Talks with Tolkien artists: Skullbastard

16 min read

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MirachRavaia's avatar
By MirachRavaia

If you enjoy the visuals of the dark side of Tolkien's Middle-earth, :iconskullbastard: - Skullbastard's gallery is something you shouldn't miss. There are no shades of gray in his works (metaphorically, I mean, since there are some greyscale pictures...) - evil is evil, and it is fascinating like only something dangerous can be:

Ar Pharazon And Tar Miriel by Skullbastard
Sauron, high priest of Melkor by Skullbastard
Meeting at Carrock by Skullbastard
Morgoth the Thief by Skullbastard The Pale King by Skullbastard
Then Morgoth came by Skullbastard

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

Hello, Thank you for inviting me for this interview, it is a real pleasure. My name is Nemanja. I'm 28 years old, I live in Serbia with my girlfriend and our dog. Working as a concept artist and illustrator. In my free time I like to play guitar, do karate, train my dog and of course draw some more :D (Big Grin)

2. What brought you to deviatArt and how did you pick your username?

I learned about dA almost ten years ago when I finished highschool. A friend had a  profile there where she posted her photos. I had some drawings and I wanted to share them with the world. As far as my username goes, I don't know. I guess I was a stupid kid listening to heavy metal and wanted to use something in that manner :) (Smile)

3. How did you enter Tolkien's world for the first time, and what impression did it leave in you?

My father read the books, and he was always saying to me how they were great and that I should read them. At first I didn't want to because I thought it was just too long for my taste back then (around 1998). But then I remember seeing Bakshi's animated version a year later on some old VHS cassette that was half broken and only one fourth of the movie was watchable. But it was enough for my imagination to be ignited. So, I said to my father: - Give me that book! I was 10 at the time I finished it.

4. How much did the movies influence your imagination when reading the books?

Bakshi's version influenced my vision a lot. But at the same time the Peter Jackson's films were announced and I remember collecting all the newspaper articles about it. So yes, my vision was greatly influenced with films from both filmmakers. But I was a kid then and didn't mind it as I do these days, so now, I try to distance my art from the movies and make my own versions of Tolkien's world.

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?

After I read The Rings, Hobbit followed pretty soon and the Silmarillion not long after. It was like food to me. I didn't mind the longevity. I wished the books would never end. I also read Unfinished Tales and Children of Hurin. Can't wait to get my hands on Beren and Luthien :) (Smile) I knew a lot more about the lore, the names and locations when I was younger, after I read the Silmarillion.Then it was more fresh in my mind. Now, I need to remind myself and readthrough some stuff again.

6. Who is your favourite Tolkien character and why?

I guess Gandalf is. He is just a tireless fighter for good. Also he is an archetypal wise old man sort of fellow which I like. Fun to draw and paint.

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?

Art was always a part of my life. I am that guy at a party that always starts drawing at some point :) (Smile), and I spent all my school years drawing at the edges of my notebooks rather than listening to professors, which they didn't appreciate at all. I come from a very creative family; musically, literally and visually. I stared to draw as soon as I could hold a pencil. Drawing was a hobby for the most of my life, and my first love. First drawings I made were of dinosaurs and then after I read LOTR, fantasy took over. I still like to paint dinosaurs from time to time :D (Big Grin)
I started doing this professionally some 5 years ago when I bought Intuos4 tablet. In 2014 I got a job at a local gaming company as a concept and 2D artist. From then on I have been doing this job both freelance and in studios. It feels good to do something that you love and earn a living from it.
As far as influences go, I don't know, I guess I let myself be influenced by anything that I think is good. You can learn so much just by watching other people's art and deconstructing it ( compositions, values, color palettes and so on).

8. What about your Silmarillion character designs? They are clearly inluenced by ancient civilizations, like Egypt and Mesopotamia. What do you think these cultures have in common with Middle-earth?

Well, Silmarillion is ancient. Many thousands of years in span. I find it a bit silly to portray it's characters in medieval setting. Maybe by the end of the second age but for all the stuff that's gone on before that, I think that ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia fit better visually and stylistically.

9. I have been following your gallery for some time already, and it's clear that you prefer to depict the dark side of Tolkien's world. What do you find alluring in these themes and characters?

First of all thank you for doing so :) (Smile) I don't really know the answer to this question. I know I am not evil :) (Smile) but I always liked that imagery. Like for example, I find predatory animals more beautiful than plant eating animals. Maybe it has something to do with people always liking the forbidden.

10. Unlike many artists recently, who depict Arda's evil in a beautiful form, and often more misunderstood than evil, you don't make any such excuses. What do you think about hese depictions?

I think Tolkien wrote more black and white than nuances of gray that is so popular in today's culture. His characters were good or bad with some examples of redeemed evil characters like Gollum and Grima.
As far as the beautiful form of evil, it is OK I guess. Tolkien did wrote about Annatar, the fair form of Sauron, and also Mairon his form before he went into Melkor's service. But, mainly I don't find other such images that interesting, certainly not all the girly Saurons out there smooching with Morgoth. Not my cup of tea, but hey, to each his own.

11. Your recent series of pictures focuses on the last years of Númenor. Can you tell us more about these illustration? Is it a personal project?

Yes, it is a personal project. I like that theme very much and feel it could be turned into a nice standalone film ( but please, no Peter Jackson :) (Smile) ). There doesn't seem to be a lot painted about this era so I felt it was up to me.
I plan on doing more paintings on this theme, as soon as I find some free time and more inspiration. I have in mind particulary to make one 360 panorama, but I wont tell more about it so that I don't spoil it.

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

I usually don't do that much of fanart, but I do let everything that I see, hear or read inspire me. I prefer to come up with something of my own whenever I can. I did a couple of Witcher images though. It is my second favorite fantasy universe. There is something about the slavness of it that I like ;) (Wink) I also like apocalyptic themes in movies but find it harder to draw/paint sci-fi than fantasy. Something that I really need to remedy in the near future.

13. 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?

I like pencils a lot. They were with me since childhood. I also like to draw with ball point pens, I find them quite interesting as a tool/ technique. As far as digital art goes, there is so much cool things you can do and I like to try new things, different approaches to find if I can learn from it and incorporate it in my style and workflow.

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

Always have the bigger picture in mind, leave the details for the end like a cherry on a cake. And never quit learning new things.

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

Sauron the Deceiver by Skullbastard
this one, not because I think it is that good a drawing but because people really loved this one, my most viewed, commented and downloaded image :) (Smile)

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

Dragonslayer by Skullbastard
something just clicked after this one, it has it's flaws but I really like it

- a picture that fits your current mood?

Ganjalf The Green by Skullbastard

- a picture that was hardest to paint?

St. Ostiarius by Skullbastard

this one I did for some contest a year ago and I really wanted to make it super detailed, it certainly took the longest to finish

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

Grile vs Monstersnake by Skullbastard

this is a neat one, just to let people know I can sculpt too :) (Smile)

16. 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.

Well my parents were always supportive, my friends always gave me new challenges and interesting new ideas to draw. I am inspired by all the people who can live comfortably by doing the things they love, no matter what they are.

17. 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'm afraid I am not that active on dA these last few years so I couldn't say really.

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

Keep watching cause there will be more! :) (Smile)

Coding by Felizias Drawings by ebe-kastein Borders by PhoenixWildfire
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Mellaril's avatar
Skullbastard I love your artwork!! This was a lovely interview. It's a really interesting point you make about the Silmarillion spanning thousands of years-- it's something I've often thought about myself. If Fëanor's forging of the Silmarils was in medieval times, then the War of Wrath should occur in the equivalent of modern times. I still "believe" that Tolkien intended for knights, armor and swords to dominate his fantasy world, but it's still interesting to consider. Congratulations on being able to make a living doing what you love!
Skullbastard's avatar
Many thanks Mellaril.
the-evil-legacy's avatar
amazing works!! ^^ 
EPH-SAN1634's avatar
Amazing artwork!