Talks with Tolkien artists: Gypsy-Rae

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MirachRavaia's avatar
By MirachRavaia

First talk of 2016! I apologize for not posting any of these for a while, we started it back in december, but it took a while to complete through comments and replies. I hope you will find out that if was worth the wait! I talked to :icongypsy-rae: - Gypsy-Rae about the dark lords of Middle-earth, her beautiful ornamental art, and many other things. But first I picked a few examples from her gallery for your enjoyment:

Artspired: The Pieta by Gypsy-Rae DS 12: Cry in Sorrow by Gypsy-Rae
DS 9: The Decision by Gypsy-Rae The Seduction of MARIAN by Gypsy-Rae DS 2: Can You Hear Me, Master? by Gypsy-Rae
AT: Song of Seduction - Color by Gypsy-Rae

Hello! For the beginning, could you tell us something about yourself?

Why hello thar! *taps microphone* Can you hear me alright? Kidding! Kidding! =3  Well honestly I'm just a shy dame who loves to laugh at stupid stuff, wear skirts and scarves in her hair and adores classical/historical art and Golden Age Illustration.  I'm an art whore, yo.  Truly I am just your average boring person with little of interest to offer about myself.  Sorry, but your interesting princess is in another castle.

We can hear you just fine, it's nice to meet you! Before we get to other questions, would you mind defining an"art whore"?

Well technically I guess an "art whore" would be a person that draws art for the sole purpose of the almighty dollar but I don't use it to mean that. I personally use the term "art whore" to mean I LOVE old art. Heart  I hope that clarifies things a bit?

Yes, thank you! :) (Smile) What about your username, is there some story behind it?

Due to my love of bohemian fashion I am frequently called a slew of nicknames in real-life that range from "hippie" to "fortune-teller" but the most common one is "gypsy".  "Rae" is simply a shortened variation of my actual name which is Rachael. I just combined them into one to create my moniker of "Gypsy-Rae".  Meow :3

When did you read Tolkien's books for the first time, and what impression did they leave in you?

I didn't read any of Tolkien's books until I was in High School.  But here is the kicker.   I'm one of those people who was introduced to Tolkien mainly through Peter Jackson's flicks but hasn't really read the base material.  I did read the first book and a few chapters into the second book of the 'Lord of the Rings' Trilogy and maybe a couple chapters of 'The Silmarillion' but that's it.  I feel that for me to say I have truly read Tolkien would be a lie. Finishing only one book out of a trilogy really doesn't count.  That said, my inability to stick with Tolkien's works doesn't mean I didn't enjoy them. It only means I have a terrible habit of not finishing things I start. XD 

In all honesty it is Tolkien himself moreso than his written works that has left the largest impression on me.  It is just beyond amazing to me that he could create his own fascinating world with it's own differing peoples, races and mythos while also writing an in depth and interweaving story to take place within that world.  And lets not forget how he created his own languages. Jeebus christ on a cracker.  Tolkien was not only imaginative but intelligent.  I find his dedication to his writings to be beyond inspiring and I have much respect to him for this.

Are the pictures of the characters in your mind those of the movies, or your own? How much did the movies influence your imagination when reading the books?

I liked what Mr. Jackson did with the aesthetics of the characters (clothing choices, overall appearance, mannerisms, etc) but the way I see the characters (at least in recent years) are my own without a doubt.  I highly doubt Mr. Jackson would have stuck any of the characters in as much Gingham print as I tend to do. =P (Razz)  The way I envision the characters takes a dash of influence from the movies but I take more influence from various other outlets, such as Harry Clarke's illustrations, fairy tale illustrations, Greek Mythos, Religious art, etc.  
And I'd have to say the movies were a pretty big influence on my imagination when I was reading the books years ago.  I can quite honestly say every time I came to a part in the book that was a scene in the flick all I could think about was the movie.

Now, could you tell us something about you and art? Are you a professional artist, or is art just your hobby? When did you start doing it, and who or what influenced your style?

Oh well there's little to say about myself. I'm just your average Joe (or should I say Jane?) with a very average job.  No professional artist here! Though I did end up majoring in "Graphic Design" in college. Despite the major title I studied more under the "Fine Artist" umbrella with a heavy dash of Art History.  Despite it all I'm nothing more than a hobby artist who uses art to escape the dull drum of everyday life.  It is my happy place. :) (Smile)

I've been drawing for as long as I can remember! Growing up, I had an older sister who drew and as they say "monkey see monkey do".  I guess the mimicry phase of my life never went away so here I am, twenty something years later, still drawing long after she has given it up. =3  I've had many influences over the years and my style has fluctuated with whatever whim struck.  As I entered my teens I was very drawn to the art of Yoshitaka Amano and Ayami Kojima, their art leaving the first true lasting impression on how I draw.  This is especially true in the way I draw males. I prefer the androgynous fashion in which both Amano and Kojima would approached their male subjects and I tailored my art after this.  

In recent years I discovered the illustrations of the Irish illustrator Harry Clarke by complete accident and fell in love with his overly stylized artwork and use of repetitious patterns and floralesque details.  His artwork is both mind-blowing and a feast for the eyes.  A person could look at his artwork many times over and find something new each time.  I adore that.  A lot.  It took me a few years (actually this year to be specific) to muster the courage to try it for myself because detail oriented art is very scary to think about trying to do (especially when you are as IMPATIENT of a person as I am) but once I tried replicating Harry Clarke's style I fell in love with art all over again. Heart  I have pretty much dedicated myself to spending the rest of my life to being like Mr. Clarke. I finally found my little art niche and now that I got it I don't plan on letting go anytime soon. La la la la

You said you didn't read the whole Silmarillion, yet your illustrations focus on Sauron and Melkor, and their relationship. How did you get to this topic, and what is your view of the personalities of these characters?

Oh man, you've stumbled across my greatest guilt factor. I can't tell you how many times I've told myself I should not be drawing Tolkien based art if I don't have the proper knowledge to back it up.  For better or worse, I've never let my lack of intimate knowledge on a fandom or subject stop me from creating art. I've done that for years now.  Even though I never finished Silmarillion (hell, it's been 10+ years since high school so I don't even remember what bit I DID read) I do tend to do some research on my chosen subjects.  Wikipedia and Tolkien based Wiki's have been my good good friend through this and other things I have picked up from reading fanfiction based around the characters of Sauron and Melkor. =3  Getting my Knowledge from those two outlets hardly replaces actually reading the source material but it does at least give me something to work with.

Honestly I stumbled across the topic of Sauron and Melkor and the more...perverse? perverted as hell aspect of their relationship  through fanart .  Like so many others before me, my first introduction to these two was through the amazing art of :iconphobs:.  It was also the first time I came to realize Sauron's name was actually "Mairon" and that Melkor was the dark lord before him of which he served.  I found that rather interesting - that there was an origin to everything - and started doing a bit of digging around to learn the history there and sort of fell in love with Melkor and his trusted lieutenant.  The bad guys are always interesting to me for some reason.  Heart  Naturally my fangirl side likes to treat them like a Barbie and Ken doll and make them kiss and cuddle or get into domestic scuffles that requires the Arda PD to show up and arrest one of them.  

Of course as much as I liked Phobs' art I never actually drew any Dark Lord and Dark Lord junior fanart. I never forgot about them I just didn't have the guts to give it a go since there was already so many good artists in the fandom.  I figured I probably shouldn't clutter it up myself since I had nothing original to offer.  XD  But then earlier this year I stumbled across :iconfrecklesordirt:'s art/Comics and that sorta changed.  Heart After I stopped squealing and adoring her great artistic style and dedication to the source material (seriously, I really admire that dame) I REALLY wanted to draw some art centered around Melkor and Sauron, to hell with how bad I was gonna screw it up.   Around that time I happened to be doing an art trade with another deviant here on DA who left the subject up to me so I picked those two assuming it would be a one off thing. ... 7 months later here I am STILL drawing my pretty yet trashy Melkor/Sauron art.  Go figure. =3

I don't look at either Melkor or Sauron in terms of simple black and white.  Yeah, they are both very wicked characters who pretty much broke middle earth and did everything in their power to just be royal pains in everyone's collective ass but I find it more interesting to go beyond just that.  Every person has his or her own unique personality, quirks, fears, things they love, etc.  Everyone hurts, everyone laughs, everyone loves, everyone has moments of elation and everyone cries.  Even Melkor and Sauron, at least to me.  I don't just see a couple of dudes who like to be bad. I see a couple of dudes who have rounded personalities who go through the same bullshit any man, elf, or dwarf does... except they like to be bad too. =3

TL;DR Fanart learned me bout dark lords and taught me that even Melkor and Mairon/Sauron cry. Probably.

How long does it take you to finish a picture with all the delicate ornaments? Do you feel impatient with it sometimes, and if yes, how do you overcome it?

It varies from picture to picture.  I'd say it averages anywhere between 40 to 80 man-hours can go into any given picture. I find it ironic that, more times than not, I put MORE hours into my artwork than my blue-collar job.  OMG SHOCK. by KimRaiFan   I guess that's some twisted form of dedication for ya.  The time it takes all boils down to the composition, background, and how many differing ornaments I decide to use.  Simpler composition and backgrounds and less complication ornaments require less thought on my part and therefore less time.  For instance, DS 3: Sing Me a Song went well into the 70 hours range to complete whereas Rendezvous only took a bit over 35 hours.  The first, by my standards, had a more complicated composition and more detail mumbo jumbo to it while the second had a much simpler and more direct composition and less detailing to do. 

The drawing process, while frustrating as hell at times, is not something I get impatient with.  That includes all the detail work.  Honestly it is far harder for me to draw out a decent composition and background than ornaments.  Fancy details are time consuming but easy.  After I first get the initial base drawing inked (sans details/ornaments) I do always have a moment of intense anxiety and dread since I'm looking at all the white space staring back at me that needs to be filled up with something and at the same time NOT blur together into some inky black mess.  I have to be thoughtful with what I place where, though I admit I do not always succeed on this point.  But once I force myself to simply start laying some random patterns down I chill out a bit and it just gets easier the more details I layer in.

What other book or movies (or anything else) inspire you to create fanart, and why?

I am inspired by so many things its hard to pick just a few!  Anything from the way the the sky appears at the break of dawn down to the way a person I happen to see is posed or the way a piece of cloth drapes over a chair can inspire me, even with fanart.  That said I think my largest outlet for inspiration I draw upon comes from Harry Clarke's art, classical artwork, mythology, music, and old video game concept art (hello thar Yoshitaka Amano and Ayami Kojima).   I use a lot of those widespread influences in my art, fanart or character designs.  

The "why" part is simple: Because I like it.  If I like something enough I tend to stow it away in my mind because I think it was a good design element and can be dissected apart to work well in any given piece of art.  I just sort of ball up all the random things that I stowed away from the various inspirations and try to incorporate it into whatever I do.

Do you have some tips and tricks you would like to share with the other artists?

Free your mind from the concept of art being "correct".  There is no right or wrong way to draw.  Everything doesn't have to be picture perfect nor does anatomy have to be completely accurate.  I personally work with the notion of "plausible" anatomy. It isn't accurate but it looks close enough so that I am pleased.  Remember nothing is perfect (even our own facial features are not completely symmetrical!) so one should accept the small imperfections that will happen in your art.  Once a person is able to free themselves of the preconceived and universally accepted notions of what is "good" art they can do whatever they want. Heart  Play with art, don't let minor flubs get under your skin and have fun with what you do.  That is the best tip I can possibly give. =3

Could you give us a link or thumbnail from your gallery of
- a Tolkien illustration you are most proud of?

DS 5: The Gift by Gypsy-Rae
- a picture from other fandom or original picture you are most proud of?
Celestial Virgin: Astraea/Virgo by Gypsy-Rae
- a picture that fits your current mood?
AT: That's my face you damn elf by Gypsy-Rae
- a picture that was hardest to paint?
Artspired:  Lady of Shalott by Gypsy-Rae
- any other picture you would like to share with us and why?
Solemn Love by Gypsy-Rae 
I am rather fond of this thing.  It's hardly dynamic in nature and not especially interesting visually but I like the sad and lonely atmosphere tinged with a hint of affection.  Not to mention the robes and drapery are still among my favorite ones I have come up with on the fly.  Ultimately the picture is really just utter nonsense and it has its fair share of mistakes but it remains one of my personal favorites because of composition, the silent story, and the design elements used.  Heart

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.

Aww heck. That's kind of a tuffy.  I've had a lot of swell folk on here and tumblr that have either inspired me or just straight up kept me grounded enough to keep on drawing.  A few kind words goes a LONG way with me.  But I'd have to say both :iconaventisz: and :iconmayonakakisu: have been pretty instrumental in keeping me involved in art, whether they realize it or not.  Both are not only talented artists in their own right but they're pretty supportive in their own special ways.  If not for the fun chats, idea sharing, and support from them I am POSITIVE I would have dropped out of drawing long ago. 

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?

I actually think Aventisz and mayonakakisu are both talented artists with their own unique and distinguishable styles.  Pals of mine or not, they still got some mad skills and deserve a lot more recognition for their amazing talent than what they get.  Seriously, I'm jealous as hell of the both of them! XD

We have been talking about art so far, but under your illustrations titled DS, meaning "The Different Story", you started to write as well, progressing from just snippets of the story with the first pictures into almost full chapters with the later illustrations. Could you tell us more about this story?

Well, to start I'll admit that I'm an avid Angbanger (also known as a weird ass who ships Melkor/Mairon, Morgoth/Sauron) so I would implore anyone who is horrified at the thought of Dark Lords having an intimate sort of relationship to avoid DS with their life.  "The Different Story" is just some idea for an AU angbang centric fic I've had rolling around in my head for a couple years that centers (mainly) around Mairon after his fall by way of the Fellowship of the ring.  I'll try to keep things simple, to the point, and as spoiler free as possible for anyone that may be curious of it.  At its heart, DS is a story of redemption, second chances, and the question of whether fate can be changed or if even a different story has the same end.  And there will be romance. And the Dagor Dagorath somewhere in there too but modeled a bit after Norse Mythology's Ragnarök.

At the moment, DS is my little project and I honestly have no idea how long it will take to finish.  Probably forever since I'm writing (writing as well as my feeble writing abilities allow!) and illustrating it.  It won't be the most grand thing ever by any means but it gives me a chance to have fun illustrating a story. =3

Is there something else you would like to tell to the fans of Tolkien and your art?
Well to fans of Tolkien alls I gotta say is keep on a Tolkien and to those who are fans of my art I would just like to say THANK YOU for the support!  :lovesquee: by stuck-in-suburbia   Nothing impacts my creativity and drive to keep doing what I'm doing quite like knowing there are people out there that actually like what I do.  I'm hardly some "big name" artist, nor shall I ever be, but I can honestly say I did not think I would get the support I've gotten thus far so I am deeply appreciative of any and all of it.  You all rock. Truly.   :squee: personal revamp by AutumnOwl

Thank you very much for your time and answers, it was interesting to talk to you!

Coding by Felizias Drawings by ebe-kastein Borders by PhoenixWildfire
© 2016 - 2021 MirachRavaia
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AnotherStranger-Me's avatar
Thanks for an interesting interview!
MirachRavaia's avatar
I'm glad you enjoyed it!