This week I bring you a talk with a romanian artist and writer - Miruna-Lavinia. She creates a big variety of art from landscapes to portraits, which can be found in three folders of her gallery: Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Hobbit fanbook. We also talked about the Tolkien fandom, and what it means to be in it vs. being a fan. But before we get to that, enjoy a sample from her gallery:
Hello! For the beginning, could you tell us something about yourself?
For start, to say I am a painter from Romania, and I grew with a great passion for painting and drawing. I love to travel and to write, reason why I now decided to write books and travel a lot more than before. I graduated high-school as a visiual technician and in Tourism in college. Now I work as a graphic designer and writter. I also love to take photos, reason why I also worked in mass-media as a photographer. I love listening to rock music and movie soundtracks, I grew up in a mountain area and I am always drawn to the nature, reason why most of my works are about nature and mountains.
That's an impressive set of artistic pursuits! How did you decide to present them on this site and how did you pick your username? You are a long-time member and have met some of your deviantArt friends in real life as well, so can you tell us more about your experiences here?
My username is actually my real life name, which I decided to use almost everywhere, so it can be easily recognizable.
I've been on DA for more 10 years, and even before joining, I knew of DeviantArt ever since it was launched, but I joined here due to a "friend" from the LOTR fandom (I actually knew her from LiveJournal), back in 2007, and she persuaded me to be here.
It was actually a lot of fun being here, I've made real life friends, I've met people with common interests, and seeing talented people from the Tolkien fanbase I decided to keep on my work.
One of the first painting that I've submitted here as LOTR fanart was this drawing of Smaug:
How did you enter Tolkien's world for the first time, and what impression did it leave in you?
When I first watched The Fellowship of the Ring, I was, 10 years old, and it was the most impressive movie I had ever seen. I was taken to the cinema by my aunt who persuaded me to watch it. Little did I know it will have such impact in my life!
Being soo young, I did not catch and many things from the movie, but by the time the second movie released I was determined to read the books, and I read the trilogy when I was 12-13 years old (2003-2004)... then I read the Hobbit during summer vacation, and I continued with Silmarillion and I loved the books so much.
In the meanwhile I was creating fanart (but at that time, I did not knew it was called fanart)... and that was the only thing I had in mind: Tolkien's books.
The sad part was that I was mocked and bullied in school for being a LOTR fan, because most people loved Harry Potter at that time, and ONLY boys liked LOTR or talked about it, and to be honest I had hard times until the end of High School.
I kept creating fanarts and I began posting them online, it was so awesome meeting people from around the world, sharing our opinion of the characters from the books/movies and making lots of fanarts.
What creates the image of Middle-earth in your mind? Is it more influenced by the books or movies, or maybe other artists?
I've always loved nature, and the landscapes shown in the movie (both LOTR and The Hobbit) have something really magical in them that I got so excited into making more Tolkien based landscapes.
I'm more of a visual person, and if this movie brought to me so much color in my life, I was also inspired with painting landscapes from the specific location from Middle-Earth.
I have to admit, I was inspired by other with their technique of painting, especially
's style of working.
The way now I imagine Middle-Earth is by how I think it looks, with only several inspirations from the movie (expecially the way Shire is shown) but the rest, I created by my own imagination, or, but that is very rare, if I see a specific landscape in real life and looks Middle-Earth-ish, then that landscape will appear in my fanart.
Here are some Middle-Earth illustrations that have been inspired by real life locations:
What about the Silmarillion and the other Tolkien's books? Do you enjoy the scholarly side of studying Tolkien's world as well or rather prefer those that are written in easier style?
I have read Silmarillion right after I finished reading The Hobbit, that was around 2005-2006, and it was, for me, the most complex reading of my life, but I did enjoy to find out how Arda was created, and all the stories of Beleriand, the mayas, though I have to admit, I did have to read twice to understand.
The most easy ride of Tolkien's works was Roverandom, and it was a very fun reading.
All these I read them in the Romanian language, and here comes the tricky part: Leaf by Niggle, Farmer Giles from Ham, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Smith of Wootton Major I read them in English, and are still my favorite. Yes, I favored a lot more his easy style of writing.
Could we now talk a bit about the Tolkien fandom? Recently you posted a journal about leaving this fandom, although you don't intend to stop creating art inspired by Tolkien. How do you understand being a part of a fandom versus being a fan of something without necessary interaction withy others? Aren't all fans a part of fandom?
Until recently I talked with fans from around the world, and it seems to me that I've encountered some differences between my visions and other's, for me that's ok, we all have differences because after all, we are people. I decided to step back for my sake. I respect people's ideas, but also I support mine.
For me as an artist is important to keep on doing what I love!
My teenage years and also adulthood have been market by LOTR and the Hobbit (both movies and books), and I still love it still, and I think it's impossible to stop because, even if I don't get receive anything back, I've got people who love my work and are always excited when I post something, and I don't want to let them down.
I think that one reason I cannot leave for real my love for Tolkien's work is that, I feel it's a part of my life of who I am, and I don't want to supress my desire to draw something Tolkien related just because I got upset of something.
So, do I understand right that being a fan of Tolkien and being in "Tolkien fandom" are two different things to you? You are remaining a fan, but stepping out of the fandom, as a community?
Yes, for now, these are two different things!
I see. So what do you think is the problem with Tolkien fandom?
I personally don't think there is a problem with the fandom as a whole, and as a community.
I think, after all these years that this fandom is great, with fans all around the world, and will continue to be awesome years to come, and to be honest I cannot wait for the next wave of fans after the release of Amazon's series
One single thing that I did not understood is that as we people are different tend to shove some ideas and they stick with them, and if you don't approve, then you are mean and ignorant. That was when I decided that the best way to cope with this is step back.
Now about something else: Is there some topic in Tolkien's works that you are particularly passionate about?
There are two things that caught my attention: the deep friendship or camadery in the LOTR books and I'm sure many noticed how deep and rare are the bonds created by Tolkien. I've learned many things myself by understanding Tolkien's motifs for such bonds between friends, races and people.
And the other is in fact the geography and maps he created, one thing that you see is how many landscapes I created based on the maps of Middle-Earth. I am very fascinated that he did put so much thought in every detail of Arda, Beleriand and Numenor. As an artist, I can invision immediatly the region, how the mountains look just by the description from the book.
What about you and art? Is there an overlap of your work as a graphic designer with what we see in your gallery, or is your work separate from art as your hobby? When did you start painting, and who or what influenced your style?
My real life job has (unfortunatelly) nothing to do with my art here, online, what I do in as a living are very big projects that are not under my name, but the company's.
I do post sometimes commissions I do for people in real life, otherwise, what I post here is made out of passion and devotion for the things I love.
I've painted all my life to be honest, even when I was little, I made doodles everywhere I go.
I had a lot of influences in my style, from the Disney animation style of making the characters, to realistic style.
As for the Tolkien based artists there are many... many from the past (like in 2003-3004) were some artists whose name I do not remember now (and are no longer active) that inspired me the most, then came the more actual artists like Kinko White and my favorite Donat Giancola.
The picture in your gallery vary from landscapes to portraits and comics. How do you pick the topics to draw?
I love to vary my works, and sometimes it depends on my mood, there are times that when I watch a movie I want to draw the portrait of the main actor, sometimes I want to paint mountains or forests, other times I have new ideas for Tolkien art and its nice to explore this spectre of art because it opens a lot of doors, and I never get bored.
Your Hobbit fanbook is a series of several stories in comics form exploring the relationship of Bilbo and Thorin. Could you tell us more about these comics and the relationship how you see it?
I think I came up with the idea when Desolation of Smaug just came out and I was in vogue with Tumblr posts and I kinda got stuck with some weird things I thought back then and I decided that, I have to do this, otherwise I will have it o my mind forever. Most of my comic came quite natural, very much inspired after the movie and BTS with the actors.
For me, its quite nice to explore many aspects of the "human" circumstances which which these comics were born, even if they are platonic or something else. But to be honest, I kinda moved on with that.
What other book or movies (or anything else) inspire you to create fanart, and why?
One series that really changed me (for the better as in art) is NBC Hannibal. Despite the gruesome, the series is like a piece of art, and I got attached to it by the moment I watched it.
I do watch quite a lot of movies, but the ones I decide to make fanart after are those movies that touch my heart, and I feel something special about it.
What art technique is your favourite? Do you rather keep to the art techniques and styles you are familiar with, or do you experiment with new ones as well?
I love to work in acrylics and oil pastels, and most of my works are done in these two media.
I also love to paint with watercolors because in cases I want to paint a cloudy sky, the colors on paper creates an unique texture and somehow resembles the sky, or water.
Here I have an example of how I used watercolors to create the water of the Rauros waterfall:
I also like to draw with graphite, but on few occasions, for example that time I used pencils to draw the characters from my book:
Your book? Are you a writer as well? Would you tell us more about it?
I got into writing a long time ago when I was wrtting fanfiction, and since I decided to keep with original stories, and now I have one book published, and one still in progress.
The one I am writing now is a fantasy novel, and it has, at the foundation of it many Tolkien inspirations.
It's interesting how many Tolkien artists are also writers Was your fanfiction also Tolkien themed, or was it from a different fandom?
My first ever fanfiction was indeed a LOTR movie verse fanfiction, written in 2003 or 2004 I think. I don't remember what it was about, but all I know it was how excited about writing fanfiction I was.
Do you have some tips and tricks you would like to share with the other artists?
As a Tolkien fan, there is only one thing I can give as an advice: remember that Tolkien has given us a great fantasy world, and without him, we would never have such a rich modern fantasy literature, and I for one, cherish that more than anything in this domain. He changed my perspective of the world.
And a second thought: if you like what you do, continue doing, art, fiction etc, because as long you feel content about yourself doing it, nothing else matters.
Could you tell us, which
- Tolkien illustration you are most proud of?
- original picture or picture from other fandom you are most proud of?
- picture fits your current mood?
- picture was hardest to paint?
(this one again, took me 2 months to finish)
- other picture you would like to share with us and why?
This drawing in oil pastel is a representation of the Straja Peak, the mountain I used to see from my window from my city I used to live as a kid, and the milky way over it. What I love about it is the amount of colors that made it special and nostalgic
Would you like to thank somebody here? What key people in your life, (on or off of dA) have been inspirations to you, or has supported you, as an artist? You can also tell us why, if you want.
There are many people, artists that inspired me in this fandom, people who later became my friends and so on.
If I were to thank them, I would thank everybody who advised me, were with me in my darkest times (few of them of course) but nonetheless, they where there, and for that a honest Thank you.
Is there some artist(s) at dA you know, who doesn't have as much attention as they would deserve? If yes, could you give us some thumbnails from their gallery?
Unfortunately I don't know any artist who hasn't come out in the spotlight at this moment.
Is there something else you would like to tell to the fans of Tolkien and your art?
Well, Tolkien has reshaped the fantasy genre, and we fans are so lucky to be a part of this whole thing that surrounds us and we must be proud of what we do.
Thank you for your time and answers!