Talks with Tolkien artists: SceithAilm

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MirachRavaia's avatar
By MirachRavaia

:iconsceith-a: - Sceith-A is a talented russian artist and creator of the (still unfinished) Tolkien tarot. It is my pleasure to bring you this interview with her today.

 Tarot: Temperance by Sceith-A
Tarot: The Lovers by Sceith-A
Tarot: The Emperor by Sceith-A Tarot: The Chariot by Sceith-A
Tarot: The Hanged Man by Sceith-A Tarot: The Star by Sceith-A

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

Hey there! My real name is Olga, I live and work in St. Petersburg, Russia (it’s a wonderful city but recently I dream to run away from here). Now I'm an artist in a small company owned by the Austrian corporation Novomatic that produces graphics and animations for casino gaming machines. What else can I say... I just love Shakespeare’s plays, Jane Austen’s novels, Tolkien’s tales and Norse mythology. All of this helps me to break through the edges of reality.

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

For the first time my father read "The Hobbit" to me when I was 7 years old. And this story, this magical world just struck me. Since then I fell in love with fairy tales and myths of all cultures. But even now my most favorite story is Tolkien's "Smith of Wootton Major". This book is full of some incredible, fragile but powerful magic. It is quite different from the world of Middle-earth, not so dark and less epic, yet more philosophical and magical.
And I still remember that in my childhood I was terribly frightened by "The Fellowship of the Ring". The Nazguls and orcs were so scary that I durst to read “The Lord of the Rings” only when I already was a teenager).

3. How extensive is your knowledge of Middle-earth? Do you consider yourself Tolkien expert?

No, I don't think so. I’ve read all his books in Russian and "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" in English, so I'm well versed in characters and storyline of these books, but I’ve never tried to remember all the troubles and historical events described there. Several times I read articles about most interesting persons and battles in different guides and theoretical research works devoted to Tolkien's books, but I barely finished them.

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 When the movies came out, many of the inner pictures of characters and scenes in the mind of the readers have been replaced by actors and settings from the movie.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?

Yes, I think it's true in my case and I never really tried to prevent it.
Peter Jackson, Alan Lee, John Howe and others have done an amazing job! Costumes, scenery and cast bring Tolkien’s characters and universe to life perfectly, so now it’s almost impossible to imagine them in different way. I don't know any other movie in the entire history of cinema which shows so wonderfully detailed, so beautiful and realistic fictional world. I’ve assembled a collection of artbooks released by Weta Workshop and I can spend weeks looking through and reading them again and again. You see, I’m really a big fan of these movies.

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?

Our city is considered to be the cultural capital of Russia, there are a lot of colleges and academies for artists, so when I started drawing I had a lot of opportunities to study. I’ve got to like drawing since the age of five, and soon this hobby became my profession. I graduated from Saint Petersburg State Academy of Art and Design in 2011 as an illustrator. In addition to the education I’ve learned to draw using a tablet and started painting in Photoshop, it gave me new opportunities for creativity. CG Art brings me a lot of ways for self-development and improvement. This is an incredibly exciting and rapidly developing art form. So I can say that I am self-trained and professional artist at the same time.
Basically, I’ve been influenced by Gothic art and artists of the Italian Renaissance, particularly Sandro Botticelli. The grace and elegance of his paintings are stunning; I adore his fine shades of colors, beautiful silhouettes and sharp lines. All masters of the Renaissance were unequalled drawers and I can only dream to reach their level of art skills!

6. You are working Tolkien-themed set of tarot. How do you choose the characters representing the individual cards? Can you also read tarot, and will you use these cards for it?

No, unfortunately, I cannot read Tarot and I have only some elementary knowledge of its symbolism and meanings.
Originally, I planned to draw deck of ordinary playing cards, it is much more easy and it would have taken less time. The only problem with poker deck is that there are few female characters for the Queens in "The Lord of the Rings", and, at the same time, many male characters that won’t receive their own place in the deck.
The idea to create Tarot deck belongs to my friend MarinArk, she is truly passionate about Tolkien’s universe and seriously interested in Tarot cards, their history, semantics and meaning. Here's what she says about the main idea of our project: "This is a kind of a comparative study of archetypical dimension of The Lord of The Rings; the Tarot is the most well known cultural phenomenon that deals with the visualization of the archetypical patterns and scenarios, so the idea to make some associative link between them appeared on its own: the numerical sequence of the Major Arcana is often interpreted as an allegory of spiritual development path, so this is an attempt to disclose this allegory in the context of The Lord of The Rings."
So MarinArk chose main characters and situations of "The Lord of the Rings", and I designed a color mood, characters and compositional structure of cards) It is a kind of common project).
Hope that someday, when I get through with this deck, many people will be able to use it for fortunetelling :) (Smile) But for me the Tarot is most of all an extremely beautiful and mystical art object.

7. 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?

During my art life I've tried a variety of graphic techniques, not only traditional drawing, and various printing techniques, such as linoleum engraving, etching, lithography, monotype, and others. It was all very interesting and exciting, but these techniques require special equipment that is not so easy to find and keep at home) So now I prefer simple graphic techniques, such as drawing with a pencil or ink pen. It is very convenient, because you can take a pencil and a notebook with you everywhere; at the same time, this is a very nice technique, quite expressive and dynamic. And CGart technologies allow to correct mistakes of hand drawing and also to create images that imitate any real graphic technique through usage of blending modes and different textures.

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

No tricks and secrets here)
I don’t have any special technical skills or tips. At first I try to imagine how the final image should look like, to think through even the smallest details. Then I transfer the idea on paper as accurately as possible. And then I scan the sketch and finish it in Photoshop. You see, it's all pretty simple and traditional.
The only problem is that my skills are sometimes not enough for the realization of ideas)

9. Could you give us a link or thumbnail from your gallery of

- a Tolkien illustration you are most proud of?

To be honest, I believe that an artist should not choose "the best" or "worst" of his works. So I’ve never even thought about it) There’s no picture which I’m proud of, because I'm sure that I should work much more hard.
However, here are two drawings, which I suppose turned out better than others. The first is Thorin’s portrait inspired by Richard Armitage in «the Hobbit».
Is that the treasure thou dost seek? by Sceith-A

I tried to express the tragedy of this character, his feeling of loneliness and impending doom. And to show how cruel fate and destiny could be. Despite that I failed to achieve physical resemblance, I think the main mood of the character corresponds to my idea.

The second is one of the Tarot cards – The Devil. I think at the moment it is the most eye-catching card in the deck. I think this card has the better composition and impressing color solution.

Tarot: The Devil by Sceith-A

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

At the moment, my beloved character is a famous Norse god Loki and his various appearances in the mythology and the works based on the Northern folklore. I was trying to depict mysterious, cunning, mischievous creature that never calms down and never stops. It should be similar to a flame tail that changes its form every moment. I have done already a lot of conceptual sketches for him, but I am still in search of final concept.

Ready for some Ragnarok? by Sceith-A

- a picture that fits your current mood?

I’m quite depressive and melancholic person. Frequently I just sit and think dreaming about non-existent worlds. This Thranduil’s portrait is a reflection of my feelings and current mood.
dreaming... by Sceith-A

- a picture that was hardest to paint?

It was the sixteenth card in the Tarot - Tower.
Tarot: The Tower by Sceith-A
I spent a lot of time thinking how to place the scene of the attack against Gondor in a small vertical Tarot format. At the moment, this is the most detailed and elaborated card and this is the only one where I had to draw landscape and make it fit with the rest "portrait" cards. It was very difficult to achieve clear and recognizable image while maintaining all the necessary details and characters. Several times I had to change the original concept of this picture :) (Smile)

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

It is the first Tarot card. I made it a long time ago, so the style and concept of the drawing has changed since that time. I began to pay more attention to the compositional integrity and clarity of the image and give less time to details and textures of the background. This card looks like a reprint of wood engraving. As result it looks rather old and damaged by time. I suppose this could be a pretty interesting effect. What a pity that it wasn’t preserved in the rest of the pictures.

Tarot: The Fool by Sceith-A

10. 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.

Of course, there were many teachers of painting and drawing in my life. They helped me to receive the initial knowledges about anatomy, perspective, and drawing techniques and skills. And to create my own style of drawing.
But each and every person who does something better, can be an inspiration for me. Talent and mastery of other artists gives me incentive to develop my own skills. And it can be both the world famous painters of past and artists from DeviantArt. The feeling of my own imperfection and ambitions helps me in my work for sometimes, but both cause depression and desire to quit drawing forever)

11. 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 would like to present you a wonderful artist Helena Rosova from the Czech Republic, her nickname on DA is Hellanim. She makes incredible illustrations for Poetic Edda’s songs and to other adventures of Norse god Loki. I admire her original style of drawing, it reminds me an engraving or wood carving and her pictures are both witty and elegant, decorative, but at the same time full of tiny exquisite details. Her illustrations perfectly convey harsh humor, power, and unique spirit of northern legends. Here are a few examples of her works:

and another one of my favorites is evankart from South Korea, who makes the most beautiful sketches I‘ve ever seen in my life.

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

I just want to say THANKS to all of my watchers and followers for their attention to my work, kind comments and notes. It makes me really happy)

Thank you very much for the nice talk!

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Sterys's avatar
Thank you for this interview! It was very interesting.