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.