Illustrator of the Week

I thought this week, we would try something a little different for a change. I just finished reading J.R.R. Tolkein's The Hobbit, and I thought that perhaps we could look at the different people who have illustrated the book over the years. We will begin with Tolkein of course.

Tolkeins Editor didn't actually believe Tolkein could draw, having only seen his maps, but Tolkein proved that although he wasn't a master painter, he was more than capable of showing his images to his readers.

Alan Lee of course is famous for his artwork, having done art for the Lord of the Rings Trilogy as well as for calendars, and even his own amusement. Alan Lee once said about art, "To draw a tree, to pay such close attention to every aspect of a tree, is an act of reverence not only toward the tree, and toward the earth itself, but also our human connection to it. This is one of the magical things about drawing -- it gives us almost visionary moments of connectedness."

John Howe illustrated a version of the Hobbit by Holland press. Both he and Alan Lee are working together on the concept art for the new film to be released in 2011. Howe also did the art for the pop-up 3D version of the book. Michael Hague is a fun illustrator, who seems to look on the brighter side when doing illustrations but that isn't to say he can't be dark. Hague has illustrated numerous books on dragons, fairies, and even a book on Peter Pan. His depiction of Smaug is one of the most well known paintings for the Hobbit.

Not even Maurice Sendak wanted to be left out of the fun and he penned this illustration in 1967. Sendak drew some sketches for an illustrated edition of The Hobbit, and even met with Tolkien about it. Unfortunately, the book was never published (never finished?), apparently because Sendak suffered a heart attack.

In 1977 Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass did an animated made-for-television movie of the Hobbit. It was terrible, but it goes to show that the book has been a visual inspiration for many people.

David Wenzel did the art for The Hobbit: the comic book. It may sound silly, but the greatest surprise to me upon reading this adaptation of The Hobbit was that Dixon and Deming were able to fit everything in. So many comic adaptations have shortened or glossed over major parts of the work they were turning into sequential art, but this was clearly a labor of love in getting every last part of the story there. Dixon and Deming wisely choose when to use narration and when to express the story in dialogue; with only 144 pages, one’s space is limited, and they found a nice balance.

Lastly, the Hobbit has spawned numerous fan art depictions. Some, like the ones below are beautifully done.

Michelle GorskiMike MaihackTodd Zalewski