Over fifteen years ago I was approached by Tim Underwood (with pokes from Arnie and Cathy Fenner) regarding a ‘Donato’ art book. I was uncomfortable at the time with pursuing such a volume, knowing I was just beginning to bring my voice to a more pronounced level in much of my work. An art book at that time would cement ‘Donato’ too much within the aesthetics of the clients and commissions I had undertaken up until that point of my career rather than lead the audience into where I wanted to evolve. I didn’t want a tombstone, I wanted a launch platform!
Luckily Tim pitched an alternative version of the Donato art book, ‘How about one on your Middle-earth works?’
I was sold!
Ever since I was a Dungeons & Dragons player/gamer/Dungeon Master, I had read Tolkien’s works and created interpretations from so many of his stories. My reading was not limited to just the popular epic The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I loved and consumed over a summer The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and Book of Lost Tales Part I and II, as well as the following edited books Christopher Tolkien put together in the later years. My enthusiasm for the subject was immense, but the depth of my Middle-earth art? It was a little thin.
Although I had under taken dozens of image commissions on Middle-earth for the Iron Crown Enterprises card game, those were mostly so questionably executed they were unacceptable to include (except for a few) in a volume which was intended to celebrate Tolkien, not disparage him! To make the book happen, we needed to tap into a broad range of paintings and drawings I had been creating for over 10 years as a fan.
There were few commercial commissions related to Middle-earth in my portfolio for two factors – first the Tolkien Estate did not license out much of the material and very few edted note/books were created by Christopher Tolkien, second there already were a dozen masterful artists well established in the industry to illustrate any new or republished works, from Alan Lee to Ted Nasmith, John Howe, David Wenzel, Michael Hague, Tim Kirk, Ian Miller, Michael Kaluta, Greg Hildebrandt, Darrell Sweet, Angus McBride, etc… I grew up admiring these artists immensely. Back in 2003 I had approached HarperCollins regarding consideration for the Tolkien Calendar but was politely rejected. Where was my place in all of this?
What seemed to be a limitation at first, turned out to be the greatest advantage. The fact that I was not restricted in any way over the content of the images (beyond Tolkien’s words themselves) through commercial commission restrictions, I was free to interpret any scene, any way, and with any voice I so chose. The book therefore has become a near perfect representation of the way and how I passionately express myself through creating art. It is the ‘Donato’ artbook I did not realize I was making! In a strange way, that rejection letter opened the door to my freedom of expression. I keep that letter above my desk to this day!
It has now been eight years since that original 80 page publication, and I am incredibly honored to release an updated edition with Dark Horse Books which makes the artistic statement which we all intended that first version to have. This new printing features a massive format at 14″ x 10″ in size, 200 pages, and heavy stock paper.
The amount and quality of art surrounding Middle-earth I have created in the intervening years is of such a caliber and of aesthetic integrity, that I am very proud to to place my name to this project for the way that it is the platform I dreamed of as an artist.
The incredible quality and hard work from Scott Allie, Chris Horn, Patrick Satterfield and the rest of the gang at Dark Horse is making this a stunning ‘coffee table’ book – beautiful close ups and large double page spreads with some of the landscapes at 14″ x 20″ in size!
Pre-orders are now available online and I hope to have copies available at my booth at Planet Comicon Kansas City at the end of March. Thank you Tim, Arnie, Cathy, Scott, and the Urban book editors of the French 2014 edition for helping to bring this dream to full fruition.
And thank you J.R.R. Tolkien for all the fires of imagination you have fueled for decades past and centuries to come…
For those who wish for a little more special edition, Shawn Speakman of the SignedPage.com and I are offering signed and embossed books. The emboss is that of the sigil of the Kings of Gondor!