Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Rivers, farms and state lines

Alan Lee
I find a map and draw a straight line
Over rivers, farms and state lines
The distance from here to where you'd be
It's only finger lengths that I see
- Set the Fire to the Third Bar
Snow Patrol


I've been absent for a while, RL taking over, but now I'm back with one of my all time favourite artists - Alan Lee.
 
I am absolutely in love with Alan Lee's work. The way he handles watercolour blows my mind, so organic and lyrical. The painting above, from the book The Wanderings of Odysseus, has such a limited palette but is so emotive. When looking at this image my eye is always drawn to the figure on the left, and the contract between the pale skin and dark background. It's fascinating how the muscles and sinews are shown with such a delicate change in colour.


This is another painting with an extremely limited palette, and it's fantastic because it's just so damn creepy. This is a plate from the illustrated version of The Hobbit, where the dwarves get captured by giant spiders in Mirkwood. The tormented, contorted shapes of the dwarves in their cocoons is both fascinating and horrible. The texture and colour of the web is fantastic, especially the translucent swathe in the lower right corner. I desperately want a large print of this painting but I've never managed to find one.


I have quite a collection of Alan Lee books, a couple of which are pretty rare and hard to get hold of; it took me years to hunt down reasonably priced copies of Castles and The Mabinogion. I think my favourites are Faeries (a collab with Brian Froud) and The Lord of the Rings sketchbook, both of which are pretty easy to find and I highly recommend. There are so many amazing pictures in these books I want to include them all!



On a personal note, I have a rather embarrassing story regarding Alan Lee. A few years ago, when I was an art student, I went to an Association of Illustrators seminar in London, where a lot of top illustrators were giving talks on their work. I can't remember all of the illustrators, I know Jim Burns and Dave Mckean were there, but the main draw for me was Alan Lee. I used to regularly watch the appendices on the Lord of the Rings DVDs, and the 'Designing Middle Earth' section was something I always put on when needing inspiration - where Alan Lee, John Howe and the rest of the art department for LOTR give fascinating insights into their work. 
Anyway, back to the seminar. During a break after Alan Lee's talk, everyone was milling around in the foyer having coffee and biscuits, and Alan Lee began milling our way. And I, stupidly, got really star struck - show me an actor and I'm not too bothered, put a top illustrator in front of me and I crumble. Anyway, instead of taking the opportunity of talking to him I fled, literally fled like he had some sort of contagious disease. So, so embarrassing.

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