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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Tolkien Illustrated: Ted Nasmith #2 – The Hobbit I

Altaira
Superuser / Moderator


Apr 3 2007, 2:23am

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Tolkien Illustrated: Ted Nasmith #2 – The Hobbit I Can't Post

Ted Nasmith’s illustrations of The Hobbit comprise a relatively small portion of his overall body of Tolkien-related work. But, one picture in particular may be one of the most significant, as it was critiqued by the author himself!

In 1972, a teenaged Nasmith sent the following illustration to Tolkien:



The Unexpected Party; tednasmith.com (click link for larger picture)

“Photos of this painting (including detail shots) were sent to J.R.R. Tolkien in 1972 along with some other work. He responded a few weeks later with a letter typed and signed by his personal secretary both praising the work and making the comment that Bilbo seemed too childlike. This was invaluable feedback for a young teenage artist.”
- Ted Nasmith; tednasmith.com


Question 1 - Here’s your chance to agree or disagree with The Professor. Which will it be? Is Bilbo too childlike in this picture? What about the other characters? (They look pretty darned good to me for a budding, teenaged artist).

Question 2 – In the last post there was a quote from Ted comparing his style to that of American luminists. Luminism described by artlex.com and wikipedia is, as follows:

“The American landscape painting style of the 1850s-1870s, characterized by effects of light in landscapes, poetic atmosphere, often sublime, through the use of aerial perspective, and a hiding of visible brushstrokes.”


Other than the fact that this painting isn’t a landscape (we'll get to those!), does Ted’s use of light in this picture foreshadow his future style?

That Tolkien took the time to look at, respond and praise the artwork of a teenager is touching to me. Imagine how Ted must have felt receiving that letter! No wonder he was motivated to keep working on his Tolkien art.

Compare the above painting of Bilbo and the dwarves to this one of Bilbo done sixteen years later for the 1988 Ballantine Tolkien Calendar:



The Arkenstone; tednasmith.com


Question 3 – Do you like this older interpretation of Bilbo better than in the 1972 picture sent to Tokien?


Another picture of Bilbo from the same 1988 Calendar:



At Beorn’s Hall; tednasmith.com

Question 4 – What is your opinion about this picture of Bilbo? (MHO – this is still a bit on the young side, but the closest to my own vision of Bilbo at the age he went on his adventure. Again, click on the link below each picture for a larget picture with more detail).

Question 5 – I love the expression on Beorn’s face in this picture. For an artist who’s much more acclaimed for his landscapes than his character faces (like many Tolkien Artists), I think he did a really good job on Beorn’s face and confused expression. What do you think?

Question 6 - Apologies if this has been discussed before in this series, but here goes: given that we all have our own personal interpretations of what hobbits should look like, is it humanly possible for any artist to ‘get it right?’ What would come closest to perfection for you? Is it any easier to get non-hobbity characters right?


Koru: Maori symbol representing a fern frond as it opens. The koru reaches towards the light, striving for perfection, encouraging new, positive beginnings.



"All we have to decide is what to do with the boards that are given to us"



"I take a moment to fervently hope that the camaradarie and just plain old fun I found at TORn will never end" -- LOTR_nutcase

TORn Calendar


Finding Frodo
Tol Eressea


Apr 3 2007, 3:07am

Post #2 of 14 (516 views)
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Wow [In reply to] Can't Post

That first one is really impressive. Bilbo looks quite a bit like a cherub and some of the dwarves look pasted in or something, but overall it's an effective painting. How wonderful that Nasmith had that interchange with the Professor!

In the others, Bilbo actually looks pretty good to me. In the Arkenstone one, the lines on his face show his age and in the last one, he just seems middle-aged despite his neatly crossed feet. Beorn looks ridiculous though -- like a cartoon caveman.

Where's Frodo?


Radhruin
Rohan


Apr 3 2007, 4:04am

Post #3 of 14 (522 views)
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Mommy! Mommy! Look at the bright light! [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Question 1 - Here’s your chance to agree or disagree with The Professor. Which will it be? Is Bilbo too childlike in this picture? What about the other characters? (They look pretty darned good to me for a budding, teenaged artist).



TOO childlike? Whoa. Understatement of the century!Wink I actually really like this picture, and am very impressed with the story behind it. Bilbo looks like a little "cherub" as Finding Frodo mentioned. But I rather like the dwarves.


Quote
Question 3 – Do you like this older interpretation of Bilbo better than in the 1972 picture sent to Tokien?



I do like this interpretation better, although something about his eyebrows is strange, and he still looks too young, but it is a much better vision of Bilbo in my mind.


Quote

Question 4 – What is your opinion about this picture of Bilbo? (MHO – this is still a bit on the young side, but the closest to my own vision of Bilbo at the age he went on his adventure. Again, click on the link below each picture for a larget picture with more detail).



Another Bilbo that is too "cherubic" in nature. I never pictured the hobbits as creatures still hanging on to their "baby fat" so to say. Gandalf is too "blue" or something. ;) I'll have to agree with Finding Frodo again that Beorn looks too "cave man"-like. Although his expression is sufficiently "confuzzled" as it were. I rather like the picture as a whole, but don't care for Gandalf and Bilbo.


Quote

Question 6 - Apologies if this has been discussed before in this series, but here goes: given that we all have our own personal interpretations of what hobbits should look like, is it humanly possible for any artist to ‘get it right?’ What would come closest to perfection for you? Is it any easier to get non-hobbity characters right?



I don't think it is possible, if nothing more than the fact that hobbits are too close to being "human" but not far enough away from being "human" to be "alien", etc... So they are more difficult to put in a box as a separate species, without us looking at them as human. But it's wonderful to see interpretations by artists that bring their own vision.


"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."
~Oscar Wilde


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Apr 3 2007, 9:15am

Post #4 of 14 (519 views)
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not entirely so [In reply to] Can't Post

  
Question 1-a - Here’s your chance to agree or disagree with The Professor. Which will it be? Is Bilbo too childlike in this picture?

A: Bilbo appears 'too childlike' only is some ways, not entirely so. There was something, just a small something that did not seem that young. I could not pick it out right off.

I held up an envelope (opaque paper handy on my desk) blocking various portions of Bilbo's face…

What I discovered is that: the lower half is definitely too child like, The upper half appears more mature, generally. I did the same thing for right and left sides. The right eye (right to viewer) seems much more adult compared to the rest of the face. Combined with the Disreali-like hair lock gives him the more mature English country gentleman thing going on. The rest of the face, is too childlike'. So I mostly agree with the Professor, but reserve a little disagreement around the right eye an hairline.

Question 1-b (cont.) - What about the other characters?


A: I strongly appreciate that they are not 'cartoonish". I think maybe even Curious would agree that he gave them personality, at least some of them.
However, I have a bit of problem with Gandalf's face. I know it looks the way it does due to he lamplight which would crate heavy shadows on his face, being higher up from it. But I think they are excessive and distort his face in a way that is both unpleasant and makes him look kind of freaky.

I might get to the rest later. I am falling asleep at the wheel'.

Alan Lee Discussion week: starts March 25th in the Reading Room
Discussion Ideas, Alan Lee–Introduction, Scanned images for Alan Lee Discussion.

Art Gallery Revised, ORC pic of Hawaii friends, my drawings,
Aloha & Mahalo, Websites Directory
Nienna: “ those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope . . . All those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom." — Valaquenta


drogo
Lorien


Apr 3 2007, 10:25am

Post #5 of 14 (519 views)
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I like Bilbo better than his other Hobbits [In reply to] Can't Post

These Bilbo paintings are new to me, and I prefer Bilbo to the more grizzled Hobbits we get in his LOTR illustrations, especially his Sams. There is a slighly young, innocent quality, but Bilbo is not too baby faced, but is clearly a naive figure in the Unexpected Party image. We can see a difference in the Bilbo with the Arkenstone: there he is a bit more careworn, and probably more mature.

Thanks for showing these


Attack of the Hildebrandt Hobbits!


a.s.
Valinor


Apr 3 2007, 10:54am

Post #6 of 14 (548 views)
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why does Gandalf have three arms? [In reply to] Can't Post

Seriously, I had the hardest time figuring out the arms in the last picture. I keep seeing three of the arms as belonging to Gandalf, when one of them actually belongs to the bowing figure closest to him. I don't like that last picture, because of the awkward arms, the cartoon Beorn, and how little Bilbo is. The scale of Bilbo to Beorn might be right (I'd have to read the book passages again to figure that out) but it "feels" wrong. Bilbo looks too small.

The Bilbo with the Arkenstone looks the most like a hobbit of any painting here. How can I know the painting of Bilbo "looks like a hobbit"? Because I don't say "ick" when I look at it. Which gets to your question:


Quote

given that we all have our own personal interpretations of what hobbits should look like, is it humanly possible for any artist to ‘get it right?’



No, I don't think anyone gets it quite "right", but pictures that I can look at without cringing away come the closest. The Arkenstone Bilbo is the right size, looks like a "real" living creature, looks like a middle aged person. The legs look the right size, the body matches the leg and head size without looking like a human with a growth disorder, and he's not very handsome but approaches my conception of a Bilbo of this time.

The first painting reminds me of the Dutch paintings of Rembrandt and Vermeer, but I'm not enough of an art scholar to know why...I guess the light illuminating dark figures, probably.

a.s.


"an seileachan"

Some say they're going to a place called Glory, and I ain't saying it ain't a fact.
But I've heard that I'm on the road to Purgatory, and I don't like the sound of that!
I believe in love, and live my life accordingly,
And I choose: let the mystery be.
~~~~Iris DeMent


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Apr 3 2007, 3:36pm

Post #7 of 14 (530 views)
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Love his light and color and backgrounds, but [In reply to] Can't Post

I've never liked Nasmith's characters that much. I can't say why; they're just kind of ugly.

I think my favorite illustrator for drawing hobbits is Tim Kirk, though he makes them a little too short.

But Paula DiSante (known as WonderBroad on TORn) is becoming a new favorite of mine. Check out her work on the Fan Art page, especially this wonderful painting:

Namarie

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chance Meeting at Rivendell: a Tolkien Fanfic
and some other stuff I wrote...
leleni at hotmail dot com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


(This post was edited by Aunt Dora Baggins on Apr 3 2007, 3:39pm)


Darkstone
Immortal


Apr 3 2007, 3:52pm

Post #8 of 14 (522 views)
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Weird. [In reply to] Can't Post

Here’s your chance to agree or disagree with The Professor. Which will it be? Is Bilbo too childlike in this picture?

He looks exactly like child actor Cameron Bright. Spooky.

I met a Balrog on the stair
He had some wings that weren't there.
They weren't there again today.
I wish he would just fly away.


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Apr 3 2007, 4:03pm

Post #9 of 14 (489 views)
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Your footer! LOL!! / [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chance Meeting at Rivendell: a Tolkien Fanfic
and some other stuff I wrote...
leleni at hotmail dot com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Apr 3 2007, 5:58pm

Post #10 of 14 (505 views)
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Dutch paintings of Rembrandt and Vermeer [In reply to] Can't Post

I talkied about the Dutch paintings of Rembrandt and Vermeer in this post below...has related info and links.

http://newboards.theonering.net/...forum_view_expanded;

DoN

Alan Lee Discussion week: starts March 25th in the Reading Room
Discussion Ideas, Alan Lee–Introduction, Scanned images for Alan Lee Discussion.

Art Gallery Revised, ORC pic of Hawaii friends, my drawings,
Aloha & Mahalo, Websites Directory
Nienna: “ those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope . . . All those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom." — Valaquenta


OhioHobbit
Gondor

Apr 3 2007, 10:52pm

Post #11 of 14 (492 views)
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Re: Question 6 [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it IS possible to depict hobbits. They are turn-of-the-20th-century English country farmers only smaller and with hairy feet, but with adult proportions. Kiran Shah is small, but he doesn't look like anything but an adult. I think Peter Jackson's hobbits were perfect. Hobbits are related to humans and I think probably very closely related.


Beren IV
Gondor


Apr 4 2007, 3:43am

Post #12 of 14 (479 views)
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Bilbo *is* childlike [In reply to] Can't Post

When considering the childlike or non-childlike nature of the Hobbits, I think that it is worth considering just what Hobbits are like. In terms of body proportions, no, they should not be childlike; they should be scaled-down humanoids possibly with a little extra flab here and there from what would be considered an "ideal" human form.

At the same time, Hobbits are isolated from the horrors and hardships of the world. They live in a land that seems to be highly productive; they seem to be very competant farmers; they are defended from the myriad nasties of Middle Earth by people that they do not really even know are there; they are not themselves greedy or envious enough to create hardships and power struggles on their own, unlike Humans. This leads to Hobbits having an innocent, childlike personality, quite inescapably. They grow up physically, but they never have to grow up really as a people because they live sheltered lives, even as adults. Hobbits are the "children" of Middle-Earth, even more so than Men, who are already old by this point - and it is not because Hobbits are child-sized.


I do think that Bilbo has too much flab on his face in particular in the first image, though, and Tolkien was right to say that he was child-like. The other images are very good, almost exactly how I imagine them, both characters and settings. The middle Bilbo I like the best, being the least child-like in appearance of the three.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Apr 4 2007, 4:13am

Post #13 of 14 (479 views)
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the rest of my answers [In reply to] Can't Post

Question 2 – Luminism described: “The American landscape painting style of the 1850s-1870s, characterized by effects of light in landscapes, poetic atmosphere, often sublime, through the use of aerial perspective, and a hiding of visible brushstrokes.”
Q: Does Ted’s use of light in this picture foreshadow his future style?

A: To better answer this, I went exploring the Art Style of Luminismto find examples (discoveries below). — I see very little sign of aerial perspective (one part of this description I know about). However I do see signs of "poetic atmosphere" (I think). At least I would say the scene is heavy in atmosphere and would appear to belong in a scene from poetic legends. Beyond that, I can kind of guess what they are referring to, but I never heard this term used in art. "Hiding of visible brushstrokes" is a given. The best I can say by way of an answer is that the light seems rather to be generated by he lamplight and artificial as opposed to self-generated light emanating from within like that of Luminism. And I don't see his future use of light very much in this image.

I have had my interest in 19th Century art peeked these last few weeks against my will in many ways…I like early 20th (1908–1945) and the Renaissance the best. So I went looking for my own gain. Below is some of the things I found in my web travels if anyone is interested.


Question 3 – Do you like this older interpretation of Bilbo better than in the 1972 picture sent to Tolkien?

A: I like that he attempted an older interpretation but I find the result unpleasing…I think that it is more exaggerated by the intensity of the light emanating from the Arkenstone.


Question 5 – I love the expression on Beorn’s face in this picture. I think he did a really good job on Beorn’s face and confused expression. What do you think?

I don't care much for his Beorn. His expression fits to a degree, but I think it is excessive.


Question 6 - Is it humanly possible for any artist to ‘get it right?’ What would come closest to perfection for you?

I agree with OhioHobbit


Quote
I think it IS possible to depict hobbits. They are turn-of-the-20th-century English country farmers only smaller and with hairy feet, but with adult proportions. Kiran Shah is small, but he doesn't look like anything but an adult. I think Peter Jackson's hobbits were perfect. Hobbits are related to humans and I think probably very closely related.



Q6—continued: Is it any easier to get non-Hobbity characters right?

That is a debatable point. It tends to a bit iffy sometimes. I tend to not care much for the interpretations of characters from the Hobbit thinking them too child-oriented. I prefer the more serious, mature, myth-like interpretations. Then that is just my personal aesthetic.

But I do like Ted's image of ' The Arkenstone'. I think his characters are very well interpreted. I just think that Bilbo's face is kind of ugly in this image.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Some practitioners of Luminism — Hudson River School (American counterpart to Impressionism):
Martin Johnson Heade
John F. Kensett (1 image)
John F. Kensett gallery
Worthington Whittredge
Sanford R. Gifford
Fitz Hugh Lane
Albert Bierstadt
Aerial Perspective - Hanover.edu
Aerial Perspective - Mos.Org


...

Alan Lee Discussion week: starts March 25th in the Reading Room
Discussion Ideas, Alan Lee–Introduction, Scanned images for Alan Lee Discussion.

Art Gallery Revised, ORC pic of Hawaii friends, my drawings,
Aloha & Mahalo, Websites Directory
Nienna: “ those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope . . . All those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom." — Valaquenta


Curious
Half-elven

Apr 4 2007, 6:44pm

Post #14 of 14 (520 views)
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That teenager had talent. [In reply to] Can't Post

I like what the teenaged Nasmith was trying to do, even while I find faults in his attempt to do it. I like the contrast between light and dark, but the bright is too bright, as if there is a strong electric light in that lamp. Or at least that is true of the faces behind the light -- the faces we see from the side or behind are not quite so bright. The faces are not particularly expressive, I judge. And of course I agree that Bilbo is too cherubic, as if he never lost his baby fat.

Sixteen years later the light of the Arkenstone is more subdued, Bilbo's face suitably mature, and the Elvenking even shows some expression. (I'm not as enthused about the expression, or lack thereof, shown by Bilbo and Bard.) But although Nasmith isn't afraid to use color and even to let his characters show expression, he doesn't have quite as much mastery of the line as Lee. Furthermore I always get the impression that Lee is capable of using more color and showing more expression if he would try -- because from time to time he does so. I get the impression that Nasmith doesn't quite have Lee's technique, but makes up for it by taking more risks.

The humorous painting of Beorn is risky indeed -- particularly the almost cartoonish expression on Beorn's face. But I like it, especially in an illustration from The Hobbit. I like the colorful flowers, the porch, the blue sky, the sunlight and shade, the benches too large for Bilbo, Gandalf eating as he introduces the dwarves, Beorn looking at them quizzically, and the dwarves bowing quite low. At first I wondered why Gandalf is still holding his staff, but perhaps he wants it handy in case Beorn gets mad. Lee might have been able to draw the same scene with better technique, so that it would look less cartoonish and more life-like, but it's not the kind of picture Lee even attempts to draw.

 
 

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