Canadian artist Ted Nasmith is at the top of his game with a new book, and several new projects in the offing. And his friends (and fellow artists) will tell you there is no one more deserving. Ted Nasmith is not only an exceptionally talented artist he is also a very nice man. I had the opportunity to catch up with him recently at his studio.
How did you begin in art?
As a child, around kindergarten age, when I displayed a flair for drawing. I recall being fascinated with illustrations in story books, and the images in movies I saw in my childhood, such as classics like In Search of the Castaways, or The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm.
What formal training have you had?
I enrolled in a comprehensive Commercial Art program at the high school level, followed soon after graduating by an apprenticeship in architectural rendering.
Do you have a favorite artist?
Among the favorites are Frederick Church, Frederick Leighton, Adolphe William Bouguereau, and Albert Beirstadt.
Do you have a favorite work?
Not one single one, no. Among the favorites, where I think I’ve met my own exacting criteria, are works such as The Wrath of the Ents; Fire on Weathertop, The End of the Age, and Fangorn Forest, to take some LotR examples. I feel the recent The Kinslaying at Alqualonde, Turin Bears Gwindor to Safety, Beleg is Slain, and some of the other Silmarillion images, to be among my best work, too.
When a work is particularly successful, there’s a certain euphoria, and a strange detachment, as though someone else created what’s before you. I’ve heard other artists describe the phenomenon.
What is your preferred medium?
Gouache, otherwise known as tempera. It is water-based, and opaque or transparent as you prefer. It’s also ideal for high detail, and drying flat, does not give off glare when photographed.
Have you tried your hand at digital art?
No ... and I leave the manipulation of my artwork digitally (done when technical requirements or minor alterations are involved) to others once I create the work. I prefer having an artifact once the art is finished.
What is your impression of digital art?
It’s a very valid medium, but I am very "hands on." And I think that gives art a more spiritual dimension.
What inspires you?
The phenomenon of Tolkien - it seems to be responding to a need in western society. When I have the opportunity to travel to shows or events I find the fans are so nice. I listen to their comments and find that art is the medium between us. When someone says "you’ve reached into my mind and you saw what I imagined," it makes me think that perhaps I’m doing something right. Also, I tend to ask myself, what would Tolkien have intended, or what truly compliments his description and evokes the elusive qualities of Faerie?
Ok, it’s time for me to confess something very embarrassing. I thought you were dead.
(laughter) That’s understandable. Let me tell you the story of a letter I sent to Tolkien. Many years ago, I sent J. R. R. Tolkien a fan letter, along with some of my first works – Hobbits, Gandalf and the Dwarves - in photographs, and he sent back a note.
Somehow, over time, this story has become distorted and I have had people tell me they thought I was dead or that he actually chose me as his artist. Neither is true in the least; as far as I know Pauline Baynes was the only illustrator Tolkien "endorsed," if simply by being pleased with her work over a decade and a half.
What advice would you give to a fledgling artist?
Believe in your work. Leave a part of your life for it. For me, it’s a privilege to be an artist and it’s not about money—except insofar as one must earn a living. Art is semi-sacred and can’t be bent too far before there are consequences; a kind of impoverishment of substance. One can spot the posers ... (more laughter) But I don’t want to sound as if I’m lecturing!
Ok, some controversial stuff. There were grumblings when the artists were chosen for the Lord of the Rings films that some of the known "Tolkien artists" were snubbed or not considered. Were you asked or considered for the Lord of the Rings film project?
Yes, I was considered for the Lord of the Rings film project, even sought them out to inquire about possibilities. However, I had some personal things going on at the time (unrelated to my art), which had to be factored in. In addition, I had professional commitments already in place and felt I could not go to New Zealand indefinitely to work on the project, a dislocation I hadn’t planned for. A most difficult career decision!
More controversial stuff. There is concern among Tolkien purists that the Lord of the Rings films will create two versions of the Tolkien works (the Tolkien’s stories and the Hollywood version). What is your opinion?
Only time will tell, but yes I do have concerns. It complicates things when there are fans of either the film treatment or the books or both! It will fall to scholars to continue to remind us of the author’s intentions and the loyalty of readers to keep the literary legacy alive from one generation to another.
What are you up to now?
I’ve been traveling a lot! Late in ‘04 I was on a tour for The Silmarillion, for which I did new illustrations, and that project is something I take particular pride in. I took some time off around Christmas holidays, and now I’m back to a combination of travel and new artwork. Among the trips upcoming, August 4-7 I’ll be in Oslo Norway for Norwegian Tolkien Society event, then off to Birmingham, England for Tolkien 2005 (August 11-15). I currently have completed a commission of a painting of Gandalf greeting Bilbo, and The Danbury Mint has asked me to do a 3 plate commemorative anniversary series for The Lord of the Rings.
I’ve done some non-Tolkien cover illustrations, as well, and one in particular is for a book called The Stoneholding for my friend Mark Sebanc. he book is a collaboration between Mark and Jim Anderson (Mark James is listed as the author). I thoroughly enjoyed both reading the book and working on the cover art.
What would you like to say to your many fans worldwide?
Thank you all so much! It continues to be my privilege and great honor to turn Tolkien’s work into art, and I deeply value your support.
I would like to thank Ted for taking time from his very busy schedule to chat with us. More information is available about his schedule, his art and his special projects at: Ted Nasmith official web site
On The Road With is a regular featured column with Renderosity Staff Writer Vicki Shane [vshane].
May 30, 2005
What an honor it is for Mr. Nasmith to take time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts and experiences with the Renderosity community! He is one of my favorite fantasy artists, and it was wonderful to get to know him. Thank you so much Vicki for "going on the road" for us again! Dee-Marie