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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Hobbit

I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was in high school, a few years before Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema put together the films. Like many people, when I read J.R.R. Tolkien's series I had all kinds of visual ideas in my own mind of what the characters, monsters and places looked like. I remember having very clear notions of Shelob as a trap-door spider, that Isengard was more geometric and turned into a diamond at its top, that Sauron was seen as smoke and eyes and the illusion of oil-slick armor, that the orcs were meatier and more ape-like, with much longer arms, and knuckles that dragged the ground. The Balrog was only ever seen by the cracks in his flesh and his eyes and jaws. His skin would never really be seen for the smoke coming off it. The cracks in his skin would be like those in a lava flows seen at night, where some of it has cooled at the surface, but underneath it is still burning. And a  few hundred other odd, now-forgotten notions of Middle Earth. 
I had not seen, at this point, any of Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith's or John Howe's fantastic paintings, of which the film's art direction was to be largely based on. I had a lot of very crystalized ideas in my head about how everything looked.
And when the films were released I was jarred my first time seeing them. Things didn't look like they had in my head. At first it bothered me. They got it all wrong I thought. But as the Fellowship of the Ring began to make its way towards Rivendell I was surprised that I found that I really enjoyed it anyway. It was a different take than I had, but it was spectacular and I went back and watched them several times each in the theater.

Then something terrible happened. 

I found that I had lost my ideas. At first, they were only tainted by the films, but after a while I found that I had lost them altogether. And no matter how much I tried to see things differently, I still saw it the way Peter Jackson showed it. The Boromir I had imaged was gone and Sean Bean's character remained. The goblins were hunched and crooked green men without noses.
This has bothered me ever since, and now that The Hobbit films are on the schedule to be released next year I find that my ideas on The Hobbit are to be put in jeopardy as well.  
So, this time I have decided to put my own ideas down first, before Jackson and Del Toro and Weta and Howe and Lee can come together to blow my mind apart again with what is sure to be an awesome Hobbit film. This time, I hope to preserve my own notions of what Middle Earth might have looked like. 
So, with that in mind, I am going to take a few months and illustrate a few of the major scenes from The Hobbit. These pieces are not for any specific book or series, as I don't have the personal rights to make a book on the story. But I do intend on putting one of them in the empty space over my fireplace. And even if these images never make it to any type of publication, this story is wonderful and I think it will be great fun to work on it for a while.


  1. Justin, I think I like your ideas more than those of Peter Jackson.

  2. Great, i think you're allright.

    i look forward to see what will come out. Even if i will have to come at your fireplace for a coffee.

  3. How true and how astute of you to notice what was happening! I don't know that I've ever put the two together (movies vs. destruction of personal imagination). I applaud you (like you need it) and can't wait to see your vision of middle earth!

  4. thank you so much for doing these...

  5. The problem is: your work is better than any possible design for the movies.

  6. I'm a long time fan of Tolkien, but very pleasantly surprised to come across your work on The Hobbit. I've only been looking for artwork because I too am re-reading this fabulous story. Great stuff, and will look at your other works with interest too

  7. I hope you regain your images of LOTR and take another stab at them, because I'd give a lot to see you interpret the character of Aragorn in a variety of scenes. He's my fave. And he's NOT Viggo!