Old techniques and new hairstyles

After “Noldolantë”, I felt myself groping for other media once again. I remembered how much I’d always liked to work on Ingres paper with pencil and white pencil for highlights, and found some sheets lying in my art shelf (bought in England in 1997, O_o). I hadn’t done anything with them after 2003 or so, after trying and failing to scan them.

I then remembered yesterday that I’ve had a new, very good, scanner for five years now and that might just be a reason to give that technique another go.

As usual in such experiments, Maedhros was my guinea pig. It’s obvious that he was rather pleased with it this time. I gave him long hair because I meant it to be pre-Thangorodrim.

And decided I liked it entirely too much. Hot damn. I was deserting my every principle.

Now, feel free to skip the next bit if you’re not into Tolkien hair length or -colour obsession (which would be forgiveable but, if you don’t mind me saying it, completely incomprehensible). Jump in again with the next picture. (This is why I love this blog, by the way. I can ramble about all sorts of things that would totally clog up any picture description in dA)!

I’ve been drawing Maedhros with short hair for… twenty years. Almost to the day. I’ve fiercely defended his short hair with those people who said that ALL Elves had long hair always, ever, from birth, under any circumstances. (Fun fact: I seem to associate hair length with name length. If a Tolkien character has more than three syllables, he stands a good chance of long hair.) Maedhros, with his Greek last syllable, his utter no-nonsense attitude and temporary cruel streaks, always struck me as someone who would never fuss with his hair.

I’ve drawn Maedhros with long hair before, always tied on his back, and always before his captivity on Thangorodrim. But I have to admit the movies have steadily worn out my resistance. And so I suppose it’s official. Maedhros has long hair.

Until further notice.

So, the new look needed to be put to the test. Could it hold up to a full image of a very firm and angry Maedhros sans right hand?

Left: first loose sketch, pose far from final. Behold the reason for my often skewed anatomy: I don’t construct enough.

Right: If looks could kill, the War of Wrath would not have been necessary.

So… I dare say the new look will hold up to pretty much everything.

It helps that, with his hair tied, I can still keep his silhouette.

And good grief, this technique on pastel paper is so incredibly, incredibly satisfying. Results are so fast and so refined. And so wonderfully fitting for illustrating Middle-earth.

This is an image that’s been floating around the back of my head since 2004, I suppose – Maedhros as Lord of Himring.

After failing with Elven architecture in “Noldolantë” (which I wouldn’t be averse to revisiting on pastel paper some time), I made some sketches for Himring. It’s described as a “great fortress” and “citadel” in the Silmarillion, and so I wanted it to convey strength but still retain Elven elegance. Maedhros would not have fussed with an overly filigree design to something that was to withstand a direct assault of Morgoth, but he was still born and raised in Valinor and would not have wanted to live in a huge block of stone (especially not after Angband). I found a nice compromise with a very compact silhouette and flowy design elements within the form.

Still needs some thought, and other paper – this was done on Daler-Rowney Ingres paper which is only 90g thick, so it did not take kindly to my liberally using white gouache for the sky.

Drawing these, I felt reminded suddenly of an RPG adventure I played in the mid-nineties – “Palantír Quest”, from the MERP RPG (which went out of business just afterwards), which sends the characters on a hunt for two lost palantíri in the Fourth Age. It also sent them to the ruins of Maedhros’ citadel on Tol Himling, an isle in the middle of the ocean off the coast of Middle-earth, all that was left of Beleriand. Among the treasure they found there was a suit of armour that belonged to Maedhros – only that it wouldn’t fit anyone under eight feet. :D Never had more fun spoiling an adventurers’ treasure hunt.

That adventure had Maedhros’ personal chambers deep below the ruins of the citadel, because it said that Maedhros was afraid of heights after his torture on Thangorodrim. But seriously – I would expect him to have his chambers in the topmost room of the highest tower, so he could always see Angband. Afraid of heights… no. Just no.

I can’t wait to do more with this technique. Has anyone ever seen a sketchbook with tinted pastel paper? If so, please drop me a line!

14 thoughts on “Old techniques and new hairstyles

  1. Hello!I found my way to your blog via your dA page, and hope you don't mind my commenting here instead. it just seems a less frenzied place than dA.I certainly enjoy your interpretation of Tolkien's characters, and every new piece makes me want to go dig up my battered copy of The Silmarillion.I wanted to comment here because I am quite the fan of working light and dark on neutral toned paper and have been working a lot with it myself, recently. I have to say the tooth of the Ingres paper looks quite nice, and like it lends itself really well to working this way. I shall have to go get some!If you're curious to see any of my neutral toned paper works, I've been doing my annual January Sketch-A-Day Project (to get my creativity flowing for the year) and posting the sketches on dA under "silvertales" or on my own art blog here: http://kitsune-silvertales.blogspot.com/

  2. A sketch a day – that sounds fantastic! The Ingres paper has indeed a very nice texture; I'm not that partial to it, though, because it can't handle wet media (gouache) as well as Mi-Teintes from Canson does. I'd give a lot for an Ingres sketchbook though. *dream*

  3. I started doing the Sketch-A-day project two years ago, as a way to jump stat my creativity and artistic production at the beginning of the year, give myself possible sketches to turn into finished pieces. I have to say, the longer I do it, the more the sketches end up like finished preliminary pencils to finished pieces. So, it has been very good for spurring new artistic projects. I tend to be wary of wet media, I'm not as practiced with inks and watercolors to the point where I feel confident sketching that way, but I can certainly see the appeal!

  4. Talking about tented paper and Middle Earth I came to think about Donato Giancola, you can google him and find his website with his sketches or find his book about Middle Earth (you won't regret it I promise) ! I know what you feel with this technique ! Teinted paper and white pencil is such a joy for putting great light ! I'm still following you on dA ! Keep the good work ! ;)

  5. Wow, thank you for introducing me to Donato's work! Especially his sketches are inspiring. Though some of his oils are almost too renaissance for my taste. That "Taming of Sméagol" is rather disturbing. O_o And people read sexual undertones into *my* work??

  6. I read the his explication in the artbook about The Taming of Smeagol, and I quite like it, it's an other interpretation closer to the idea of temptation that the Ring has. It's beyond anything sexual for me. But I'm a Renaissance fan, so…. (well Middle Age and Celtic too !)Though, I've been going through the pages of the artbooks, it's filled with sketches and portraits ! I think that not everything is in his website and it cost only 25$ so a little less in euros and it's a big book, amazon is you friend ! Enjoy ! I thing John Howe uses also teinted paper, but I guess you know him so…Well that all I can thing about ! Hope you'll find your inspiration !

  7. Haha, your thoughts on Maedhros living atop of Himring it to look towards Angband and such image floating in the back of head for years… We have way too many similar ideas ;) My sketch of Himring with him in front never got finished, that was 2006. Got to make a new one one day. My Himring is heavier, though. Great to see the steps and all the descriptions. I particularly like this sentence:Now, feel free to skip the next bit if you're not into Tolkien hair length or -colour obsession (which would be forgiveable but, if you don't mind me saying it, completely incomprehensible).Indeed XDI'm awaiting more! Greetings :)

  8. I've been doing a drawing a day thing too but honestly…the longer it goes on for me the later I wait to begin the drawing. I always wait till i'm dead tired to begin it and it never gets done. I have 10 days left in this 30 day challenge so maybe I should strive to actually finish the sketches haha.I find it amusing that you don't construct either. I was never fond of the stick figure and circles that my aunt taught me and often skip that step. However….it seems to be bad for me as I tend to draw my people very lanky when I don't draw their joints as circles xD. I get this mindset of "People aren't that wide" but idk. I don't really know why I believe this but it might have something to do with my personally small stature (i'm a stick…) and possibly the MMO I play where people are also thin and tall. I do believe my drawings should feature more filled out and strong looking people but I suck at doing it. I guess that's my goal too for the rest of the challenge.Also, I appreciate this blog. Since I'm still an art noob that never took any classes, I like seeing what techniques are out there that I didn't even know existed. I'd like to try them all someday but I need to work on my skills first. Problem is I'm failing to make much progress recently…oh well. Oh gosh…which German word = the post button…

  9. Bind one yourself. If there is none with your favorite paper and ingres is rather thin so it shouldnt be a problem.Most things you can improvise with household stuff.(Zum heften zum Beispiel Sternzwirn den du über ne kerze ziehst damit er gewachst ist. Leinenstücke für die Bünde gibst in jedem Kurzwarenhandel, für die Gaze reicht fast jeder Stoff und als Kleber is Holzleim gut.) Give it a try:http://davethedesigner.net/booktut/

  10. Hab ich mittlerweile sogar gemacht. Wobei mein Problem ist, dass ich beim Basteln furchtbar ungeduldig bin und dementsprechend sieht das Buch nun auch aus XD Aber es wird seinen Zweck tun. Über das Tutorial, das du verlinkt hast, bin ich auch gestolpert, aber da habe ich mich nicht rangetraut – ich habe eins gefunden, dass etwas mehr "basic" war.

  11. Woops! I never knew – you mean you get the German version of my page?? lol! Something that needs to be remedied. I thought it was like facebook, it always gives you your own "language zone". Yeah, I don't construct enough. Usually only for difficult poses. So very often, if I have people just standing, it gets messy with the second layer of clothing ;)

  12. :D Glad you enjoy it, Sirielle. And isn't it amazing how Silmarillion fans will find such closely linked ideas in what's between the lines? I've always thought that quite remarkable. Tolkien gave us so little – but left us with so many ideas which he apparently all planted there on purpose. It's staggering, really.

  13. haha! My technique is terrible, maybe I should try following one of your tutorials. I'm a weirdo that likes to draw things in parts instead of the whole drawing at once…so I may draw the whole upper body with the clothing and whatnot and the person won't have legs. It's bad…but it's always how I did things and never saw a reason to change…but now I'm starting to see a need to xD. I think it'd help a lot with the awkward posing issues I have. But I'm curious what your thoughts are on this too :o.

  14. Your close-up of Maedhros is actually amazing! I never had a clear image of him in my head, although being aware of his described appearance, but I can never think of him another way again. I love your newest picture too. Especially Maglor – he looks so tragic you practically see the fate of the Noldor unfold before your eyes. I wonder if you’ve considered drawing any scenes from Gondolin – I bet those would be great too!

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