‘I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led. And through the air. I am he that walks unseen.
I am the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I was chosen for the lucky number. I am he that buries his friends alive and drowns them and draws them alive again from the water.
I came from the end of a bag, but no bag went over me. I am the friend of bears and the guest of eagles.
I am Ringwinner and Luckwearer; and I am Barrel-rider.’
Bilbo Baggins is a character from Tolkien’s legendarium who has fascinated me since my first encounter with him in the opening chapter of The Lord of the Rings, which I read quite some time before The Hobbit.
Recently I was inspired to again pick up my copy of The Hobbit and have another read through; also to further explore the character of Bilbo and get some artworks done in the process.
I recently wrote a Featured Artistpost that was a review of an artist named Matthew Stewart who uses a lot of Tolkien’s literature as inspiration to create artworks from, an amazing artist and it was writing that post that inspired me to carry out my own project based on The Lord of the Rings. However from this point on I’m going to look at the works of some artists/illustrators who are recognised by the Tolkien estate (a rare instance as they seem to hate and sue anybody doing anything with their predecessor’s literary masterpieces) artists who have created artworks for board games, calendars, illustrated books, and other Tolkien Estate approved merchandise.
The two artists that I’m focusing on for this particular post are Alan Lee and John Howe, two men who were already well recognised for portraying Middle Earth and Scenes from Tolkien’s books for all of the above mentioned merchandise; they were also hired by Peter Jackson as the concept artists for the films; the Lord of the Rings Trilogy as well as the Hobbit trilogy. Amazing artists with incredible passion, insight and a magical ability to be able to turn words on a page into some of the most stunning visuals created for this literary legacy.
We’ll start with some of Alan Lee’s artwork:
Now Gandalf too said farewell. Bilbo sat on the ground feeling very unhappy and wishing he was beside the wizard on his tall horse. He had gone just inside the forest after breakfast (a very poor one), and it had seemed as dark in there in the morning as at night, and very secret: “a sort of watching and waiting feeling,” he said to himself.
This beautiful painting by Alan Lee shows his incredibly skillful imagination in bringing written word to life in a visual form, the trees form a stunning composition, capturing and framing the narrative scene.
This is the sort of artwork that drives my own mind and imagination.
For all of us who have wondered and tried to envision, Alan Lee has again used his imaginative technique to show the world what a female Dwarf looks like, very interesting concept and a totally unattractive female as a result.
Now I’ll just add more artworks with their caption or otherwise this post will end up becoming a book, it’s extremely hard to choose certain artworks from these artists as I can’t say there’s a single piece from either artist that I don’t like.
As for Alan Lee, I’m going to leave that there, the above artworks are just a minute handful of a lifetime’s work inspired by Tolkien’s narrative, there are several books and collections of both Alan Lee and John Howe’s works available to buy and easy enough to find by searching on Amazon.
For the next stage now, I’m going to share some of John Howe’s work:
The pictures of the artworks that I have shared in this post were sourced from a Tumblr account that I found whilst looking for concept art for the movies a while back, it is full of Alan and John’s artworks and is definitely worth a look at if you’re interested in either artist. Click Hereto be directed to the site containing all the works, there are several categories as well so it makes it easier to find artworks for specific books, or artist.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed the content of this post and feel free to re-blog or comment if you want to discuss any of the above artworks or any others.
Welcome to Part II of my current art project, if you’ve only just stumbled upon this post and haven’t seen Part I, you can find it by Clicking Here.
For this part of my project, I have done some sketches of Middle-earth, some in pencil and some in watercolour, the sketches that I’ve produced are fairly rough working sketches, I haven’t worried too much about capturing every detail just wanting to catch the essence of the place and show what’s there for future reference. Most artists used preliminary rough sketches to work from at a later date for their main works, the artist I draw the most inspiration from for this practice when it comes to landscapes is JMW Turner; an incredibly talented Romanticist landscape artist from the Victorian Era.
As a reference for this sketches that I’ve carried out I used scenes from the movies, directed by Peter Jackson as well as photos of the beautiful New Zealand scenery; I think one thing that people who are totally in opposition to the movies can’t deny is that the setting for Tolkien’s legendarium was very well chosen and portrayed. Then again I may be wrong, critics will be critics at the end of the day.
Anyway, moving on from that here is the work I’ve produced since Part I:
This pencil sketch shows the approach to Isengard, but viewed as though one has already entered the archway and is en route to Isengard, thus in a sense it’s an exit from Isengard.
I love ruins, stonework and architectural elements such as bridges, archways and so on and therefore this was a nice seen to sketch. I captured the elements that were relevant for future work basically scribbling outlines and rough shading for reference.
*The hills of Emyn Muil, upon either side of Nen Hithoel, was a vast, seemingly impenetrable maze of rocky crags in the region of Rhovanion in Middle-earth. – lotr.wikia.com
This was a lovely sketch to create, the textures and surfaces of the rocky crags a perfect subject for sketching quickly and efficiently.
Mordor can be seen in the distance so I used some red and yellow colouring pencils to make it stand out amongst the greyscale landscape that directs the eye towards it.
The same again but this time I used watercolour paints to capture the scene, they give a very different effect but the same atmospheric qualities of this dark place remain.
Sketching with watercolours is an amazing creative process, working fast and building up layer by layer to complete a reference to the seen being captured.
As can be seen watercolours are a lot looser than pencils and it could be seen from either viewpoint whether they give more freedom or less, I guess it depends upon the subject.
*Anórien lay north of Minas Tirith and the line of the White Mountains (Ered Nimrais), and was the only part of the northern half of the realm,Calenardhon, which was not given to the Éothéod to become the Kingdom of Rohan.
Anórien formed a narrow strip of land consisting of the valleys of the White Mountains made up of tall grasslands, and its borders were the Mering Stream in the west and the Mouths of the Entwash in the north. Its eastern border was the border of Gondor at the Anduin. The climate was mild winters with warm summers. No cities were in Anórien, but following the line of the Great Road that led through Rohan to Arnor were built the Warning beacons of Gondor.
This sketch is the one that I spent the most time working with, using watercolours to capture the colours and shadows formed by the beautiful landscape of Anorien.
It differs slightly from the pencil sketch but the two together serve as a perfect preliminary to work with at a later date if the want arises to for a bigger scale painting.
I hope you have enjoyed this post that the sketches contained within, this series of sketches has allowed me to immerse myself within the landscape of Middle-earth and feel as though it’s a place I’ve visited; that’s the beauty of both literary and visual art, they take one away from the current state and world and transfer one to another world entirely.
Part III of this project will be where I truly strike my artistic ambition, I will be choosing a scene from Tolkien’s narrative and carrying out both a rough sketch and a detailed drawing in order to create my final painting from. I have a few scenes in mind one of which I’m going to choose and that will become the focus of the rest of this journey.
Another bonus for Part III is that I can go into more depth about the scene I’m depicting, taking an excerpt from the book and analysing the content of the material at my disposal, as for Part I and II I have used a variety of scenes or landscapes and therefore haven’t gone into as much detail as I could of, in neither the sketches nor the writing.
Hopefully see you next time for Part III, in the meantime please feel free to comment, follow, and leave any feedback!
So as promised I have spent some time over the weekend locked away within the solitary confines of my sanctum, working towards this Tolkien inspired project. I managed to get five sketches done in all and experimented with different drawing materials than the usual graphite pencil method I zealously employ.
For my reference and influence I will be using both the books written by the genius JRR Tolkien himself, and the films made by Peter Jackson.
This is only Part One of this project, a series of sketches that I’ve created mainly to get myself into the mindset needed for further artworks.
For Part Two I plan to create a couple of watercolour landscapes of Middle-earth locations, there’s plenty of reference material available to work with and I’ll have to do some research for this before jumping into it in order to choose the perfect locations to work with; again for these watercolour landscapes I won’t be spending days on them, treating them as sketches or studies in order to familiarise myself with the scenery for the final part of the project.
All in all this project will be documented in five parts, broken down as:
Part I – Sketches
Part II – Watercolour landscape sketches
Part III – Preliminary sketches and drawing for final piece
Part IV – Progress of final piece
Part V – Final piece and description; more than likely an oil painting (depending on how it goes as I’m completely new to oils.
Okay, now that the formal introduction to the project is done it’s time for the sketches from Part one.
This is the first of my sketches and it shows the scene where the Fellowship are in the mines of Moria, Gandalf has the party stop in order for him to recollect his previous knowledge of the place in order to know what direction to head in for the exit.
I used a relatively new sanguine dry pastel pencil for this sketch, they’re not the easiest pencils to draw with but they produce beautiful results, especially on the toned paper. I also used a white charcoal pencil for highlights.
Of the sketches this is my least favourite, mainly because my Legolas looks less like an Elf and more like a Medieval doomsayer; I think perhaps I should have sharpened my charcoal pencils a bit more and worked for finer lines. That said however, this was only a quick sketch and it serves its purpose as such, I enjoyed sketching the background mountains.
The blue toned paper worked well for the atmosphere of the scene but with hindsight I would have used a slightly darker blue, still I live and learn.
This sketch shows the scene when Frodo is fleeing from Amon Hen, having made the decision to break away from the Fellowship and go it alone to Mordor, he flees towards the boats in order to slip away unnoticed.
The sheer simplicity of the surrounding elements of this sketch really appealed to me in the creation of it, I used to be so anally retentive when drawing and would have depicted every single tree in the background rather than the scratchy lines that I have put there.
The freedom of sketching used to be something of a myth to me as I was always so concerned with detail and not the fluid motion of marking the surface with a quick, rough interpretation; something that can worked into more at a later date if need be, or used as a foundation to recreate the scene again but in a finer detail.
Opting to sketch a landscape scene, I chose to draw the ruins of Weathertop or Amon Sul. During the reign of Elendil, the Dunedain of Arnor built a watchtower on its summit and installed a Palantir there.
This is also the location where Frodo was stabbed by the Witch-King with a Morgul blade.
Sketching this piece was a great pleasure as I love both landscapes and ruins.
This piece I spent the most time on and possibly overworked it in areas but again it was a good experience and also a great learning curve for portrait drawing.
I actually considered creating my final piece for this project as a portrait of one of the members of the Fellowship but reconsidered as my goal is to create narrative artworks so I’m going down that route instead.
Tolkien created a very strong character in Frodo and a character who faces extremely challenging circumstances which affect him both mentally and physically. I chose this portrait as I believe it shows some of the mental anguish of the ringbearer and the burden that he bears.
Anyway, that’s about it for Part I and I hope that you’ve enjoyed seeing the sketches I’ve created for it and I look forward to posting again with Part II; this should be ready in a fortnight and will be available to find under my Art Projects page if you miss it when posted originally.
Please feel free to leave any feedback on this post or my work and also to make any suggestions of Lord of the Rings scenes you would like to see; I’m strictly focusing on Lord of the Rings for this project though and I may do another project for The Hobbit at a later date.
Until next time, take care and thanks for reading!
In light of a few technicalities I’ve been having with getting started on my Tristan and Yseult painting, I’m going to put that on the back burner for a short while; though I have written an outline of the legend as I want it to be and will flesh that out and edit it to post real soon. For the painting itself, I will get round to it once the arisen problems with it have been solved.
In the meantime and due to the inspiration I received whilst writing my last post, I’m going to create some ‘Middle Earth’ themed artworks, it’s something I’m a huge fan of and also by regularly creating artworks it’s good practice and training for me.
This will mainly consist of loads of sketches and drawings, finally culminating in an oil painting showing one of Tolkien’s masterful narrative scenes; there’s also the possibility of one or two watercolour landscapes as well, I’m currently more comfortable with watercolours than I am with oils as I’m totally new to them therefore the one oil painting that I do produce may take some time to accomplish.
My next post will be on Wednesday 15th July and will contain some sketches that I’ve been doing for this project.
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