Watercolour, 2013

Leaving Qart Hadasht

Two stages in Hannibal’s life, 42 years apart.

Leaving Qart Hadasht (I)

237 BC. The First Roman War is over, as is the Mercenary War, which brought Carthage to the brink of destruction. Rome has taken advantage of the beaten opponent’s plight and taken Sardinia and Corsica from it, as well as Sicily. Hannibal doesn’t care about that right now. For the first time in his life, the nine-year-old sees his father for a longer period of time. And not only that; Hamilcar, who until then was little more than a vague hero figure for the boy, has agreed to take him to Spain with him. On board a warship to Iberia, embarking on the adventure of his life, Hannibal can barely believe his luck. He has no eyes for the city he leaves behind; little does he know that it will be 34 years before he sees it again. He is too young for sentimental thoughts. wp_qart-hadasht1_col Leaving Qart Hadasht (II)

195 BC. The Second Roman War is over, and lost. Hannibal, now fifty-one, has managed the considerable feat of saving his city financially, by beating down on corruption and restricting the rights of the nobility. Said nobility fears for its centuries-old power, and the only one they can think of that they might turn to is Rome. His political enemies claim that Hannibal is plotting another war. Several factions in Rome are only too happy to believe these claims, and send a delegation to Carthage. Hannibal knows they will grasp at any opportunity to finally get hold of him, and drag him to the Capitol in triumph. He manages to slip away before Rome can demand his extradition. On board a merchant ship to Tyre, he looks back at his city for what he probably knows will be the last time. wp_qart-hadasht2_col I found myself listening to Ken Theriot’s “Visby” the other day, and while it’s totally about a pacifist Viking and not about a retired Carthaginian general, it really hit a spot…

The world is nothing but a piece of land

And fame and glory fit in the palm of your hand

Death will find me where I am today

And home is ever calling me to stay

Am I weird to feel painfully sorry for a guy who lived 2200 years ago? No, absolutely not.

Pencil versions:

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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.

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

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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.)

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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).

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Drawing Morgoth.
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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.

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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!

The Darkening of Valinor (and other odds and ends)

Firstly, I’m finally drawing again – there’s still a whole load of tests that need to be marked over the next month, but most of the other work is out of the way.

This is a commission about the Darkening of Valinor – this will be the centre piece, with Fëanor holding his dead father.

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My latest print sale has been a huge success – thank you, all of you who have supported me by buying my prints! The print sale is still up; if you’ve been debating so far, you have until tomorrow to make up your mind. :)

And lastly: I’ve now got a tumblr! I’m still in the process of making up my mind what I’ll post where, but I can imagine that random sketches and wips will go to tumblr rather than my blog – unless it’s walkthroughs, of course. I’ll still do those here. :)

One little, two little, fifteen little Noldor

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I sat down yesterday for a reality check. Am I deluded? These all look different to me, even without their characteristic hair. So yes, they are all related (fathers and brothers and sons and daughters and cousins), so they are all immortal and ageless, and they are all beautiful in the same ethereal Elven way, and yes, there are some that are less characteristic than others. But to me, they look exactly as they should. Maybe I’ve become too much of a shepherd. Or, alternatively, it’s just that I don’t see Tolkien’s characters as wildly individual (bordering on cartoonish) as, for example, G. R. R. Martin’s.

‘What!’ cried Bilbo. ‘You can’t tell which parts were mine, and which were the Dúnadan’s?’
‘It is not easy for us to tell the difference between two mortals’ said the Elf.
‘Nonsense, Lindir,’ snorted Bilbo. ‘If you can’t distinguish between a Man and a Hobbit, your judgement is poorer than I imagined. They’re as different as peas and apples.’
‘Maybe. To sheep other sheep no doubt appear different,’ laughed Lindir. ‘Or to shepherds. But Mortals have not been our study. We have other business.'” — The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien

Or, in the words of the immortal Hiro Nakamura and Ando Masahashi: “They all look the same to me.” – “That’s racist!”

Spirit of Fire

Added just a bit of colour to the Hobbit Feest sketch of Fëanor.

 

 

And started a new sketch that I’m sure Maedhros knew he couldn’t hold off for ever…

Thinking of treating this a lot rougher, colour-wise, than I usually do. Possibly with a wash like above, maybe even charcoal, ink, acrylics – not decided yet.

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.

Pain and regret

Some people have remarked to me, over the past few months, “You haven’t posted in a while – wow, can’t wait to see what massive project you’re working on!”

I’m sorry to say there was no massive project other than keeping sane. The last weeks at school were bad, and the next year won’t be much easier. I’m currently trying to get what comfort I can from the fact that it’s the holidays. For weeks, I didn’t even have any inspiration to draw. I hope that’s over now.

Carefully easing back into Silmarillion art with a long-planned picture of Maglor by the waves.