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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Tolkien Illustrated: Fan Art I--What is Fan Art?
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Sandicomm
Bree


Feb 26 2007, 10:24pm

Post #1 of 41 (602 views)
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Tolkien Illustrated: Fan Art I--What is Fan Art? Can't Post

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the discussion. I am very excited (and proud and a little nervous, carrying on a discussion before all of the greats in the RR :)) to lead this week's discussion, which will attempt to examine the many different forms and categories of Tolkien fan art.

The schedule for this week is:
Tuesday--Elements of Tolkien Fan Art
Wednesday--Movie-Based Fan Art
Thursday--Anime/Manga Style Fan Art
Friday--Doing It All Their Own Way: Unique Visions in the Fan Art Community


Today will be an introduction to fan art and an open-ended discussion:
What does fan art mean? Why do we like it, what does it contribute to our experience? What are some of the common themes we see in LOTR fan art (to be discussed more in-depth tomorrow)? Some artists, such as the Hildebrants, Alan Lee, and Ted Nasmith (just to name a few!) have become extraordinarily popular, and their illustrations are often officially sanctioned. In effect, they are official fan artists. What makes one artist more “legitimate” than another? And of course, post your favorite pictures and talk about your favorite artists. Enjoy!


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Feb 26 2007, 10:29pm

Post #2 of 41 (358 views)
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Are Howe, Lee and Nasmith "fan artists"? [In reply to] Can't Post

A fine question. I was surprised to see Pauline Baynes so described in the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia article on "Fan Art". If official illustrators of Tolkien's works appear in this category, is there any illustrator who is not a fan artist?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Feb. 19-25: The Hobbit.


Eothain
The Shire


Feb 26 2007, 10:46pm

Post #3 of 41 (344 views)
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Alan Lee/John Howe [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd say that Alan Lee & John Howe are fan artists. I'm sure most of you have seen the interviews with Alan & John on the extended editions of the movie DVD's & if you have then I think,listening to them, leaves little in the way of doubt that they are fans. Even though Alan Lee did much of the design for places like Helms Deep & Minas Tirith he still describes walking through the sets as 'a dream come true'........much like it would have been for you, and for me.

I think what makes atrists like Alan & John so popular, is that they capture things the way so many of us imagine them to be, not an easy task when you are talking about Middle Earth.



(This post was edited by Eothain on Feb 26 2007, 10:49pm)


Sandicomm
Bree


Feb 26 2007, 11:12pm

Post #4 of 41 (295 views)
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True, true. [In reply to] Can't Post

This is true. This is exactly how I felt about the films' design (most of the time anyway!).

In Reply To
I think what makes atrists like Alan & John so popular, is that they capture things the way so many of us imagine them to be, not an easy task when you are talking about Middle Earth.



squire
Valinor


Feb 27 2007, 12:18am

Post #5 of 41 (313 views)
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Goin' Pro [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it would be good to acknowledge here that some artists make a living as artists, while most don't. Professional illustrators may be "fans" of Tolkien, but I really don't think that's what most people think of when they think of "fan art".

Lee, Howe, Nasmith, and the Hildebrandts are the most prominent pros that I can think of off the top of my head, because they have become Tolkien specialists. However, numerous other professional illustrators have tackled Tolkien along the way, for instance Garland, McBride, and Janin (again, top of my head).

As we might expect, professional illustrators, whether "fans" or not, have a command of technique and style that generally sets their paintings apart from the output of the thousands upon thousands of amateur fans who try to express their visions of Tolkien's world in art.

However, the glory of Tolkien fan art (like "fan scholarship") is that the range of quality is extremely great. I've seen many examples of obviously amateur fan art that are nevertheless very compelling or beautiful. Not to mention the really stunning ones, where I am just not familiar enough with the artist to guess whether she or he is a working professional or just very, very talented.




squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


Sandicomm
Bree


Feb 27 2007, 12:49am

Post #6 of 41 (292 views)
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Bein' Pro [In reply to] Can't Post

In a way, I guess it doesn't matter whether the artist is pro or not. As you have said, there are many fan artists out there who are extremely talented. They could be pro and just do Tolkien art in their spare time. Or they could, like Lee, Howie, et. al., have built their reputation around a Tolkien niche. Doesn't that still make them "official" fan artists in a way? And why is it that they are the ones who have become "official", other than their incredible talent.


drogo
Lorien


Feb 27 2007, 12:54am

Post #7 of 41 (290 views)
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Fan versus Pro [In reply to] Can't Post

Along the lines of what squire said, I think that one litmus test we can use is whether the art is used commercially (and with the blessing of Tolkien's publishers and the Tolkien Estate, of course!). Now some artists like Tim Kirk who did the first non-Tolkien art calendar in the US are still described as "fan artists" (that epithet is frequently attached to him) even if they do work for hire, so the lines are blurred. Some are artists who only now and then do some work for pay, and then there are the many Tolkien artists who are not as well known, but nonetheless have artwork and prints for sale (there are some on TORN like Goldilocks Took who come to mind, and now there are those artists posting in the Fan Art forum here whose work I am just now becoming acquainted with).

Perhaps we need to reconsider the whole idea of "fan art" when it comes to Tolkien.


(Formerly drogo of the two names!)


Beren IV
Gondor


Feb 27 2007, 1:08am

Post #8 of 41 (299 views)
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Tolkien opens many possibilities. [In reply to] Can't Post

As others have said, the line between fan and professional is extremely blurry. I personally would call Peter Jackson a Tolkien fan artist - he's undeniably a fan, and the cinema certainly belongs as a fine art.

I think that the principal and fundamental use and value of fan artwork, and indeed fan-created anything in relation to an author like Tolkien is that it allows us to imagine the wealth of different ideas and interpretations of Tolkien's world. You will note for instance that a great many of the things in Tolkien's world, especially the characters, are described very ambiguously. We could argue forever about whether Denethor or Boromir or Faramir have beards, for example, or even if the Elves have pointed ears, but the fact is that Tolkien never describes it. Tolkien also describes a number of events in his world, but only mentions others, and some of the events that he mentions are not easily extrapolable from those that he does describe. As an example, we know that there was more of what we Earthlings call magic in the great battles of Beleriand than there was at Helm's Deep, but what form did it take? For that matter, speaking of magic and Helm's Deep itself, what was the Fire of Orthanc?

Fan artwork allows the artist to put down an interpretation of what the artist thinks the characters, landscapes, and scenes might have looked like. In many cases, some of the characters - Gandalf in particular - are easily recognizable and look indistinguishably similar. But I could hardly say the same even for Frodo. The different interpretations are of course different, and indeed the range of quality of illustration, as well as truthfulness to the text, vary. Still, seeing multiple different interpretations and being able to choose among them is the ideal way to force the reader into actually visualizing the characters and the world. This is especially true in the case of the Silmarillion, in which there is no true canonical version. There is at least one version of the Sil in which Beren is an Elf and Lúthien is blonde, for instance. Visualizing Tolkien's world, between artists and readers, is an excellent way of making the story come to life.


Eothain
The Shire


Feb 27 2007, 2:00am

Post #9 of 41 (281 views)
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Getting Paid? [In reply to] Can't Post

I do not think wether or not you get paid for what you do, has any bearing on you being a fan. Most artists would tell you I think that it is very difficult to draw inspiration from something you have no interest in....and quite clearly most of these artists are inspired by Tolkiens work. It's a scary prospect to be honest, attatching work you do with a Tolkien label I mean, I've always shied away from it, & only recently plucked up the courage to post a couple of my 3D images here. Paid or not I think the likes of Alan Lee have quite clearly demonstrated a love for Tolkiens work, and in my book that makes him a fan, paid or not.



Aerin
Grey Havens


Feb 27 2007, 6:56am

Post #10 of 41 (276 views)
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I don't think the term "fan art" [In reply to] Can't Post

is meaningful or useful. Whether or not one is paid to create art illustrating an existing story is an arbitrary distinction; all that really matters is the end result. Amateur art can (theoretically) be just as accomplished as art that has been bought and paid for.


Curious
Half-elven

Feb 27 2007, 11:59am

Post #11 of 41 (280 views)
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What a huge subject! Fan art could include everything inspired by Tolkien, [In reply to] Can't Post

or we could narrow it down slightly by eliminating all professional illustrations and other art done for commercial purposes. But that still leaves us with a huge selection, as any Google search will show. We could also distinguish art inspired by the movie from art inspired primarily by Tolkien's writing.

I must say that except for the art posted on Main from time to time by tornsibs, and some unusually strange fan art posted in the Reading Room, I really am not familiar with amateur fan art. As for professional artists and illustrators, my favorites are Pauline Baynes, Cor Blok, and another I recalled recently, Tove Jansson (except for her giant Gollum). None of these illustrators strive for photographic realism like Lee, Nasmith, and Howe, whom I also admire very much, even though I prefer the less realistic illustrations. Although I defend the Hildebrandts from time to time, I recognize their limitations as illustrators, and like them mostly for sentimental reasons. I'm not counting Tolkien himself in this list, since he is the author.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 27 2007, 12:39pm

Post #12 of 41 (263 views)
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The only distinction I can think of [In reply to] Can't Post

between "fan art" and any other illustration of Tolkien, would be whether or not the artist was inspired by Tolkien first, leading him or her to want to do the art. As opposed to being hired to illustrate Tolkien, and educating him- or herself subsequently.

Some of the movie actors fall into the second category, although that's not literally a question of "art" of course. But I don't think you could ever do justice to Tolkien's stories if you didn't become a fan. (I wonder if that might have been one of the problems with those early screenplays?)

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.

(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Feb 27 2007, 12:40pm)


squire
Valinor


Feb 27 2007, 1:32pm

Post #13 of 41 (290 views)
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Can only a "fan" like or illustrate Tolkien? [In reply to] Can't Post

You have an interesting point there: are there any artists who have been commissioned to illustrate Tolkien, who then had to go read the work to fulfull the commission? The actors in the film aside, the concept seems incredible. The LotR is just too big for that. And let's face it, the market for Tolkien illustrations followed the creation of Tolkien art by fans, rather than spurring it, as we learned when discussing the Hildebrandts.

I think this goes to the heart of the whole Tolkien problem. How much of Tolkien's appeal is due to his tremendously detailed imaginary world and history, which so many people of a certain bent like to memorize, discuss, and catalogue? Is it true that only a "real fan" can illustrate Tolkien, just as only a "real fan" can talk about him without commiting a host of gaffes, and only a "real fan" can make a Tolkien movie that only "real fans" can appreciate?

Other authors have created literary worlds, both fantastical and reality-based. Do they have a fan base? Do those fans obsessively illustrate their works? I'm thinking about endless internet fan art sites like the clumsy but loving Wessex landscapes on ThomasHardy.net or the million hookah-smoking caterpillars and talking playing cards on AliceAlways.com or the endless array of Southern types crudely but vigorously cariacatured on FaulknerFolks.com.

I think "fan art" does exist as a category, and that its essence is that the artist is a fan first and an artist second. If the artist is skilled enough to be getting paid for the work, then it becomes illustration, not "fan art", even if the artist is personally a fan of Tolkien's works.

Otherwise all Tolkien art is fan art, and if that is so, why preface "art" with "fan"?



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


weaver
Half-elven

Feb 27 2007, 4:07pm

Post #14 of 41 (251 views)
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What about religious artwork? [In reply to] Can't Post

Does someone need to become a Christian to do justice to a painting of Christ?

After a time, don't certain characters or images become part of the culture at large -- making them subjects for anyone to work with, regardless of whether or not they embrace them personally?

I'm not sure we're "there" yet with Tolkien, though, in terms of widespread recognition of his images, so this may be a moot point -- but you got me thinking!

Weaver


Owlyross
Rohan


Feb 27 2007, 4:25pm

Post #15 of 41 (240 views)
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A fan has an investment in the material [In reply to] Can't Post

Which is usually a personal love of it. So yeah, those guys qualify as fan-artists. Although they are professional artists and get paid for their work, so there, I think, comes the distinction.

Someone who does the work and doesn't get paid can call their work fan-art.

I'm specifically making no judgement on quality because I've seen some beautiful unofficial artwork and some horrendous sanctioned work.

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."
Benjamin Franklin
The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.
Horace Walpole (1717 - 1797)


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 27 2007, 4:49pm

Post #16 of 41 (262 views)
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I was thinking of Christian art in fact [In reply to] Can't Post

as I was trying to work out what the difference is between "art" and "illustration" - not to mention the difference between "art" and "fan art"!

I've been strongly influenced recently by a programme called The Power of Art that I saw on the BBC, which has made me think a bit about exactly what drives artists. A number of the artists featured used religious themes, but often they weren't really simply trying to "illustrate" the scene, but to use the basic biblical story in a way that expressed their own ideas. They were Christian artists, of course, in the sense that everyone was Christian in Europe at the time, but you don't necessarily get the feeling that they were working primarily to express their faith, more that they used the classic biblical stories to bring out their own interpretations of the universal themes of love, death and so on.

That seems to be at another level than anything that anyone has tried so far with LotR - unless you count the movies, which to some extent I think you can.

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


weaver
Half-elven

Feb 27 2007, 5:44pm

Post #17 of 41 (257 views)
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which makes me wonder.... [In reply to] Can't Post

Perhaps the difference is more of "amateur" vs. "professional".

A "fan" can be either, really. Someone like me, someone like Alan Lee or John Howe, or someone like Ezplezeta (sp?). But I'd only put Lee and Howe in the professional category.

I'd say a non-fan professional artist could do Tolkien, but most amateur who attempt it would be fans.

Does that make sense?

Weaver


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 27 2007, 6:04pm

Post #18 of 41 (226 views)
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Sounds good to me! [In reply to] Can't Post

I suspect that for practical purposes, "fan art" is really a euphemism for "amateur art". Although of course, "amateur" is really just a fancy French word for fan anyway!

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


Feb 27 2007, 6:33pm

Post #19 of 41 (260 views)
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Maybe what Ezpeletea is attempting isn't illustration, then, [In reply to] Can't Post

but rather using Tolkien characters to express her own...um...thing.

Whatever that may be.

~~~~~~~~

I used to be GaladrielTX, but I lost TX in a poker game.



Morwen
Rohan


Feb 27 2007, 6:59pm

Post #20 of 41 (244 views)
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Question for er--"mature" posters [In reply to] Can't Post

Does anyone remember the term "fan art" being used before the internet became popular?

Back in the days before fan websites and web forums existed, we could draw, paint or write pieces based on our favorite literature to our heart's content but very few people would ever see them. These pieces were simply amateur art done mostly for our own amusement. The public only saw artwork if it was good enough to attract the attention of a publisher or if the artist were willing to pay his/her own money to have it published.

Now, anyone can make their creations public at no cost to themselves and with little effort, and as Squire pointed out, some of these amateur creations are very good. I wonder if some of the current professional artists who focus on Tolkien would have become fan artists instead if they had been born a few years later. If the Hildebrandts (for example) had had internet access, would they have carried their trash bag of paintings to publishers, or would they have simply posted their art online, and thus became fan artists?

Is fan art a product of modern technology?


A day without sunshine is like, you know, night


squire
Valinor


Feb 27 2007, 9:26pm

Post #21 of 41 (291 views)
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And then there are those...hideous mutations [In reply to] Can't Post





squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


weaver
Half-elven

Feb 27 2007, 9:34pm

Post #22 of 41 (208 views)
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Mods you up for this exceptional "fan" art! [In reply to] Can't Post

I always thought Aragorn was modeled on St. Irene...she's patron saint of either arrogance or doubt (Pope PJ 1st revised that one, I believe...)

Weaver


Darkstone
Immortal


Feb 27 2007, 9:41pm

Post #23 of 41 (205 views)
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Well [In reply to] Can't Post

Way back when I do remember some photocopied fan art, and before that mimeographed fan art. It was mostly humorous and often obscene in nature. Yes, old smudged creased copies of "fan art" cartoons of Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner, or Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, or Blondie and Dagwood passed around from person to person. Every once in a while you'd see something nice that you could color with pencil and hang on the wall or paste on the front of your notebook. Back then it was called "Urban Folklore"

However, I don't think it was technology that started the big surge in fan art so much as Trekkies.

Revenge is a dish best served with pinto beans and muffins.


Sandicomm
Bree


Feb 28 2007, 12:21am

Post #24 of 41 (203 views)
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What term would you use then?/ [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Sandicomm
Bree


Feb 28 2007, 12:28am

Post #25 of 41 (188 views)
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It's still illustration [In reply to] Can't Post

In the sense that Ezpeleta is putting her own interpretation on Middle Earth and is hoping that it will reach a large audience.

Although in the end, what makes illustration different from art? (Just a rhetorical question, unless anyone actually wants to answer it! Laugh I'm reading a book about illustration and the business surrounding it right now, so it's something I've been thinking about a lot.)

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