-By Donato

Zirak-zigil abstract   2″ x 2.75″

A few weeks ago I shared the preliminary rough drawing for this piece as I was preparing for Spectrum Live!.  Created as a drawing in a Limited Edition leatherback version of my Middle-earth book, this image was not intended to be turn into a final oil painting, rather it was an exercise and exploration in the medium of pencil, chalk and toned paper.  Beginning and ending all on the same page.

Obviously this image spoke to me beyond that page.  Part of the wonderful process of creating detailed preliminary drawings is to test the waters of inspiration.  Is this image worthy of investing weeks of time to be executed as a major oil painting?  Or shall it join the ranks of other competent works, well loved, but not inspired enough for the extra labor and care necessary for weeks on end through to the completion.

Or more importantly than all that, do I have a long enough deadline to nurture this project to through the various ups and downs?!  The deadline issue is actually the greatest determining factor on how large I will create my paintings – for if I had all the time I wished for, each painting would be immense.  At this moment in my career, I now have the skills, determination and vision to create images as I truly wish them to become- it is all about having enough time to pick the right ones to bring to life.

One of the driving sources of inspiration for this work was to depict the Balrog and its confrontation with Gandalf as I saw it.  While the movie version of the creature was fascinating, for me the Balrog was a creature of fire and darkness, an enigma to contend with visually and one with very little visualization from J.R.R. Tolkien himself.  The power of this encounter was not in the details of special effects, but rather in the psychology of light versus darkness, chaos versus order, good versus evil.  How do you portray this cerebral battle yet make it visually compelling? 

It is from this lack of physical specifics that the works of Tolkien are so powerful, for they allow most any interpretation to be injected into the dialog and been seen as valid.  Did the Balrog have wings, or was its spreading shadow of darkness the wings Tolkien described?   Even if you were there with Aragorn, Frodo and the rest of the Fellowship, could you have trusted your eyes in the flickering firelight in the deep darkness of dread filled Moria?  What was it you really saw near the gates of hell?  I love these challenges!  And as you can imagine, I have plenty of ideas about how to create more paintings on the theme of Moria.

Enjoy the works below, they may not be your vision of what happened, but they certainly are what I saw!

‘I threw down my enemy…’
29″ x 44″
 Oil on Panel
 Preliminary drawing
Middle-earth Limited Edition Collection
8.5″ x 11″
Pencil and chalk on toned paper