Tolkien-Tag am Niederrhein

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I spent the weekend at Tolkien-Tag am Niederrhein (Tag being the German word for day; just in case you thought it was a weird game of tag, you’re it.)

Had a bunch of very nice conversations and a drawing workshop, and sold a couple of prints – and got some art done! It’s always a good idea to sketch while I sit at my stand. I don’t know why, but people will never believe that I drew these things I’m selling. And even if I tell them, they’ll assume I’ll just “print them out” or, hilariously, “Do you draw those freehand? Or do you use… stencils?”

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Yup. Never go anywhere without my “Finwë dying in Fëanor’s arms” stencil.

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I also did two more sketchbooks. The left was a commission, the right one is for sale. Any takers? I’ll make it 35 € instead of the usual 40 for sketchbooks because it wasn’t a free prompt. And because Éomer’s hand is a bit wonky.

Hobbit Feest

Photo by Leo Munten (L.A. Model Photography)

Photo by Leo Munten (L.A. Model Photography)

Last weekend was Hobbit Feest at Kasteel de Berckt in Baarlo, Netherlands. It was a wonderful and cosy experience (probably too cosy from the organisers’ points of view, as there were really not enough visitors). Though it was rather quiet, I loved it there – I met up with loads of Loughborough friends again, and made loads of new ones. Few visitors but loads of new friends – yes, that actually did work that way. I’ve been trying to analyse why exactly everyone at Hobbit Feest – visitors and vendors alike – were such great guys, and I have several theories as to that.

Theory #1: Dutch people are cool. Yes, they are. So very much so. So relaxed, so friendly, so gregarious, so out- and easygoing. I think this has something to do with it, but the Germans I met there were just as nice, so that can’t have been all there is to it.

Theory #2: Tolkien fans are a much nicer bunch than Fantasy fans at large (as seen at Ring*Con). That’s definitely true. Everyone whom I met at Baarlo had read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings; and those who had not read the Silmarillion were at least duly ashamed of themselves. XD And they loved to discuss their views as much as I do.

Theory#3: I was sketching at my table. You may remember that one of the things I found so weird at Ring*Con was how people didn’t believe I was the artist of the stuff I was selling there. (Something I don’t understand. I think I fit my drawings.) Here, I always had a drawing in front of me, and people who passed by always acknowledged me. All of them smiled and said, “Those are great drawings!” Some then went on, in a friendly way. Most stayed to chat. Many bought prints. I feel like an idiot for not doing that at Ring*Con! So they all really thought I was just sitting there behind a random assortment of prints – no wonder that wasn’t interesting.

Photo by Leo Munten (L.A. Model Photography)

Something really funny that I heard a number of times over the weekend was the absolutely incredible line: “Did you draw these? Or… are they printed?”

That sentence is just hilarious when you think about it. It implies I’ve printed out some nice piccies from the Internet and take them to a convention. It also implies that nobody (at least not, apparently, a youngish looking woman in a Norwegian sweater) is even able to draw like that. and the one one who can is… the Internet? I thought that mindset was rather funny. Interestingly, I’ve heard it before, from my very inartistic parents in law.

Talking about parents, De Limburger newspaper was there on Saturday, and I made it into today’s issue with a small interview and a photo! The text recounts how my mother read the Hobbit to me when I was a child, “leaving out the violent scenes” (not essentially true…) and how “Tolkien inspires”. That he does. To this day. And many another to come.

So, aside from the many great conversations I had over the weekend, I did a workshop which was fun as well, though it bordered on a speed record that I was able to do it within one hour. Especially as I was talking English and German simultaneously.

Below, there’s a bit of comparative anatomy: Horses, humans, hobbits, bats and dragons. (And an answer to the question why hobbits are often depicted with larger than usual feet: when we see a clothed form with bare feet, the feet appear tiny to us because we expect something the size of shoes.)

Photo by Leo Munten (L.A. Model Photography)

I also wallowed in the absolutely unparalleled luxury of having two, two days in which I could sit and draw! On the first day, I set out to do a pencil drawing (probably soon to be watercoloured) of the “Children of the Forest” sketch I made last week.

On the second day, I gave Fëanor the glamour portrait that he has been demanding since… uh, 2004. I’m sorry, Curufinwë. I feel like treating this one with just a bit of colour too.

Later, I also drew a request sketch for Sarina, of Arwen.

All in all, this has been an absolutely gorgeous weekend – I can’t wait for next May, when I’ll be at Tolkien Tag in Geldern! (Not a weird way of playing tag, by the way, but “Tolkien Day” in German).

Back from Ring*Con

Back from Ring*Con in Bonn, the biggest Fantasy convention in Europe.

It was surprisingly close to my experience of Spielemesse Essen, when I had expected something more like Return of the Ring in Loughborough. Many thanks to Becky Dillon, Jay Johnstone, Julian Eilmann, Marcel Aubron-Bülles, Hayley Rust, Susi Knight and many others for the great weekend! I did fairly well, sold a good number of prints, met a lot of cool people and had a great many interesting conversations, though I didn’t feel at home as much as I had in Loughborough. It was mainly a movie convention, so most people couldn’t connect to what I did. I probably would have been sold out if I did movie star portraits, which was what people were expecting. Thus, Maglor was thought to be Billy Boyd, Thorin was thought to be Christopher Lee, and Maedhros was thought to be every single one-handed character in any fandom, from Jaime Lannister to Luke Skywalker. I do think I have met pretty much every Silmarillion fan there that weekend, so that was nice. But there were definitely fewer book fans than movie fans, and a large majority couldn’t connect, not even to the Song of Ice and Fire art. What was worse, most didn’t even recognise the phrase “Song of Ice and Fire”. For them, it was just GoT, and Jon Snow is a twenty-something guy with a beard.

And then there is this weird tendency to be perceived in German convention goers. In England, I sat there and just talk to everybody who walked past. Even if I didn’t talk to people, we’d exchange friendly glances. Acknowledge each others’ existence and shared literary passion.

Germans will walk past your desk building an invisible wall between them and you. Weirdly, if they stop to look, your display will still be on their side of the wall. They look at your stuff, ignore you, ignore your smiles, ignore even your “Good morning”, venture off without acknowledging your presence. At times, I felt absolutely horrible there. I just hadn’t been prepared for that. It would have been okay if I hadn’t been used to the friendliness I’d met with at Loughborough and which I was expecting here. I know now why so many stall-owners on German conventions can be found sitting there at the back will with their arms crossed or reading a book. It’s not lack of interest. It’s self-protection.
Even magnificently costumed people just look at you disdainfully if you compliment their costume. Apparently, my blue-Jean clad self wasn’t considered an acceptable judge of costume. Sorry, skimpy Daenerys outfits just don’t suit me and my evil overlord costume was in the laundry. Being normally dressed did help with the waiters and personnel of Hotel Maritim though, who seemed to view everyone costumed as a centaur or a wizard with a good dose of scepticism.

Another weird experience was that people didn’t think I was the artist. I’ve always looked younger than I actually am, but this time, I wished I did look my nearly forty years to people would actually think I was actually drawing those images, not just selling them. They were always rather surprised when they found out and a few said they’d expected someone older. A weird highlight was two ladies commenting on the heat in the hall, and when I said I was rather cold (which I always am) they said knowingly, wait until you’re thirty years older. So I’ll stop being cold all the time when I’m seventy? Cool! Can’t wait.

Apparently, the parties in the evenings were rather fun, but I always had to travel back to Jülich every day as I hadn’t booked a room. I have to say I wasn’t too sorry about that, Drinking, alcohol and partying is something else I don’t get, as little as I get Daenerys outfits above a certain body mass index (under which I’d fall as well, make no mistake). Each to their own, definitely. I just wish some of those “each to their own people” expecting tolerance for cosplays etc could be more tolerant towards those weirdos like me who wear jeans and jumpers and don’t drink alcohol.

One thing that did put me squarely into my own element, and in which my lack of costume did not seem to undermine my authority, was the drawing workshop I held on Saturday. It was horribly overcrowded and required a good deal of frantic last minute organisation, but hey, I’m a school teacher. I can do that. The workshop itself was a lot of fun and I got a lot of positive responses to it.

In the future, I’ll probably make sure to stay on the Tolkien side of events – or adjust my ideas of what to expect as well as my range of products. I’ll definitely be at Hobbit Feest in Baarlo, NL, this November, as well as (probably) Hobbit*Con in Bonn next Easter.

Loughborough Pictures

My first exhibition!

And look! I’m on the BBC!

 

My stand. I realised later that it was a weird mix of artists alley and actual stand. This was on the first day; I still had prints!

Jay Johnstone setting up his stand. Now THAT is a stand. I was taking mental notes on how to present myself properly.

Simo, alias Lathron, in his Elven armour that he forged himself. I wish I’d badgered him into doing another somersault that I could take a picture of. But be assured, he did do one; that armour’s very flexible.

Anke Eißmann, who shared a table with me, in the process of sketching Sherlock fanart. ;)

These two had a beautiful stand doing Elven calligraphy.

It was wonderful to see even older fans of Tolkien dressed up and generally sharing all the same enthusiasm.

Before Saruman went to subjugate the Shire under the name of Sharkey, he seems to have tried out Rugby at Lufbra Uni. Judging by the amount of trophies he gathered, it’s surprising he didn’t stick to it. Maybe it was because they always misspelt his name on the jersey.

Malcolm, winner of my purely personal Funniest T-shirt Contest. And generally a wonderful bloke.

Shaun Gunner, deputy chairman of the Tolkien Society and in charge of organising the Return of the Ring event. And yes Shaun, you’re everyone’s favourite! Deservedly.

Nancy Martsch, Ruth Lacon, Ted Nasmith, me, and Anke Eißmann at the “Illustrating Tolkien” panel.

Ted answering questions.

Ted looking at my portfolio. We had a lot of fun discussing lack of backgrounds and lack of characters. It was something I mentioned at the artists panel – that men seem to be focussing on the landscapes and women on the characters.

Me at the watercolour workshop.

Getting ready for the Traditional Knitted Dwarf Toss.

Close-up of the Knitted Dwarf.

A huge Smaug cake that was presented on Saturday night. It was delicious, too.

Ted Nasmith, Alex Lewis, and Lynn Whitaker singing Tolkien-inspired songs. One of my absolute highlights.

Breakfast time with the Dragon Vert Tolkien-reenactment company.

A seamstress from Le Dragon Vert working on a Bayeux- inspired tapestry depicting Éomer.

A setup at camp that just caught my eye.

Farewell to Lufbra. These are the student accommodations, and all in all, they’re about twice as big as the village I live in. I’d never seen such an incredibly large University.

Here are some of the quick watercolour portraits I did over the weekend:

Treebeard

Fingon

Rosie Cotton

Guess who. :D

Another Fingon.

A hobbit I did for Shaun. He said that people seem to draw hobbit feet far too large, and also told me that he had very large feet. So there.

Éowyn.