Friday, September 18, 2015

N.P.B. Karhu

For our art analysis in class on Thursday I chose Tolkien's piece 1931-32 N.P.B. Karhu. This drawing, done in pencil, black, red, and green ink, was part of one of Tolkien's annual letters from Father Christmas to his children.  I chose this particular piece for its contrasting whimsy and formality.
The three elements of art that I believe to be most important of those at work here are line, color, and space.  Tolkien relies primarily on lines, whether solid, dotted, straight, or squiggly, to creates forms in this drawing.  The polar bear, mountains, clouds, and sunlight are all simple lines.  Tolkien then uses color to help differentiate between lines and what they represent.  Shadows tend to be green and black, while light is indicated by red.  Lastly, space is another way in which Tolkien creates forms.  The spaces between lines grows wider as the mountains get steeper, and come together where the slope lessens.
The three principles of art that I saw in this drawing are balance, pattern, and emphasis.  The piece is almost symmetrical, with minor differences on either side.  The objects and color oppose each other fairly equally.  Tolkien's use of pattern is highly evident in the multitude of lines present in the drawing.  The lines, as well as color, lead the eye directly to several focal points on which he puts emphasis.  The picture is split into two sections.  The focus of the top section is Karhu the polar bear.  There are very few objects in this section, and Karhu stands at the center.  He is also the only vertical object there.  In the lower section, the lines of the mountains and sun rays all lead the eye to the sun.  The red color of the sun also attracts attention.  This was one of Tolkien's favorite things to do.  When he designed the cover of The Hobbit, he made Smaug and the moon the same shade of red.  This helped them to stand out among all of the cool colors.  The publishers, however, did not include these elements and left them both white.
Overall, the drawing has a sense of whimsy and formality.  The contrasting colors and cartoonish polar bear help to create a fun image appropriate for children.  However, the lines and balance make the image seem much for formal.  This seems to strike a balance between the two that is proper its purpose.  While it is for children, it is also meant to be included in an official letter from Father Christmas.

1 comment:

Manwë said...

Nice image! One thing I thought about when going through the Father Christmas book was the use of handwriting. I wondered whether Tolkien thought he was concealing his true identity or if Father Christmas was really so old and or cold that he shook when trying to write letters? I very much agree with your comparison to the cover of the Hobbit and the use of red and green. I also enjoy the stylized rune-like lettering underneath the mountains- in fact some of my favorite aspects of Tolkien’s art is the evolution of his signature and script. As I was looking through the illustrator book it was interesting to see how he kind of went back and forth between writing his full name, just his initials, or the symbol he created that incorporated his initials. The JRRT symbol is actually a favorite of mine as I think its just brilliant of him to incorporate so much into a single entity- its also carries the vibe of elvish lettering and beauty that he spent so much time perfecting.