The Darkening of Valinor

This is a commission I took on last November (…!), for a wonderful guy and one of the greatest clients I’ve ever worked with. He wanted a painting of Fëanor holding his slain father, and the scene quickly evolved from there.

As usual, the fist sketches I made were digital, so I could shift around elements and try out what looked good where – digital thumbnailing. In the margin, quite a lot changed; the centre was pretty clear for me right from the start. Only Fëanor’s head went all over the pace during the sketching phase.



At this stage, I took it to pencil and paper, lightly sketching out Fëanor and Finwë.


In the end, I had everything where I wanted it (and had corrected Fëanor’s leg and Finwë’s head wound). For the centre image, I had been working in A4 format, which I find easiest to handle. (Especially on a desk otherwise overflowing with unmarked exams – school really kept me away from drawing for the better part of 2013. But you probably noticed that from the absence of pictures this year.)


I then started on the background. For this, I printed out the centre piece on an A3 sheet of drawing board, in light orange, so I could filter it out digitally later and put the two different elements together but was in less danger of smudging anything. I wanted the centre piece there with me, because the entire piece was to have a unity (Fëanor was to be in direct eye contact with Morgoth across the different picture elements, and later, I continued certain flow lines across the borders- such as Fëanor’s clothing continued in Manwë’s clothing behind Nienna).


Drawing Morgoth.

Outlining the Valar. Ungoliant would be redrawn completely – she looks absolutely wonderfully terrifying, but I assembled her wrong – the legs are attached between the head and the main body of a spider, not on the main body. I can’t believe I studied spider anatomy for this image, and actually desensitised myself (huge arachnophobic here) enough to be able to google wolf spiders and draw them as terrifyingly as I could make it. Incidentally, the desensitising effect was enough for me to clean the basement floor for the first time since we moved into this house. If I’m feeling particularly daring, I might scrounge up the courage to pack up the spider-infested tent that has been lying around in the laundry room since last September.

Apart from arachnophobic concerns, another huge topic was how to portray the Valar. I’m really glad that the client gave me completely free reign with this. I had a hard time finding back to my view of some of them – I’ve seen entirely too many Morgoths, Mandoses and Manwës looking entirely too pretty. Many will disagree with me for Manwë, and feel free to, by all means – I know that “they took the forms of the children of Ilúvatar”. And yet, Tulkas has a beard, and when I first read the Silmarillion, I imagined the Valar like Greek or Norse Gods, with Manwë definitely in the tradition of Odin and Zeus.


Fun fact: Nienna, for me, has always looked like the woman in the video of “Babe” from Take That. The song was in the charts in 1993, while I was reading the Silmarillion excessively during my last year at school, and the video featured a solder coming home from a war (?) in a wintry landscape, where a woman clothed head to toe in some sort of black gauze was walking through the ruins of a Russian palace covered in snow, usually with her head in her hands. I’d never been much of a Take That fan (my teenage tastes were rather unusual – Maedhros, Hannibal and football players instead of Mark Owen and Gary Barlow), but the video fascinated me visually. And gave me a clear vision of Nienna.


Next up: Watercolours!

8 thoughts on “The Darkening of Valinor

  1. Klasse Zeichnung, vor allem die Schraffuren sind super. Aber – und es ist ein großes “Aber” diesmal: Die beiden Erzbösewichte in diesem Bild – Melkor und Ungoliant – sind mir alles in allem viel zu zahm geraten. Ungoliant kommt z. B. nicht zugute, dass sie, obzwar im Bildhintergrund angesiedelt, dem älteren Mann vorne quasi in den Haaren sitzt. Das macht sie kleiner, als sie wohl sein soll, und es fällt schwer, in ihr eines der mächtigsten Geschöpfe der alten Zeit zu sehen. Und Melkor erscheint mir, vor allem wegen der Stellung seiner Augen, als geradezu freundlich und zutraulich, was ja auch nicht so sein sollte. Vielleicht kannst du da, sofern du meine Kritikpunkte nachvollziehen kannst, digital noch etwas nachbessern – Melkors Augen schräg zueinander stellen und Ungoliants Beine in den Hintergrund rücken. Vielleicht wäre es auch eine gute Idee, Feanors Kopf doch wieder – wie noch auf den digitalen Entwürfen – über den inneren Bildrahmen hinausragen zu lassen. Für mich sieht er so, wie er jetzt gezeichnet ist, nämlich schlicht und einfach abgeschnitten aus, und das hat mich bei der Betrachtung des Bildes irgendwie am meisten verwirrt (neben Melkors sympathischem Blick;-)

    • Danke, Marco! Teilweise gebe ich dir völlig recht – Ungoliant und Feanor habe ich geändert; ich hatte auch vor, Feanor aus dem Panel ragen zu lassen (tut Finwe ja schileßlich auch!), aber dann sah es so aus, als würden ihm die Bäume aus dem Kopf wachsen. Das Problem lässt sich aber mit der Colo leichter lösen bzw. trennen, denke ich. Ungoliant – klar. Sie habe ich hinter Manwe gesetzt.

      Morgoth bleibt so – so sieht er für mich aus. Er wirkt auf mich im Buch teilweise etwas zombiehaft – teilnahmslos, getrieben, selbsthassend, und tatsächlich meistens nicht Herr der Lage, sondern in der Mitte gewaltiger Ereignisse, die er losgetreten hat, aber nicht kontrolliert (das hat er ja auch gar nicht nötig, das Chaos funktioniert auch von allein und arbeitet immer für ihn).

      Eventuell mache ich die Augenwinkel noch etwas grader, aber nicht viel. :)

      • Bei Feanor und den Bäumen sehe ich gar kein Problem, du hast dem Binnenbild ja schon eine dickere Outline gegeben, ich denke, das reicht völlig, um nicht den Eindruck entstehen zu lassen, die Bäume wüchsen aus seinem Kopf.
        Was Morgoth angeht, gebe ich dir völlig Recht, da bin ich einfach viel zu sehr von John Howes eher martialischen Morgoth-Bildern infiziert.

        Happy colouring!

  2. This is looking wonderful Jenny; I love the pencil work in the frame, and the way it flows into the central panel. No arguments from me regarding your interpretation of the Valar – the Silmarillion myths always seemed to me to settle comfortably next to the Bronze and Iron Age mythologies of Western Europe, so the Greek and Norse pantheons seem appropriate to reference. IIRC, wasn’t Tolkien trying to create a mythology for pre-Saxon England? And they actually look like adults, with features that differ, rather than pouty teenage girls or one-face-fits-all manga / anime-style ciphers. I’d love to see your versions of all the Valar one day – with so many distinct archetypes, there’d be a lot of scope for variety in faces and costume… how busy are you? ;)

    Not sure about Feanor’s left hand; the thumb looks like it’s trying to be a finger. Otherwise the Elves look fine, and I look forward to seeing them coloured.

    • Oh yes! A gallery of all the Valar would be amazing. Perhaps someday? ;) Your work is beautiful and inspiring, as always. I love Nienna here, and Yavanna. =)

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