- RivkaZ is the author of the ongoing comic "Forging Arda", focusing on Sauron at the beginning of the world. dealing with some very interesting and even controverse topics. I had the pleasure to talk with her about her art and her views of the dark lords of Middle-earth.
1. Hello! For the beginning, could you tell us something about yourself?
Hi! I’ve used the artist handle "RivkaZ" for years now, but you can call me Wesley. I fell into the Tolkien fandom a few years ago and haven’t found the bottom of the rabbit hole yet. I live in the moldy northwest corner of the United States and I love bunnies.
2. When did you read Tolkien's books for the first time, and what impression did they leave in you?
Well, my very first introduction to Tolkien was when I was very little and my dad read The Hobbit and the trilogy aloud to me. I reread The Hobbit for myself sometime in grade-school, but I still haven’t re-read the trilogy for myself. I picked up the Silmarillion in the early 2000’s, but didn’t read it all the way through from cover to cover until 2013. It sort of changed my life and from then on I went on to dig through all the accompanying texts— basically anything I could get my hands on that was Tolkien related.
3. How extensive is your knowledge of Middle-earth? Do you consider yourself Tolkien expert?
My knowledge of Tolkien canon is very selective actually! Haha… I’ll be the first to admit that I cherry-pick which parts of lore I study in depth. ^_^; I seem to have wound up with an encyclopedic memory for all things Angband, but I still have to look up elves now and then like "wait, who was this guy and what did he do again?" That said, I have a good memory for -where- all the bits of lore are located, so I can pick out whatever volume I need and flip to the relevant chapters in a jiffy.
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 When the movies came out, many of the inner pictures of characters and scenes in the mind of the readers have been replaced by actors and settings from the movie.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?
My first memories of The Hobbit and the trilogy are honestly soooo old at this point that the mental images I had of the settings and characters were very surreal and blurry to begin with, so I didn’t loose TOO many precious childhood memories to Peter Jackson! My own mental picture of Middle Earth these days is pretty vibrant and different from the movies in most respects, but I don’t mind scavenging some of the faces and performances from them. I find that the greater my understanding of the body of Tolkien’s works is, the stronger my mental pictures become, and the less I have to work to try and keep the images distinct from the movies. (Granted, I spend most of my time dealing with the Silmarillion, which Jackson hasn’t gotten his hands on).
5. 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?
I’m currently floating in the grey area between hobbyist and professional. I take commissions and I’m constantly trying to improve my art and get it up to professional standards. I work on it just about every day— it’s the same with my writing too. I’ve been doing both since I was pretty young; I got my degree in Creative Writing, but I haven’t had much academic training for my art. (I hope to change that soon!)
I have a RIDICULOUS number of influences, haha! Artists from around the turn of the previous century really inspire me, as well as the work of traditional animators. One of my big influences currently is James Gurney, author and artist of Dinotopia. He’s put out some incredible resources for painters (digital and traditional) that have really helped me improve my use of color.
6. Your designs for the Ainur are very unique. Where do you find inspiration for them?
(Aw, thanks! <3)
Dreams! Well, a few of them came from dreams anyway. The others are a mixture of my 'gut feelings' about a character as well as a conscious effort on my part to draw together natural and symbolic references into unique and diverse silhouettes.
7. Your comic "Forging Arda" focuses on Sauron, not depicting him as "one-dimensional evil" that we often see in the books and movies, but as a very complex character. Can you tell us more about your views of Sauron and evil in Middle-earth in general?
*EXCITED SCREAMING* OOOOH GOSH OH MAN THIS IS MY FAVORITE TOPIC
I have too much to say about this to fit in one survey, but basically I just think that treating Sauron and Melkor like nebulous forces of indiscriminate evil is doing them a huge disservice. I actually think that the two dark lords get some of the most development in the whole of Tolkien’s work— they show up in almost every timeline and interact with a huge number of characters, directly or indirectly. Tolkien NEVER stops talking about them! If you do a bit of reading between the lines, both dark lords display very consistent motivations and even character development. Sometimes I find that I disagree with the actual narrator of the texts because what the narrator SAYS you should think about Sauron and Melkor is oven in direct opposition to what Sauron and Melkor consistently DO. Unearthing Sauron’s storyline that’s hidden between the lines of the Silmarillion and the trilogy is just so fun and fascinating to me, and I always like seeing how many different ways the fandom can put together the same pieces into a completely different picture of the same character.
8. There is a recent trend in Tolkien fanart to depict the villains in beautiful forms, which Tolkien himself probably didn't intend. What do you think about this trend?
Well, I think people’s natural inclination is to depict characters they relate to (villains or otherwise!) in in ways that are aesthetically pleasing. People like sexy characters! Myself included! But what I get a little tired of seeing is carbon copies of the same design over and over again, or indistinguishably pretty elves with the same face and slightly different hair, or just character designs that emphasize superficial "prettiness" rather than recognizability. I also REALLY dislike it when "fairness" is interpreted exclusively as "whiteness" and "thinness", or when the standard of beauty being depicted is frustratingly narrow.
9. 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?
Right now I do mostly digital art (with some acrylics, inks, and paper crafting on the side) but I am always trying to expand my style and make it more painterly. I’d love to do more traditional media, but I need to actually clear off a suitable work area first! XD
10. Do you have some tips and tricks you would like to share with the other artists?
Use lots of reference! I have a huge amount of reference pictures that I organize meticulously…. and then forget about. DON’T DO THAT. XD
Avoid using the same face and body type for multiple characters! If you’re feeling stuck and can’t get a concrete idea for a certain character, think about how they would interact with their environment and how that would shape their appearance/attitude/dress, etc.! Remember that not everything has to be Enya and John Howe! Mix it up!
Also, don’t be afraid of change, progressive styles, or broadening cultural horizons encroaching on Tolkien’s work— he built something very beautiful and timeless, and the texts themselves aren’t going anywhere. People reinterpreting, rearranging, changing, and expanding the universe he built isn’t going to ruin anything.
11. Could you give us a link or thumbnail from your gallery of:
- a Tolkien illustration you are most proud of?
12. 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 HAVE to mention Zlukaka and Luffik of AngbandStyle! When I was first getting into the Silm fandom and trying to solidify my character designs, I found their fanfic "Loyalty Unyielding" and it CHAAANGED MEEEEE. CHOIRS OF AINUR SANG! We started chatting and sharing ideas seriously and discovered that we shared a lot of the same impressions of the characters. Their art and writing is INCREDIBLE and distinctive and I just adore everything they do. Their support has meant a lot to me.
In the writing vein of things, Pandë/Professor-Thû/Lucifers-Cuvette gave me my first real confidence boost about my Tolkien fanfic and comic writing. She is incredibly wise and brilliant and her critiques and kudos mean a lot to me. Her ongoing fanfiction 'verse can be found over on the Silmarillion Writer’s Guild www.silmarillionwritersguild.o… — it will change how you think about Sauron and elves and Ainur and magic; I can actually feel my brain expanding whenever I read her work. (Her vision of Eregion is so solid and believably populated in my mind that I feel like I spent a summer there.)
13. 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?
Jubah! <3 :iconjubah:I LOVE her work and her organic figures! She has such a playful, expressive style and she always opens my eyes to characters that I would have overlooked otherwise, and I’m extremely grateful to have gotten to know her.
Also Helena Markos , whose orcs I love (even if they're not all strictly Tolkien orcs). <3
14. Is there something else you would like to tell to the fans of Tolkien and your art?
Just… thanks for being there! The Tolkien fandom has been my rock for the last few years, and it’s gotten me through some very tough spots in my life. Be patient with me, I’m still learning and I’m sorry for being so slow with updates! Stay awesome!
(And thank you for including me in these interviews! I am incredibly honored!)
Thank you for your time and answers!
Talks with Tolkien artists - complete listA complete list of all interviews from the "Talks with Tolkien artists" series. It will be updated after each interview posted.
The list featuring a few pictures from the interviewed artists had to be split due to size limit:
Talks with Tolkien artists: part 1
Talks with Tolkien artists: part II
Talks with Tolkien artists: part III
1. with Gold-Seven :iconGold-Seven: fav.me/d6aprnx
2. with steamey :iconsteamey: fav.me/d6bx1lc
3. with ekuk
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