit galleries, places of interest, museums and draw inspiration from them; I’ll also be able to make more trips to my home away from home that is Italy. Trips to other places of interest and long walks through natural landscapes, sketching and painting as I go will also now be a part of my itinerary. In addition to these things, I’ll have more time to build up my blog and remain consistent with posts, not having to neglect neither this or my artwork due to having to write essays or dissertations and not running on fumes every day. My creativity will be nurtured and in full bloom due to my decision and inspiration comes from within as much as from without, if not more so.
I may have rambled a fair amount through this post but the point of me posting it is to show that change is not something to avoid, change of mind is not a sign of failure or fear to commit, it is something to embrace and use to your advantage wherever possible. We are human, adapting to new situations is part of our being and a skill that comes naturally, never having to be learned as long as you don’t fear to utilize it.