Roger Garland

Studies of the Art and Artists Inspired by the Writings of J.R.R.Tolkien
Iolanthe
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Roger Garland

Postby Iolanthe » Mon May 29, 2006 10:24 am

Artist in Profile

Image
Two Trees of Valinor

© Roger Garland



Roger Garland


I was first introduced to the work of Roger Garland by seeing his painting of the Two Trees of Valinor (above) on the internet and loving it so much I had to find more of his artworks. It still remains by far and away my favourite painting of the Trees although the circle of prehistoric dolmens around them is a little strange, more reminiscent of Merlin than the Valar and the Elves, but then Garland is a West Country man, born in Devon and working in Cornwall and that country is full of the relics of Britain’s forgotten past. That quibble aside, to me there is something so fairytale about the Trees that they seem to hold up the roof of the world.

Garland discovered Tolkien as an art student in the 60’s and has found his artistic inspiration amongst the Pre-Raphaelites and French Symbolists although he draws very much from his imagination. He first studied art at Plymouth Art School and then graphic design at the Wolverhampton School of Art and Design, going on to teach art at Poltair School in Cornwall. His paintings have been published in both the 1984 and 1989 Tolkien Calendar (with just one other appearing in the 1998 calendar). He has also illustrated some of Tolkien’s smaller works, including Farmer Giles of Ham, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Smith of Wootton Major (Allen and Unwin 1990). Roger and his artist wife Linda (who has herself co-illustrated a Tolkien Bestiary) founded the Lakeside Gallery in Cornwall and they have a new website at Lakeside-gallery.com. It’s the aim of their gallery ‘to promote book illustration as a serious art form and to make this accessible to a wider audience’, though most of Roger’s current work is fine art rather than illustration and he has long since moved away from Tolkien. Their Tolkien Collection is permanently on show there and he has said that the grandeur of the Cornish landscape and its mythology is an inspiration to both of them. Limited edition prints and cards can be bought via their website although their online shop is still under construction. I have to say that I’m sorry Garland no longer illustrates Tolkien. I would have liked to have seen where his unique vision would have taken him over time and whether he would still be as fantastical or if his view had changed.

Garland prefers oils as a medium, something quite unusual in illustrators, working up from a thumbnail and a detailed drawing to the finished painting. I must confess that I was very surprised to discover that the paintings were oils because of the very fine level of detail. He must build up his paintings with thin washes and use fine brushes for much of the work to achieve his distinctive style.

Some people more used to the more realistic visions of Middle-earth that, say, Alan Lee has given us, might say this is too much like the fantasy art which was so popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s. But then there was nothing in the least bit realistic about Tolkien’s own landscapes. In Garland you don’t get a Middle-earth that looks like a young, fresh version of our world like Nasmith, or a focus on the individual struggles of Tolkien’s characters, like Eissmann. What you do get are some wilder imaginings of the fantastical in Tolkien’s world such as the awesome vision of Earendil’s ship sailing through the Gate of Morn in one of his best know illustrations below:


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The Gate of Morn

© Roger Garland



Or the quite terrifying vision of Barad-Dûr with it's sinister piled-up objects that look like skulls or eggs and wild clouds parting above the tower as even the elements obey Sauron:


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Barad-Dûr

© Roger Garland



Though what I find most surprising is Gandalf on the Bridge of Khazad-Dum being lassoed by the Balrog, the only picture of this I’ve found where the artist has chosen to depict the moment after the Balrog has fallen and so isn’t in the painting. Given Garland’s love of the fantastical it’s an interesting moment to choose with the most spectacular subject missing and concentrating on the moment between triumph and disaster.


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The Bridge of Khazad-Dum

© Roger Garland



I can’t claim to like all of Garland’s illustrations, some are too far removed from my own vision to identify with what see, but those that I like, I like a lot. And one thing I like a lot is a wonderful full panorama of Middle-earth which is, I think, very like Tolkien’s own style to look at. It shows all of Middle-earth in a forced perspective, compressed into the one work with Bag End and the Shire in the foreground, Isenguard, Minas Tirith (it’s towers just seen peeping over the golden hill bottom left), the Falls of Rauros and much, much more. It may not be strictly geographical but it is fascinating to study and holds all of Tolkien’s world in its borders. I think Tolkien would have liked it too.


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Middle-earth Panorama

© Roger Garland



Here is the link to Roger's own website:

Lakeside Gallery

And larger versions of his Tolkien work (including the panorama above) can also be seen at:

Rolozo Tolkien
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Merry
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Postby Merry » Mon May 29, 2006 11:29 pm

Thanks, Iolanthe! You've really picked out artists with different styles and insight, and your own insight into them has really added to my appreciation. The use of color in each of your artists is also interesting--this seems to me to be a simpler palette, maybe, than other Tolkien artists, and it does evoke a different view of Middle-earth.
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Postby Iolanthe » Tue May 30, 2006 9:09 am

Thanks Merry! Yes - I'm trying to start off with some very different styles because I find it very interesting that there can be so many visions of Tolkien's creation. The three artists I've featured so far couldn't be more different and yet they are all reading the same text and they all see it in a unique way.

It's also refreshing to see the stories through other eyes after the films, so I'm just stirring the pot a bit. That's why I've left Alan Lee and John Howe for a while - but not too long, you know how I love them!
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Postby Riv Res » Wed May 31, 2006 9:08 pm

I have always loved Garland's vibrant use of color and the strong form. He is in sharp contrast to the softness of an Alan Lee. I think I am always drawn to the bold artist. I have always seen Tolkien through a bit of a haze. I love it when an artist says, "There! That's what it looks like to me." Garland is one of those.
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Postby Iolanthe » Thu Jun 01, 2006 4:23 pm

Yes, it is a very strong personal vision and that makes it very interesting to me. Less of an attempt to illustrate the book for all and more of an artisitc statement of how he sees Tolkien's world through his own distinctive style. Ideal for calendars where art can be more individual.
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Postby Beren » Wed Nov 29, 2006 8:39 am

Always loved Roger Garlands work and I bought many limited prints and do even own original Garlands... for example i have the prelimenary drawings for Tom Bombadil.
I have the tolkienlandscape which was used for the Lord of the rings. Very lovely art and wery nice framed. Not only is Roger Garland a very good artist he is also a very lovely person. You should really go and visit his gallery one day!
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Postby Philipa » Wed Nov 29, 2006 2:29 pm

Beren wrote:I have the tolkienlandscape which was used for the Lord of the rings. Very lovely art and wery nice framed. Not only is Roger Garland a very good artist he is also a very lovely person. You should really go and visit his gallery one day!


I see on Garland's site Tolkien Landscape is not for sale. Good job there Beren! The small image on his site probably does nothing for its beauty. :D
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Postby Iolanthe » Thu Nov 30, 2006 8:29 pm

Wow, you own his drawings for Tom Bombadil 8) ! I love the landscape too - as you can tell by my essay - it's a great achievement and fascinating to look at. I'd love to see it for real.
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Postby Beren » Thu Nov 30, 2006 9:04 pm

For one or another reason I always like the prelimenary drawings better then the finished product. They have a creativity in them... which is the artists in his best; the creative part of the work! I just love this!
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Postby Philipa » Fri Dec 01, 2006 2:17 am

Perhaps Beren you are attracted to the process itself. To see the underpins so to speak intrigues you?
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Postby Beren » Mon Dec 11, 2006 3:00 pm

what do you enjoy most watching the sun rise or a picture of a sunrise... i think I like to see the quest, the search of the artist; the touching on new ideas, the creative process... there is so much more to see in the sketches and pre-drawings; the finished product is only the end result and only shows the finished picture. It is like the enjoying the bookcover without reading what is inside.
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Postby Philipa » Tue Dec 12, 2006 1:42 am

Excellent description Beren. :D
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Postby marbretherese » Sat Aug 04, 2007 12:26 pm

I've just returned to this thread because Jonick has bought me a remaindered copy of 'Tokien's World - Paintings of Middle Earth' (currently unavailable on Amazon), and I've particuarly enjoyed what I've seen of Roger Garland's paintings in there during my brief look at the book so far (we're on holiday from tomorrow so unfortunately my time is limited at present!).

I just re-read some of the comments above about seeing the process of building a painting. When Beren first put up his post I hadn't seen a lot of preliminary sketches of paintings, but near where I work the Royal Watercolour Society currently has an exhibition of precisely that - preliminary sketches alongside their final works - and it's absolutely fascinating. I too have preferred some of the early versions to the final piece!
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Postby Iolanthe » Sun Aug 05, 2007 1:25 pm

Not only is it nice to see the process, but I agree that sometimes the preliminaries themselves can be great works of art - just in another medium. I'm fascinated by Alan Lee's sketches. He is a master at pencil drawing and I often prefer them to his finished paintings even though he is also a master at Watercolour.

Which Garland paintings are in the book, mabreterese? I'd love to hear a bit more about what you like about them when you get back from holiday :D .
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Postby marbretherese » Sun Aug 19, 2007 7:41 pm

There are several: Tom Bombadil, The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm, The Lord of the Nazgûl, Ulmo Lord of the Waters, The Chaining of Melkor, Eärendil and Elwing, The Gates of Morn, The Smith of Wootton Major, The Haven of Moriondë and The Brandywine River.

I think I'm fascinated by them because they are so totally different to my own vision of Tolkien's world; and as a result I've probably looked at them more closely than the others. There's a lot in them, and even if I don't always agree with Garland's interpretation, I find it challenging. And I love his use of colour, particularly in the one of Ulmo (mind you, if I were going to pick one to put on my wall it would be the one I am most comfortable with - The Smith of Wootton Major :D )

In the blurb he states that each Tolkien painting he was commissioned to do made him "raise his game" in terms of creative ability, and I think this really comes through in the finished work.
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