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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Tolkien Illustrated: Anke-Katrin Eissmann #2: Night lights


Apr 11 2007, 1:27am

Post #1 of 14 (780 views)
Tolkien Illustrated: Anke-Katrin Eissmann #2: Night lights Can't Post

In my last post, I selected pictures of Eissmannís characters surrounded by grasses, flowers, leaves, and trees in daylight. There was something about the way white lines light up the leaves and trees and figures that I liked. Now, how to talk about light and color in night-time scenes?

(All the quotations below are the passages Eissmann has used to go with the illustrations on her website.)

Glorfindel (1998)

larger version

"The light faded, and the leaves on the bushes rustled softly. Clearer and nearer now the bells jingled, and clippety-clip came the quick trotting feet. Suddenly into view below came a white horse, gleaming in the shadows, running swiftly. In the dusk its headstall flickered and flashed, as if it were studded with gems like living stars. The rider's cloak streamed behind him, and his hood was thrown back; his golden hair flowed shimmering in the wind of his speed. To Frodo it appeared that a white light was shining through the form and raiment of the rider, as if through a thin veil."

We see Glorfindel from the point of view of the hobbits and Strider. There they are, hiding in the trees again. I like how they are so well camouflaged. How do you like the vision of Glorfindel that the travellers are glimpsing here?

The Dead Marshes (1998)

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"Gollum laughed. 'The Dead Marshes, yes, yes: that is their name,' he cackled.
. 'You should not look in when the candles are lit.' 'Who are they? What are they?' asked Sam shuddering, turning to Frodo, who was now behind him. 'I do not know,' said Frodo in a dreamlike voice. 'But I have seen them too. In the pools, when the candles were lit.'"

Let me try out some baby steps in Art Criticism 101: Is it right to say that the three figures form a triangular shape as part of the composition, and that having Sam and Gollum looking up at Frodo makes him a focal point? In fact, the dead faces almost seem to be pointing up towards Frodo too. The watercolor sky seems to merge into the ground, but then thereís the use of white in the grass and faces and on Gollum mainly Ė is this moonlight? the glow from the lit candles? How to talk about color in this picture?
Samís gesture towards Frodo and Frodoís posture capture the scene for me.

Nightwatch (2000)

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"He lay down, and Frodo sat up, huddled in his blankets, and fought off his sleep. Minutes or hours passed slowly, and nothing happened. Frodo was just yielding to the temptation to lie down again when a dark shape, hardly visible, floated close to one of the moored boats. A long whitish hand could be dimly seen as it shot out and grabbed the gunwale; two pale lamplike eyes shone coldly as they peered inside, and then they lifted and gazed up at Frodo on the eyot."

It looks like a mysterious scene. I like the sky and the way the white touches suggest moonlight or starlight. Any thoughts on the composition?

Legolas Shoots the Fell Beast (2001)

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"Frodo looked up at the Elf standing tall above him, as he gazed into the night, seeking a mark to shoot at. His head was dark, crowned with sharp white stars that glittered in the black pools of the sky behind."

We do seem to be in a deep pit looking up at Legolas, who is barely inside the frame of the picture. Iím just lost in admiration of the heroic Elf with this one.

Beren Recovers a Silmaril (2000/2001)

larger version

"The claws of iron that held the gem,
it bit them through and sundered them;

a Silmaril he clasped and held,

and the pure radiance slowly welled

red glowing through the clenching flesh."

The ultimate Light in the Darkness. Comment your hearts out.

And now for my favorite one of all:

Orome Espies the First Elves (2005)

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"And on a time it chanced that OromŽ rode eastward in his hunting, and he turned north by the shores of Helcar and passed under the shadows of the Orocarni, the Mountains of the East. Then on a sudden Nahar set up a great neighing, and stood still. And OromŽ wondered and sat silent, and it seemed to him that in the quiet of the land under the stars he heard afar many voices singing."

I love this picture! I think itís the curvilinear design? The curves of the trees, the curve of the horseís neck and mane, even the lines of the cloak and the horn. And thereís something about the way the colors all work together that I find extremely pleasing but am at a loss to explain. Plus, I like the way the picture captures a moment (Eissmann is good at that) Ė the moment at which Orome is astonished to see those figures in the distance.

I donít have any more specific questions; please comment freely on any aspects of these pictures.

All images are copyrighted by Anke-Katrin Eissmann and are used with her permission for the purposes of this discussion. More images and information about her work are available on her website : http://anke.edoras-art.de/anke_home.html


Apr 11 2007, 2:26am

Post #2 of 14 (590 views)
Great stuff [In reply to] Can't Post

I love in the painting Nighwatch how utterly exhausted Aragorn looks. The "bleeding" of the night sky is especially nice. Gollum looks appropriately creepy. I like to think that, when his skin is described as black (in scenes in the dark), it's as if his normally sallow skin (the way it looks in daylight) does not reflect light at all, and so looks black. Just a speculation on my part.

In Beren Recovers a Silmaril, one of my favorites of Anke's, the use of light is terrific. Such a smart use of the gray scale--so much so that the whites of the gem, his shirt, and the edge of the crown, are almost too bright to behold. And I love how she suggests the enormity of the slumbering Morgoth just by showing little bits and pieces of him--or should that be big bits and pieces?

Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens

Apr 11 2007, 6:04am

Post #3 of 14 (575 views)
Star Glow [In reply to] Can't Post

Orome Espies the First Elves (2005)

This image is awesome to me! I love the way it seems to glow from the starlight. The dark background gives it an extra punch to make the foreground appear more 'glowing'.

Nightwatch (2000)

'Nightwatch' uses light in a similar way to 'OromŽ'. It is not quite as glowing, howver, which seems appropriate to me.

Glorfindel (1998)

The Glorfindel image reminds me of the those classic silent films in which the scope of he image narrows down and the center scene glows. I love the way this image is framed. She is almost playing with space as we are familiar with it in imagery. The Glorfindel is in background yet he is the focal point an the subject. The characters in the foreground, where the subject normally is, almost become the backgroundÖa kind of role reversal.

Beren Recovers a Silmaril (2000/2001)
This image of Beren seems to me to echo Pippin and the Palantir (for a flash second I thought it was that scene)

What I love about all of these images is how Anke uses Dark spaces. They are all appropriately dark because they are night images, but overtly dark. The contrast between light and dark is exactly what I love best about these images. It give them a strength and potency. And yet, she is able to use contrast between light and dark in such a way to that is melds together beautifully creating a wonderful star glow through out.


Art Gallery Revised, my drawings,
Aloha & Mahalo, Websites Directory

Nienna: ď 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." ó Valaquenta

Beren IV

Apr 11 2007, 6:07am

Post #4 of 14 (561 views)
I have the Beren one in my sig [In reply to] Can't Post

although that is largely because I like Beren's beardlessness because I prefer the BoLT version in which he is a Noldo and not a Man at all.

Eissmann's painting now stand out to me for the medium she uses, namely watercolor. Watercolor has limitations in the technical quality of the image, so Eissmann cannot paint a photogenic painting with it, and her colors will be pastel. However, the pastels are realistic, and can be used very easily to emphasize shades of light and darkness, which as WonderBoard says, she does very well. She is very good at atmospheric effect also, as in the Glorfindel picture. Still, the watercolor, with its added greyness, makes her paintings seem in a lot of ways similar to Lee's, but unlike Lee, she doesn't have quite the same Dark Ages feel, perhaps because the trees aren't so twisted? Either way, it feels more quiet and serene, as I said in my other post.

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


Apr 11 2007, 10:12am

Post #5 of 14 (582 views)
Light is the theme of these nighttime pictures. [In reply to] Can't Post

Once again I find it interesting to compare Eissmann's watercolors to Lee's. Although these nighttime pictures have far less color than those you showed us in the last post, Eissman makes up for it by turning up the contrast between darkness and light. As a result, my eye is drawn to the light: Glorfindel on his white horse; the creepy light of the bodies in the Dead Marshes; the stars, the faces, and the eyes of Gollum; Legolas's face crowned by stars, just as it is described in the book; the pure white light of the Silmaril; and the soft gray starlight that bathes Orome in its glow. With the exception of the Dead Marshes, none of these nighttime pictures are grim, and even the Dead Marshes are not grim because they are dark, but instead because the light comes from creepy dead corpses.

I should also note that where Eissman does use color in these pictures, it stands out all the more because much of the picture is colorless. Thus the gold hair of Glorfindel, the deep blue starlit sky in three of the pictures, and Beren's face and hands (one of which he will later lose) stand out as fields of color.

In the Dead Marshes, however, the only color is a sort of muted brown spread throughout the picture. The hobbits may have a little more color than the corpses, but not much -- they look like they could quite easily join the corpses themselves. There is no blue sky overhead.

About Glorfindel; should he have reigns? I know Tolkien made a change to the text so that Glorfindel would not use a bit, but did use a saddle and some other gear so that Frodo could sit on Asfaloth. But I'm very ignorant when it comes to horses. Can Glorfindel have reigns but no bit? Note that Orome has no reigns.

Gollum doesn't look very monstrous in the Dead Marshes. He doesn't even look particularly old. At first I thought he looked rather buff, but there are some signs that he is emaciated. Still, I wouldn't call him ugly or repellant. So far I can't tell whether Eissman can draw ugly.

I also can't tell whether she can draw laughing or fearful or sad or angry characters. All of her faces seem to have pretty much the same vaguely handsome look, and the same emotionless expression. They all look like mannikins. I would like to see more range.

Why is Gollum dark by the boats when everyone else is so pale? It certainly brings out his lamp-like eyes (which also seem to glow in the Dead Marshes), but he isn't in shadow, as far as I can tell, and the other faces seem bright. Actually I can't imagine this much light just from stars in the Primary World, but I do find it plausible in Middle-earth, where the stars seem to shine brighter. But then why is Gollum so dark? Is he wearing his ninja outfit?

Shouldn't Legolas be aiming up? But then I suppose it would be harder to see his face.

Beren is perhaps the only face I have seen so far in these pictures that has color in it. That may be so that the Silmaril looks even brighter in comparison, but as I note above it also draws attention to his face and hands. I just wish his face had more expression to it.

I like the fact that Orome is framed by birch trees that also glow in the starlight. This strengthens the contrast between foreground and background. And I love the detail on Orome's steed, and way Eissman softens the light with grey.

On the whole, despite my nitpicks, I like these pictures. My only real criticism is the lack of expression on the mannikin faces. But I love Eissman's use of light and fields of color in what may seem at first glance to be dark and colorless pictures.

Tol Eressea

Apr 11 2007, 12:39pm

Post #6 of 14 (567 views)
That's part of Morgoth! [In reply to] Can't Post

I couldn't make out what it was. And the Iron Crown is in the foreground, of course, I now see.

How very monstrous.


I used to be GaladrielTX, but it's springtime and I'm shedding.

Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens

Apr 11 2007, 8:16pm

Post #7 of 14 (555 views)
color at night [In reply to] Can't Post

Night makes everything look grey. Color seeping through only a littler here an there and very changed or muted.

There is a phenomenon, called Color Constancy in which our brains fill in the color for us that we know should be there from 'visual memory'. Consequently, we don't notice (in real life) that it really looks grey. But when someone paints it, the grayness seems to stand out as looking strange to us.

On my street at the other end is a hideously bright, and ugly, pelican pink triangular building. I use it to give directions to people for finding my place, so that they know where to turn. But at night, it does not look pink at all. You cannot tell that it is pink at all, it only looks gray.

For people's faces, at night, we can only see the color when close to them and even then it is very muted, barely noticeable. But, our brain knows skin color and fills in the information for us so that we don't notice. The more light and the closer we are to a subject, the more color will show. Color need light to reflect back the waves to us. Amount. Quality, kind, color of light affects our perception of the color that is there.

Anke's images are fairly true. But I think the absences of a lot of color enhances the images and the emotion of the images.

Colors of the Mind

Color Constancy Ė Web Exhibits

Subjective constancy - Wikipedia


Causes of Color index

Color vision Ė Wikipedia

Tutorials - Color Perception

ScienceDaily: Color Perception Is Not In The Eye Of The Beholder: It's In The Brain

Firelily Designs - Color Vision, Color Deficiency

eChalk Optical Illusions

Art Gallery Revised, my drawings,
Aloha & Mahalo, Websites Directory

Nienna: ď 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." ó Valaquenta


Apr 12 2007, 4:12am

Post #8 of 14 (537 views)
suggestive bits [In reply to] Can't Post

I do like the fact that you can only see a bit of Morgoth, but what you do see suggests his enormous size. This is where the artist lets you go wild with your imagination, filling in the rest of the picture.


Apr 12 2007, 4:25am

Post #9 of 14 (535 views)
a similarly framed picture [In reply to] Can't Post

"Star glow" -- that's exactly the right description of it, to my mind!

I thought that the framing of "Glorfindel" was interesting; this picture, "Journey to Rivendell," also reminds me of a similar way of viewing the subject, only there aren't any figures hiding in the foreground looking at the central scene (except for us, viewing the picture as if we were the ones hiding in the woods). The way the hill on one side and the curving tree trunk on the other side frame the center of the scene reminded me of that "Glorfindel" picture. (I also like the autumn colors in this one; the touches of red and gold).

larger version


Apr 12 2007, 4:27am

Post #10 of 14 (536 views)
I noticed! [In reply to] Can't Post

I was hoping you'd come by and take a look at this thread in particular, since it has your Beren pic in it.


Apr 12 2007, 4:41am

Post #11 of 14 (536 views)
faces [In reply to] Can't Post

I do think that the faces have a stylized quality to them. Most of the time, they look rather severe to me. However, I also think that Eissmann is capable of expressing various emotions in her characters -- at least, that's what I'm trying to show in post #3. I'd be interested in hearing whether you'd agree.

Gollum in the Cirith Ungol picture in post #3 is pretty ugly, if you ask me.

I have no ideas about the reigns, though.


Apr 12 2007, 7:50am

Post #12 of 14 (530 views)
Eissman captures Tolkien's light [In reply to] Can't Post

Eissman has a stronger affinity for the particular kinds of light and the vivid emotions and presence Tolkien describes than any of the other artists I have seen, even if I think both Lee & Nasmith have many great moments (and they also choose to paint other situations and subjects than Eissman). In these night-time paintings I see the soft lights (Orome), the white starlight from the pools of the black sky (Nightwatch) as well as the more eerie lights (Dead Marshes) and the gleaming and shimmering lights of dusk (Glorfindel). Even the light on or surrounding the hair of the characters is shown. The contrast used with different shades of darkness is marvellous.

Itís clear from her painting of OromŽ and his steed that she likes to paint horses, the details of his mane and his proud bearing is beautiful. It seems she is also fond of designs, as seen on the horn, OromŽís clothing and on Frodo & Sam in the Dead Marshes. As a character portrait I like the one of Sam and Frodo in the Dead Marshes the most, Frodo looks truly sad, even regretful, in that one, looking down and slightly bending away from the sight. The exhausted and severe face of Aragorn in Nightwatch also reflects his state of mind very aptly. Both of these portraits go to show that you can portray a character, or a character situation, just as well with their eyes closed, and through their postures, as with a more explicit rendering of the face and eyes. At least to my mind, disregarding the fact that I think Aragorn looks too young, which is more about his general appearance.
I agree with Curious, though, that it remains to be seen if she can paint a repellent character.


Apr 12 2007, 12:47pm

Post #13 of 14 (547 views)
another beautiful horse picture [In reply to] Can't Post

Here is another beautiful picture of horses, "Visiting Shadowfax."

larger version


Apr 15 2007, 3:20pm

Post #14 of 14 (550 views)
a mutual favorite [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
And now for my favorite one of all:

Orome Espies the First Elves (2005)

larger version

It's my favorite of this group, too. I like the play of moonlight and shadow, the almost-glowing horse in the foreground, the dense dark forest in the background. The curling horn seems clearer than anything else in the painting; its curves capture and its details fascinate the eye.

Eissmann certainly has a gift for depicting horses. I especially love the "Visiting Shadowfax" painting you link to in this post. She seems to like those birches too!

Tķrin Bears Gwindor to Safety
by Ted Nasmith


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