Monday, 13 January 2020

Art in Focus: Treebeard

Throughout most of November and December I have been working on a top secret piece of artwork to be gifted to some of my oldest and best friends for Christmas. Now that the cats out of the bag and they have the piece I can talk a little more about it’s creation and concept!

As some may be aware, Tolkien is a absolutely huge influence on me, having visited some of his old haunts in Oxford, his grave and an exhibition at the Bodelian in 2018. The Hobbit is my favourite book of all time and I collect editions of Lord of the Rings (and almost anything Tolkien related) whenever possible. So it’s probably natural that at some point I did some Tolkien related art.



Many years ago I designed my half sleeve on the theme of ‘good and evil in Middle Earth’ (kindly tattooed by the super talented Nick Brinsley) and the main focus of this is my imagining of Treebeard, one of my favourite characters. (I always felt a huge affinity with Treebeard and probably wanted to be him more than any other character.)



Fast forward several years and me and good friends went to the Rodney Matthews exhibition Electric Rock near Birmingham to see many prints and originals on offer. My favourite was Rodney’s depiction of Treebeard (which I’ve been looking at in books since childhood). My friend ordered herself this print as she liked it so much. Little did I know she also ordered one for me and kept it safe over 9 months until my birthday! What a wonderful surprise, absolutely blew me away!


So, I got to thinking how I could express my gratitude and give a gift that really meant as much as some of the gifts she has given me over the years! So, I decided creating something was the only way.

I started doodling Treebeard in early November based on what I always saw reading the books (I refused to see Lord of the Rings until I had read the books, hence only seeing The Return of the King at the cinema). He closely resembles the Treebeard of my tattoo as this was also his basis. Just with rather a lot more moss, and of course mushrooms.
On my recent autumnal walks I took lots of photos of tree textures, lichen, moss and fungi to help as reference material.



Similarly to when putting together my tattoo design, Treebeard is imagined, but other elements are based on the depictions in the film. In my tattoo Sauron is based on Christopher Lees portrayal, the Orthanc and eye of Sauron also inspired by the film. Yet in the style of an illustration (in particular the way I tend to draw, which is not photorealism). Merry and Pippin who I chose to include in the painting are loosely based on the movie casting, with similar hair and clothes, but again, are an illustrative interpretation.



Creating the piece was a very enjoyable challenge. The knotwork in particular was infuriating! A very unforgiving art form! The piece consists of a complete pen layer (below) to build the depth of the piece, and then watercolour work to bring him truly to life. Interestingly this was the first piece I experimented in adding some metallic watercolour to bring out certain areas and give them a bit of pazazz. In total the piece took around 25 hours. As usual in the winter months the light is the biggest challenge to most creatives. Unfortunately I had to resort to doing the majority of the work under artificial light, which is never ideal, but I was happy with the results considering this.


I hope my friends are happy with their painting and enjoy it for many years to come!


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