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Tolkien Illustrated: Ted Nasmith #9 – The Return of the King I

Altaira
Superuser / Moderator


Apr 6 2007, 3:59am

Post #1 of 8 (569 views)
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Tolkien Illustrated: Ted Nasmith #9 – The Return of the King I Can't Post

Ted’s body of work on the Return of the King gives us an opportunity to do a few more comparisons of paintings that depict the same subject matter.


This painting first appeared in the 1992 calendar, then again on a Danbury Mint plate:



Eowyn and the Lord of the Nazgul; tednasmith.com



Notice the riderless and confused horses in the background on the right. Notice something crawling through the grass in the lower left? Wink


This one first appeared on a Danbury Mint plate, then again in the 2004 Tolkien/Return of the King calendar:



Eowyn and the Nazgul; tednasmith.com


In this picture we don’t see as many details of the battle. We’re below the action looking up at the Witch King and the fell beast, making them appear large and imposing.

Question 1: IMHO, the first painting depicts more detail and accuracy - I find a new detail every time I look at it. The second has more of an emotional impact. I see (and feel) how big the fell beast and Witch King must look to Eowyn and Pippin. What are some of the other differences in these two pictures and how do they affect you?


Here’s another nice pair of paintings depicting Eowyn and Faramir.

The first one appeared on a Danbury Mint plate in 1995



The Sun Unveiled; tednasmith.com

This is another great pic for details. Look for the smoking burned items (siege towers?) on the plain and the sails of ships docked on the banks of the Anduin. While fun to look at, the small details don’t detract from Eowyn and Faramir with the light falling on them. Love the embrace.


The next appeared in the 2004 calendar


Eowyn and Faramir; tednasmith.com

This is a much more stylized, almost cartoon/graphic novel approach. Though embracing, both characters appear both intense and courageous as they face what they’re looking at in the distance.

Question 2: What do you like and dislike about these two very different approaches to the same subject?

Question 3: For the most part, Ted seems to be able to work equally well with a very realistic approach, (especially with landscapes), as with a more stylized approach. The decision as to which to use may be influenced by the audience, but in the end, it lies with the artist. Sometimes, as with the pictures of Eowyn and Faramir, the artist decided to take different approaches with the same subject; the ‘game’ he talked about in an earlier quote. Is this a strength from the perspective of a fan of Tolkien art? Whether you prefer one or the other, can you appreciate both?


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Curious
Half-elven

Apr 6 2007, 11:25am

Post #2 of 8 (439 views)
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Nasmith just isn't that good with portraits. [In reply to] Can't Post

I must confess I'm not that familiar with Tolkien illustrators after the Hildebrandts (i.e. after my college days). I was impressed with Lee's artistic skills, but really wished he would use more color and expression and take more risks with his subject matter. Nasmith does all the things I wish Lee would do, but unfortunately doesn't have Lee's skills, especially when it comes to portraits.

And sometimes, as with his drawings of the Witch-king, Nasmith's gambles don't pay off. Nasmith is following Tolkien to the letter when he shows the Witch-king's crown on an invisible head, but unfortunately to me it looks a bit silly. He also has trouble with Eowyn's face. Nasmith's take on the fell beast is certainly ugly, but also seems ungainly, like a baby bird before it gets its feathers and its balance.

As for the drawings of Eowyn and Faramir, I like everything except the faces. The faces in the first version are better, simply because they are smaller; in the second version Faramir's face is pretty good, although unexpressive, but there's something wrong with Eowyn.

Sorry, no time for more, but I must say again I've been impressed with Nasmith so far. I wish I could combine Lee's drawing skills with Nasmith's color and light and contrast and gambling temperment, then put them under the personal direction of Tolkien. I can hardly wait to see Howe.


mae govannen
Tol Eressea

Apr 6 2007, 12:58pm

Post #3 of 8 (418 views)
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Witch-King not at all impressive for me: [In reply to] Can't Post

the massive, strong being of the film, with his huge heavy mace, works better for me. Even Eowyn is somewhat too elongated, and looks expressionless..
Everything around them is a bit too gracile as well, they aren't fleshy enough somehow, everything looks wiry in that first painting; quite strange. The battlefield looks almost empty because of that. PJ's battles are for me much more real looking and scary.
The two 'Éowyn and Faramir 'convey more emotionally than the two paintings before, but still, although they are both beautiful, they fail to touch me, I couldn't say why. Too statuesque, perhaps???

'Is everything sad going to come untrue?'
(Sam, 'The Field of Cormallen', in 'The Return of the King'.)


Radhruin
Rohan


Apr 6 2007, 3:48pm

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Kira, the Gelfling [In reply to] Can't Post

From The Dark Crystal, maybe? Thats what popped into my head when I first looked at the picture. Rather strange compared to Faramir's face.




Quote
As for the drawings of Eowyn and Faramir, I like everything except the faces. The faces in the first version are better, simply because they are smaller; in the second version Faramir's face is pretty good, although unexpressive, but there's something wrong with Eowyn.



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


OhioHobbit
Gondor

Apr 7 2007, 8:34pm

Post #5 of 8 (391 views)
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Ted Nasmith's paintings are fantastic. [In reply to] Can't Post

If only he would leave the people out.

Eowyn and the Lord of the Nazgul looks like something from a story book. I don't think that I would recognize it as a Nasmith, but I like it as a story book sort of painting.
Eowyn and the Nazgul looks like the cover of a paperback. I don't care fore it, not that there aren't some good paperback covers.

The Sun Unveiled I like for it's light. The black sky, the sun on the walls, Eowyn's white dress against Faramir's dark robes.
With Eowyn and Faramir its the colors, especially Eowyn's cape. I try to not look at the faces.


Morwen
Rohan


Apr 7 2007, 9:34pm

Post #6 of 8 (390 views)
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Detail vs. drama [In reply to] Can't Post

The first Èowyn/Witch-king just doesn't work for me. Lots of detail but not enough impact for this very dramatic moment. It's a little like a jigsaw, all the pieces are there, but the whole doesn't give me the feeling of the Nazgul's overwhelming presence or of Èowyn's desperation. The second picture, with less detail and more focus on Èowyn and the Witch-King, seems much stronger.

I like both the paintings of Èowyn and Faramir. In the first, I love the way Èowyn and Faramir's tender embrace contrasts with the dark sky and grim details in the background. Two lovers standing in the light, against the dark. I admit I like the second painting partly because it shows Faramir's mother's blue cloak, and Èowyn does look "fair and queenly" in it, just as described. It doesn't catch the moment for me as well as the first picture, but I like being able to see the nobility and courage in their faces. I like embrace in this one, too. It seems like Nasmith understands how to show tenderness and intimacy.

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Beren IV
Gondor


Apr 8 2007, 1:06am

Post #7 of 8 (392 views)
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I agree: Nasmith is a landscape artist [In reply to] Can't Post

Why do we keep confusing him with Alan Lee? Crazy

The second image of Eowyn against the Witch-King, while the Witch-King is still mounted on his wyvern, is the one of these I like best and really the only one I like. The others have the characters in still postures, and odd body proportions, especially odd facial proportions. The wyvern is nice, probably the nicest thing of the entire painting, but the rest of the characters don't look so great.

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


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Apr 9 2007, 5:13am

Post #8 of 8 (426 views)
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Composition, color & content [In reply to] Can't Post

  
Eowyn and the Lord of the Nazgul

Question 1: What are some of the other differences in these two pictures and how do they affect you?

The only things I can see these 2 paintings have in common, is the subject and the artist. Compositionally, despite the using triangles used in the composition of #1, it still feels 'flat' because we the viewer are on the same plane as both Éowyn & the Nazgûl . . . that squares us off with them. The result is a loss of energy and a less dynamic composition.

Plus: in #1, the Nazgûl appears more like a spindly-bow-legged Haradrim than an invisible Nazgûl. And, I think he should be towering over Éowyn — who's legs wouldn't be bare, btw. Yet, at the same time I have a hard time looking away from this Nazgûl, there is something intriguing, wrong (imo), but that 'wrong' is still interesting to look at…he is kind of pointy isn't he.

Despite the problems I see in the portrayal of the subject, I do enjoy this painting, in part because of the reasons you gave: the amount of detail surrounding the central subjects. I love the analogous (colors next to each other on the wheel) color scheme of blues and greens that are cool overall (#2 is warm overall). And the grimness of the portrayal of the battle destruction …especially Merry.



Eowyn and the Nazgul


In the image #2:
Regarding Composition:
The composition is far more dynamic. I agree that it does carry a far more of an emotional impact. The composition has a lot to do with that as well as the color. In this image, the viewer is set below the plane of the action and at an off-angle because of the hill in the scene…giving the added feel that the earth is slightly tilted increasing the danger element.

There is great mastery in how the viewer's eye is directed in this image (from Éowyn to the Nazgûl, down the beasts back around his tail down to Merry who is looking at Éowyn). The way in which the elements are arranged on the page employs a much stronger use of triangles than the first image (and the Hildebradt's on this same subject). There is also unity and balance along with wonderful use of contrast in the composition.


Regarding Colour:
The use of complimentary colors is commonly used to increase tension. Yellow-gold & purple is used in this case (is my favorite set complimentary colors to use). Yellow is naturally light (the lightest) and purple (violet) is naturally dark (the darkest) on the color spectrum. Consequently, there is contrast on several levels within the color scheme, one of hue and one of value . . . and also one of intensity, all three properties of color (= HVI [Hue, Value, Intensity] or HBS [Hue, Brightness, Saturation]). The yellow-gold pops, lights up the image with intensity set against the darker violet, which is slightly grayed out (intensity dialed-down) but that also adds contrast to the highly intense hot colors of yellow gold and orange, something for them to play against which increases the intensity and the tension, and adds to the darkness of the situation.

The color scheme also employs the use of a Split Complimentary to the violet which is the more orange-ish colour (orange being analogous to the yellow makes it a split-comp to the violet).
"Using split complementary colours can give… a high degree of contrast, not as extreme as a real complementary colour. It also results in greater harmony than the use of the direct complementary." So using both provides the great tension and contrast but adding the split adds that extra something that can rub the visual pleasure center and, to me, does so here.


Regarding Content:
The Nazgûl on his Fell Beast are towering above Éowyn ready for attack. Being in the air gives him the "high ground", which increases the power position of the Nazgûl — as does the fact that he is on a movable and explicitly dangerous creature all spelling out impending doom for Éowyn. And she stands 'tall' (figuratively, not overly in this image) and strong, facing the danger steadfastly. Merry looks about to make some kind of move though his opportunity is not yet presented itself. No one is stagnant, all elements seem in motion, even the environment and the earth.



Question 2: What do you like and dislike about these two very different approaches to the same subject?

Answer: I like both of these images, though I do wish he did better with Éowyn's face in #2, I like this one better than #1. It is more alive to me. I don't see it as 'cartoonish' at all. 'Cartoonish', to me, has more spaces of 'flat color'…not as shaded or depicting volume…and having edges drawn by lines (think Ben & Jerry cartoons or Bugs Bunny or the Sunday funnies).



Question 3: the ‘game’ he talked about in an earlier quote. Is this a strength from the perspective of a fan of Tolkien art? Whether you prefer one or the other, can you appreciate both?

Answer: I am not sure where that quote is so I find it hard to respond to that specifically. I do think it a strength for an artist to find different perspectives as a 'fan of Tolkien art'. It is like taking tons of photographs to find the two or three that really come alive and work. And, the more you explore a specific subject, the more your are apt to dig down below the surface to find that inner essence, that spark that makes it come alive.




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