Hello! Thank you for reading the current installment of Talks with Tolkien artists. This time I talked with an italian illustrator living in Croatia, Fabio Leone, - Leone-art. You can find many original visions of Tolkien's characters in his gallery, uninfluenced by the movies:
1. Hello! For the beginning, could you tell us something about yourself?
I am 38 years old and I live in Croatia. I am a professional artist, a husband, father of three.
2. What brought you to deviatArt and how did you pick your username?
Simply put: “visibility” you can't make yourself heard If you don't shout from higher ground. My username is my surname, no fancy reasons. I have to be remembered and recognized to find editors and private clients... would you remember how to find an artist on internet if your only clue is the name “EviLAngel652CutePuppies”? I think not.
3. How did you enter Tolkien's world for the first time, and what impression did it leave in you?
I always loved reading and an interest for fantasy literature. The name “Tolkien” was everywere mentioned and, when I was 15, I asked my mother to buy me “The lord of the rings”. It was an epiphany to me. Tolkien's literature is “a walk down an ancient hallway”: many times you have the occasion to pass along open doors and peek: sometimes you see beautiful landscapes, or hear enchanting music, or feel the thunder of a thousand drums in your chest. Tolkien's stories are a doorway to a deeper lore. It is impossible to resist the call if you try to read it with the due respect.
4. When the movies came out, many of the inner pictures of characters and scenes in the mind of the readers have been replaced by actors and settings from the movie. Did it happen to you as well? Did you try to prevent it?
I have read the books many times before the first PJ Movie came out. I was intrigued by the adaptation process and the cinematographic solutions found by WETA artists. Even if the actors faces and costumes became “canon” for the general public, I was not too much influenced by them because I am prepared in considering Cinema and Literature two different media. The sets and the landscapes depicted in the move were very useful to me to “ground” specific moments in a real place. Later, as an artist, I had to detach myself from the movies for a while to create a personal interpretations of the literature. Luckily, when I started painting Tolkien's characters, The Lotr Trilogy was already 10 years old and it wasn't difficult to deviate from the Movie Actors likeness... BUT when I was designing my Beorn portrait it was exactly when the first leaks of him invaded the internet and I had to isolate from those. It wasn't too much difficult and right now I find more annoying comments stating something like “nice painting BUT it does not resemble (place random actor name here)”. Many people still think that painting ORLANDO BLOOM as an Elf is an added value to the Artwork.
5. Some of Tolkien's books can be hard to read, being more of history annals than beletry. Do you let that discourage you or not? How extensive is your knowledge of Middle-earth?
I could be discouraging if you search for an easy job. To me the “difficulty” means that I have to educate myself to reach a deeper understanding of the literature. I can't state “how deep” my knowledge of middle-earth is, because, let's not forget, Tolken's literature is an academic subject. A lot of work is necessary to define your knowledge even “fairly good”.
6. Who is your favourite Tolkien character and why?
Every character is my favorite because every one of them is well portrayed in the literature and every time I start a new artwork is an endless fun to dig in the books to find the right accents.
7. 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?
As a child I spent time drawing, as a teenager this “hobby” subsided and re emerged later when I was thinking what to do after high school. The Fine Art Academy was a sort of disaster, since my teacher didn't know how to BE a teacher, but during that turbulent period I've met a wonderful person who taught me the traditional Icon Painting technique and, through that discipline, showed me how to really be an artist. I don't remember a time when I haven't thought that a job where I could „use my hands“ would be great: I was equally exited, as a child, in fantasizing about being a carpenter, or a painter, or an architect. The aim of „creating something“ was always on my mind. I've just spent a lot of time figuring out which kind of „creative process“ would fit me best. My style changed while I was figuring out what to do with my life after High school. At that time I was equally interested with drawing Manga (Otomo and Mijazaki rules btw), figurative painting (Caravaggio, my love), sculpture (Bernini, you genius!). Now I am more focused on the Imaginative realism and my style and interests reflect that.
8. How do you choose which scenes and characters to illustrate?
Hard to say: I am equally interested by all the characters but I know my limits as a painter and I tend to choose to invest time and energy on characters I know I can properly depict implementing a personal interpretation and mentioning a back story and the culture the character have been growing in. For example I am fairly confident in painting Dwarves and humans, but Elves are more complex to me because, loving the Imaginative Realism style, it is still too complex to me to depict a culture that's several thousands years old without falling in common cliches.
9. What other book or movies (or anything else) inspire you to create fanart, and why?
I had a brief interest in “Song of fire and Ice” because of the fantasy-medieval setting
10. What art technique is your favorite? Do you rather keep to the art techniques and styles you are familiar with, or do you experiment with new ones as well?
I paint digitally in Photoshop. So it's hard to say I am not trying something new everyday. Every artist has a workflow that suits his/her needs and I am not different but challenging myself is always a good medicine to improve: every few months I search which aspect of my painting is weaker and I work on those through personal artwork.
11. Do you have some tips and tricks you would like to share with the other artists?
Do not search “comfort zones”: try something new, seek advices from professionals, post your art in places different from your “Ideal public gathering zone”. Seek for critics.
12. Could you give us a link or thumbnail from your gallery of
- a Tolkien illustration you are most proud of?
- a picture that fits your current mood?
- a picture that was hardest to paint?
- any other picture you would like to share with us and why?
13. 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.
I had a classical training in painting when in the Fine Arts academy, so I find inspiration in classical art: Caravaggio, Vermeer, Michelangelo... More modern artist are also in my library, such as Norman Rockwell, Donato Giancola, John Howe, Maciej Kuciara.
14. 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?
Take a look at Andra Piparo's Art. He's really good: www.andreapiparoart.it/
15. Is there something else you would like to tell to the fans of Tolkien and your art?
Well, being an artist is fun and exiting, but every artist need a fanbase to continue doing what the public enjoys: new art. If you like my art, please consider supporting me by buying a print or commission a new painting tailored to your budget and needs. More info can be found here: goo.gl/R1JLp9
Thank you for your time and answers!