About Anke-Katrin Eißmann

My very first encounter with "The Lord of the Rings" was about six years ago when I was 15. I must confess that I first watched the movie (which I now loathe). Then I read the book (in German, which is of course only half the fun, as I realized later). Immediately I felt strangely familiar with the story, the characters and the setting: the book seemed to combine everything I had ever found fascinating, moving, or thrilling in other books. And yet here was something new.

I shall never forget that particular evening in 1992 during a summer-holiday in Denmark when I reached the end of Book 4. It was almost dark outside and a strong westwind was sighing in the wheat-field in front of my window. I had just read about Shelob's attack on Frodo, and Sam's desperate fight, and his decision to go on alone when he thought Frodo dead. I was deeply moved, such as I had never been before when reading a book. I was almost sure that Frodo (whom I have always liked and still like very much) had died indeed, and I guess I shared Sam's depair.

I believe this to be the turning point in my view of "The Lord of the Rings". Before it the work had just been a very good book, now it was THE book, and it has remained it until now.

Even today, after much study of Tolkien's other works, and mythology in general, I cannot quite put into words what it is exactly that makes me read the book again and again (once a year at least). So if I cannot express it in words, I try to put it down on paper. Ever since I could hold a pencil I have been drawing, and later painting. My chief subjects have always been the stories that fascinated me at a certain time. My first journey to Middle-Earth in 1992 is thus fixed on paper, too (and looks rather funny now).

After having purchased the English edition of LOTR illustrated by Alan Lee I found that he has depicted the landscapes and characters and even whole scenes very much the way I had always imagined them (some little "mistakes" left aside), but could not paint myself. He portrays Middle-earth not as a foreign place, but as a part of our real world. Thus he expresses explicitly how I feel when reading Tolkien: at home.

Generally I share Lee's view not to interfere as an illustrator with the readers own imagination, but since I cannot do landscapes as well as he does, I had to find other topics to paint. I chose those scenes and characters which tend to be overlooked by other artists, scenes not charged with great action or emotion or drama, but nevertheless important for the story and rewarding to paint in my eyes.

Since I imagine the setting of Tolkien's works to be in a fictional time and real place similar to early mediaeval north-western Europe, my characters wear mainly costumes and weapons of the Anglo-Saxon-, Norman- and Viking-age. I also try to avoid the clichees so typical for fantasy-art nowadays (pointed ears for Elves, for example). All in all I want to stick as close to the descriptions in the books as possible.

My images shall express how I see Tolkien's works, although I must admit that I am not quite capable yet of putting to paper what I see in my mind when reading. The pictures are thus only one possible, very personal view. Each reader has of course his or her own. Since there is much I still have to learn and improve, I guess I will be practicing for some time still to make my painting match my imagination.

Anke Eißmann