Talks with Tolkien artists: Irsanna

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MirachRavaia's avatar
By MirachRavaia

The 102nd in this interview series is with :iconirsanna: - Irsanna. This talk was done over the course of several weeks, and it was very enjoyable - you will find some very nice thoughts in it, if you take the time to read. But first you can take a look at Irsanna's gallery, where you will find some familiar Silmarillion characters, but also tales and characters that got their own life in the world created by Tolkien.

the dance-deceit by Irsanna
holiday of thanksgiving horses by Irsanna
Earendil and Eonwe by Irsanna Elmo by Irsanna
 Miriel by Irsanna problems of education by Irsanna

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

Hello, my name is Irina, I live in Moscow. I'm not a professional artist, but I have a good art education.

What brought you to deviantArt and how did you pick your username?

What brought me to DeviantArt… 
After the end of the art school, at first I drew a lot, I studied in the artists' studios, I even entered the Russian Academy of Painting Sculpture and Architecture - to check whether I can or not. But in the end I decided to choose another life path, and I begin to draw less and less. Although in my work biography there is also the design of books, and the performance of some artistic or design commissions, even such exotics as participation in the design of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation or the commission from the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation. But "for myself" I painted less and less. I had many other interests, and in general I was satisfied with everything. And then I got sick. Much of what I love: my Indian dance, distant multi-kilometer trip to the car when I'm driving, far long horseback riding tours, horse riding, full yoga, full professional activity, - everything became difficult for me. I felt that I was no more, that I was already dead, and only my corpse remained here. In my professional work I helped people who suffered in emergency situations, in terrorist attacks, disasters, etc., I know professionally what to say and do to help a person in a difficult life situation, but I couldn't help myself. And in this moment my daughter gave me a tablet Wacom. I promised her that I will draw every day. And was found and returned to me a huge part of my soul. So everything that I have now painted is dedicated to my daughter, and I can seriously tell her the words of Theoden (from the film): "You already saved me”.
DeviantArt was sometimes mentioned in blogs, and I went to see what it is. My user name is my semi-official semi-friendly real name. In Russia the full name is your name + patronymic derived from the name of the father. I - Irina Aleksandrovna - Irina, daughter of Alexander, this semi-formally can be reduced as Irsanna.

That's a really moving tale, I'm sorry to hear about your illness! If art is having such an important role in your life now, what about Tolkien? How did you enter Middle-earth for the first time, and what impression did it leave in you?

Thank you for your sympathy! But, as you can see, there can be positive sides in everything.
I first read Tolkien 30 years ago, when the first complete edition of The Lord of the Rings was published in the USSR. A huge, beautiful, clean, direct and honest world. Of course, it captured me and immediately became one of the places where the soul goes to be home, to adjust its settings, to collect itself and gain strength. At that time of those who read and knew Tolkien in Russia was not so much as now. If a person recognized a quotation or a name and responded, he was "his", it was like a special spiritual brotherhood.

What about the movies? When they came out, Tolkien became more "main-stream", and this sence of spiritual brotherhood got lost. How did you feel about that?

I love Peter Jackson's trilogy very much. It seems to me that it is difficult to overestimate the genius of this film, it is difficult to overestimate the degree of how it is necessary to be grateful to Peter Jackson that Frodo, Gandalf, Arwen and others look for us now the way how PJ and his team saw them, and not in any other way. For me, Tolkien by Peter Jackson, by virtue of quality, heights and nobility of performance, is the same testimony of Middle-earth, just like Tolkien himself.
The feeling of brotherhood is experienced there, in those places and with those beings where this brotherhood really exists organically, but it's foolish to grieve that it is not everywhere. Spiritual brotherhood is the comfort of your soul, this is Rivendell for rest, treatment, a safe secure place with a huge library, archives and the resurrected Glorfindel. But, alas, we cannot always dispose of the time of our life so that to spend all this time in Rivendell.
Yes, with the coming of the film, the circle of Tolkien's fans has significantly expanded. Ideas often behave like liquids, we can say that Tolkien spilled wider, but at the same time became shallow. But I do not blame the film for it - first of all, the film is not guilty if someone is not able to go beyond own limits, this film completely opens up that possibility; second, I think it is a great product, great value, I'm glad that it exists, and I'm willing to forgive its associated losses; thirdly, the book can also be read in different ways - most importantly, who reads; and fourth, is the normal way that the ideas goes. The life of ideas, the history of ideas in general is very interesting thing, and not only on takeoff and in development, but also in regression, and when they turn already almost in its contrast to.  And Tolkien has already written about this - if we consider, for example, a shallow and not high Shire as something unworthy of attention, then we can miss the ring.

Those are some beautiful ideas, thank you! What about your own vision of Middle-earth, when the movies came out? Did it change to the movie settings or did you keep your own images for some characters and places?

All forms are temporary and fleeting, all arise and drown in the ocean of dreams of Irmo. I see elves much more light-hearted than in the film. Wise but light-hearted. But, I think, how much the film influenced me, and whether I have something of my own, it's evident in my gallery.

Let's talk about your pictures now. Rather than illustrating particular events and characters from the book, you often treat Middle-earth like a canvas where you paint your own stories. Where do you find inspiration for these? Do the stories and characters have a firm shape in your mind, or do you discover them as you paint?

I like to paint "nameless" elves. Maybe it's someone who's being looked at by a fatally wounded Haldir. They all also had some long or short elven life, they deserve attention and a closer respectful look. I don't write fanfiction. Most often I write any non-fiction - on the topics of psychology, mythology, etc., I write poetry. Some stories that constantly arise in my head, I do not always write down, I like to tell it verbally, but I have my favorite permanent characters. My drawings and the stories that I have, complement each other. Drawing often gives a lot of new insight, clarifies what is already known. Even if I already know something, in the process of drawing, I suddenly can understand something else. I can say that drawing for me is a wonderful technique for insight into a phenomenon.

What about the techniques you use for your art? After getting the tablet, do you still sometimes draw traditionally, or did it become your only instrument?

I'm excited about the tablet and digital drawing. This is the most beautiful plaything! I do not think that by this time I have sufficiently mastered the drawing on the tablet, I think there can be a lot of interesting things ahead, and it fascinates me very much. I draw on a tablet just as I would draw in a traditional way without using any specific digital tricks. In the traditional technique, I also draw. I really love oil painting, I like and I know the technique of old masters and the methods of impressionists well. But digital pictures are already in the computer, and I have a lot of them, and the traditional still need to photograph, and this step I do not feel necessary. Digital and traditional drawing for me correlate as the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle, the difference between them is a separate big very interesting topic.

So you prefer sharing digital artworks online, and traditional in person? If you could share some things that you learnt as an artists with others, what would it be?

Yes. All the time that I'm drawing digital pictures, I feel them as still belonging to my inner world, and I publish them in order to they become more "thing", as if they “began to exist", and traditional pictures from the very beginning exist as a separate independent thing and for me they do not need such "reification".
Some things that I've learned... like this, for example: when you draw your picture, and suddenly you start to feel that something needs to be changed, altered or added - it is better to follow this feeling, it is better to go for it, no matter how difficult or illogical or not in conformity with the generally accepted it is, or even if the picture in general is obtained without these changes, and you could save yourself from extra hassle. It is here begins more depth of creativity, it is an exit to the open sea of creativity from a narrow, domestic, inhabited fjord. Each picture starts in a quiet home harbor, and in principle it can stay there, why not, but if something calls you to the road, into the distance, into something else unknown - it's worth to follow it. Even if later, eventually you will return to the first option, you will have your journey. But, in fact, Tolkien had already written it all) And if you want to draw something, you should definitely draw it, and do not think that I can not yet, I do not know how, and that it will generally turn out, but think only about how to express as much as possible exactly what appeared before you in your imagination. Spirits of creativity love and appreciate responsiveness, they respond in response to your responsiveness to them. If you do not respond, they'll stop calling you. If I regret something, as regards the drawn (or not drawn) by me, then this is such cases when I did not respond and did not go beyond what I already had. It is incidentally also one of the reasons why I love digital: when I follow this principle in the traditional techniques, I spend a lot of paper) Digital can serve as an excellent sketch material.

Thank you for the tips! Could you now give us a link or thumbnail from your gallery of
- a Tolkien illustration you are most proud of?

I like how it turned out here:
Eonwe by Irsanna

- a picture from other fandom or original picture you are most proud of?

I liked to make a series of full moons, as they are called according to the calendar of Indians Algonquins. Here, for example, one of the pictures:
Beaver Moon by Irsanna

- a picture that fits your current mood?

- I write now here something in a language I don't know
the craftsman of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain by Irsanna

- a picture that was hardest to paint?

These pictures are not in the gallery, I still paint these pictures. In the gallery there are those pictures in which I more or less successfully solved the difficulties or went on a compromise. But I have a few pictures that I draw for a very long time and I'm very worried about them, if I can finish them. This is probably the hardest thing for me. But if I finish them, I can write under them that they were them)

Maximum compromise, probably in this picture:
conspiracy by Irsanna
I showed weakness to do as originally planned, but I think I'll try to change it.

- any other picture you would like to share with us and why?

to unwritten tale about a dwarf (ill. 3) by Irsanna
I stopped drawing this tale, the next picture is still in process and in different versions. But I'm sorry that I do not continue this tale now, I think it's wrong. So here I am mentioning it now. Maybe this way I'll get back to it faster.

I actually wanted to ask about the Unwritten tale about a dwarf. The series of pictures tells its own story - is this one of the stories that you discover along with their drawing, or is it (contrary to the title) a story written by you or someone else? What makes this story special to you?

This story was invented by me, and it is really unwritten, as called. It began as a very small fairy tale of six pictures. In the process of drawing, the number of pictures increased, but the pictures from the first to the 11th - this is this original fairy tale, quite finished. It could be called "Kasha", “porridge”, and it almost does not require text, everything that happens there is understandable from the pictures. But yes, this story was discovered along with drawing. I began to see something else that I would like to draw about these characters, the story began to develop, the dwarves appeared biography, appeared some flashbacks about why they go somewhere together. Those who drink tea with me, have already heard the tale entirely, even a few options between “all dead” and a happy end, but here on DA, as you can see, it stalled.

The origins of this tale, of course, is in "the Hobbit" of Peter Jackson. I really liked that PJ made in the Hobbit: in the most beautiful way he brought his gaze closer to the dwarves, gave them enough attention, time and respect, as a result of which it turned out that the dwarves differ from each other not only in the color of the hoods, but they feel, suffer, love. Then, in the last series, he ruined all when he didn't follow the book, but the general mood of the film I find very valuable, because this is how the existential phenomenological method works: if you want to understand someone, you have to come closer, take time, treat respectfully - and it really works.

What makes this story special to me? Well... of course, I can say that no, it's not special ... just an idea about a cat and porridge. But... - maybe that when I was in school, and in physical education classes we were lined up by stature, I was first, as the highest in the class, and boy, whom I was in love, was last but one - ?

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 really like the work jubah. She draws with great love for her characters.

10 years of the children of hurin by jubah    Huan by jubah    nellas by jubah  idril and tuor by jubah   tuor in bonds, sketch by jubah 

I always really look forward to her pictures, but now, unfortunately, she has not appeared on DA for a long time. This is a great pity.

I can also mention, for example, these artists:


Carantir by owl-glass Bilbo Baggins by owl-glass The Shire... Baggins... by owl-glass Maglor by owl-glass Lay of Leithian by owl-glass


Maglor by Rina-from-Shire   Eonwe by Rina-from-Shire    Elrond by Rina-from-Shire  Feanaro by Rina-from-Shire  Nerdanel sketch by Rina-from-Shire   Nienna by Rina-from-Shire


Spiders in the Mirkwood by Attiris-V   Esgaroth by Attiris-V   Arkenstone by Attiris-V   Smaug by Attiris-V  Barrelride by Attiris-V   Dol Guldur by Attiris-V

      Earendil by Sumeria  Turgon by Sumeria  Feanor by Sumeria Glorfindel by Sumeria  Gwindor by Sumeria  Curufin by Sumeria

Is there something else you would like to tell to the fans of Tolkien and your art?

Yeah, they're beautiful artists.

I want to take this opportunity to express my respect to you, Eva, and thank you for your work. Because the creation and maintenance of a working group is in general the creation and maintenance of a place, such as Rivendell, where the annals, memories are kept, and where good meetings are possible. And I, for example, remember very well that one of my favorite pictures 
Feanor. Birthday. by Irsanna
emerged thanks to you. May the spirit and goodwill of Lord Elrond be with you - and with the creators and admins of other Tolkien groups who are also doing their work, and which I am also grateful for)

Oh, thank you very much! I'm glad to be able to grant hospitality and inspiration! And thank you also for your time and answers!

Coding by Felizias Drawings by ebe-kastein Borders by PhoenixWildfire
© 2018 - 2021 MirachRavaia
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Mellaril's avatar
Lovely artwork. BTW you're also one of my favorite members of the dA Tolkien scene because of your general positivity and kindness :) it always brightens my day and it was really nice to learn a bit more about you. Good luck in all things!
5ocean's avatar
Ирина, очень интересное интервью, спасибо! У вас потрясающее творчество, особенный стиль, ни с чем не сравнимый и поэтому было очень интересно узнать о чем вы думаете)))
AnotherStranger-Me's avatar
Thank you for the wonderful interview) It's always interesting to learn a bit more about the artist behind those lovely pictures
EPH-SAN1634's avatar
Beautiful use of colours :)
Irsanna's avatar
:) Thank you!
EPH-SAN1634's avatar
No need! Keep on the great job :)
Irsanna's avatar
:) (Smile) Hug 
by the way, I fully agree with you on the question of Maeglin / Mаyron: we expect the human person to comply with human norms, but it is foolish to approach the same norms, for example, to a natural disaster, an earthquake or a hurricane, they have a different nature, so I believe that you are right)
EPH-SAN1634's avatar
Really?? I am glad you agree with me instead of thinking I am some kind of maniac or...I don't know. I've read a lot ever since I made my opinion clear on that matter. And I must say you express my general thought perfectly :)
Thank you
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