Saturday, October 10, 2015

Tolkien's Style

Based on what I've seen in J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, it seems like Tolkien experimented with many different artistic styles. Some of his pictures are more realistic, and depict landscapes, places, and scenes. For example, on pages 122 and 123 there are some images of Beorn's hall done in ink and pencil. The pictures are drawn with careful attention to proportion and detail, and they are in black and white. A few of my favorite pictures that appear to be more realistic are The Forest of Lothlorien in Spring (pg 162), The Hall at Bag-End (pg 139), and Bilbo Woke Up with the Early Sun in His Eyes (see below and pg 121). That last image depicts one of the Eagles standing on the precipice on which Bilbo finds himself. Unlike the images of Beorn's Hall, Tolkien did this picture in watercolor, and the colors are really beautiful. This is probably one of my favorite pictures in the entire book.
In addition to his more realistic pictures, Tolkien also has some more abstract pieces. There are many of these in the "Visions,  Myths, and Legends" chapter of the book. I think we discussed The Shores of Faery and The Man in the Moon on pages 48-49. Here, we see Tolkien adopt a much more abstract style for these pictures. Instead of depicting things and places, the pictures seem to suggest and hint at them.

One chapter we haven't covered in class is the "Patterns and Devices" section. Like the chapter title says, this section shows some patterns, embellishments, and designs that Tolkien created. These are interesting because they're extremely intricate and pleasant to look at. They remind me of the designs on an illuminated manuscript.

So why do you think  Tolkien tried out so many different styles? Do you think his style depends on the subject matter being depicted, or do you think he just enjoyed practicing different techniques? Do you have a favorite style or favorite image?


Ulmo said...

I think Tolkien may have had so many styles of drawing because he enjoyed trying them out, but also perhaps because he didn't ever feel fully comfortable with one specific technique. With images drawn from his imagination, he maintains a style with bright, sometimes crazy colors and creatures or figures scattered throughout the illustration. His images drawn from sight, like his landscapes, have more muted colors and softer lines, and tend to be less 'active'. These are major generalizations but he may have been trying to make each style realistic to the scene he wanted to transcribe.

Vana said...

I think Tolkien wasn't nearly as comfortable with his skills in art as he was with his skills in writing. He experiments with many different styles, mediums, colors, textures, etc. For instance, theres a dark ink on white drawing of a forest Tolkien entitles Mirkwood - this piece later shows up as pencil on sepia and with more detail, and is titled Fangorn. It is the same drawing each done differently and with different names. While I'm not sure which was drawn first, this makes me think that Tolkien maybe tried something new and wasn't satisfied. Or maybe he liked the drawing and wanted to replicate it in a new style. Either way, he seems like Either way, he seems like an explorer of his own skills in the area.