Talks with Tolkien artists: ToastedBuckwheat

15 min read

Deviation Actions

MirachRavaia's avatar
By MirachRavaia

This issue of our interviews is dedicated to :icontoastedbuckwheat: - ToastedBuckwheat, a Polish artist living in London and creating beautiful illustrations of Tolkien's Elves and Dark lords, as you can see in their Tolkien gallery, with a few examples from it below:

Sauron by ToastedBuckwheat Young Feanor by ToastedBuckwheat
Safety by ToastedBuckwheat Melko by ToastedBuckwheat
A Minute With His Shadow by ToastedBuckwheat Eregion by ToastedBuckwheat Regrets by ToastedBuckwheat

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

Hi! This simple question is always the trickiest. My name is Adam, currently enjoying the struggles of London life after graduation. I am non-binary… I enjoy vintage fashion and adding androgynous twist to it. I dance northern soul and watch new English independent bands when I get a chance to.

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

I first joined deviantArt few years ago attempting to find a platform to share my illustrations. It didn’t quite work for me, and my professional art practice also changed significantly. I do enjoy the complex and overlooked world of fan culture though (and rather recently I became a fan artist myself) -  here I can enjoy it fully after all the limitations that got put on Tumblr.
The username… Let me explain. At the moment I live in London and usually pass for a British person due to my appearance (I play with stereotypically English clothing a lot) and accent. But I am originally Polish, and took my name after one of Poland’s most famous poets, Adam Mickiewicz. At school they typically make everyone learn his poem Invocation by heart - it is a nostalgic depiction of Polish nature from a point of view of an exile. And this is how I often feel about my homeland - I do love it and miss parts of it (like aforementioned nature), but for many reasons I cannot come back. The poem has a line about white blossoms of buckwheat. Toasted buckwheat, popular food in Poland, is not eaten almost at all in the UK. So I somehow associate myself with buckwheat, and the username is some really complicated (and funny only to me) pisstake related to my mixed feelings towards my national identity.

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

My first encounter with the Tolkien world was… the fact that I was forbidden to watch LoTR as a child! Somehow my mom really disliked it and had a dismissive attitude towards Tolkien’s legacy in general. Later I avoided it due to personal reasons I would rather not disclose, but now my Tolkien obsession hit me with full strength as me as my friend tried to develop an AU that was actually based on Goethe’s ballad King of Elves/Alders. The Tolkien influence proved to be unavoidable and I ended up researching it loads. At first the world seemed very inapproachable - all these multiple place names and genealogy! 

4. What creates the image of Middle-earth in your mind? Is it more influenced by the books or movies, or maybe other artists, and did it change over time or remained the same?

Hard to say. I grew up in a time when not stumbling upon LoTR - and later on, Hobbit - film imagery was impossible (despite my mum’s attempts). This aesthetics surely sunk in my mind, and now I am trying to actively change it in my head when I imagine and portray Tolkien’s characters. Other artists surely have a huge impact on me - there are so many wonderful creators out there who question the image of Middle-Earth and its inhabitants that I guess most people have in mind, and that has become repetitive and samey. I am not saying I do not like it - but it is fascinating to see artists, writers and bloggers bringing in elements of their own cultures, aesthetic tastes - even incorporating haute couture designs into the newly woven picture of Tolkien’s world.

5. Some of Tolkien's books can be hard to read, being more of history annals than beletry. Do you enjoy the scholarly side of studying Tolkien's world as well?

I agree that they are difficult to go through. I remember finding the LoTR trilogy particularly demanding when I first encountered it. As I mentioned before, the concentration of place names etc is overwhelming, certainly for someone just entering the universe. But I am into linguistics (purely on a hobby level) and became interested in Quenya & Sindarin when I thought I needed to brush the subject of constructed languages in my dissertation. The complexity and relationships between the speeches he invented is definitely my favourite part of the ‘scholarly’ side of Tolkien’s work. But I have to admit I took the easy way and most of my knowledge is based on other people’s analysis rather than my own efforts to be clever and extract it from the books, to which I return for the stories’ sake. 

6. Who is your favourite Tolkien character and why?

I do not think I have got one. But Mairon/Sauron fascinates me. The character, painted in such dark colours, provokes me to think a lot - for instance, about the possibility of influence of his Maiarin nature on his actions; about the artfulness of his deceit, his talents and values in context or juxtaposed with his evilness.

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?

I am a professional artist. I was lucky enough to be in public art education since I was 13, and I also graduated in arts last summer. However, the highly academic style of Polish arts education caused me to be great at traditional techniques, life drawings etc, but not so good at stylised illustrations, as this was discouraged. What you see here on DeviantArt is really my struggle to break through the limitations that the art school put on me while learning to use the good things it taught me. But honestly, I have been doing it for so long and I still feel like I completely suck compared to all these fantastic artists out there creating such expressive images! 

8. What's your creative process from picking the theme to finishing a picture?

It might not look like it but I work really, really quickly. This way I do not overthink a piece, which is important considering that, as I mentioned above, I am trying to develop a more expressive style. I usually have an initial idea which I try to lay out on paper (most of my linearts are fineliners on cheap sketchbook pages) until I am convinced by the depth of the drawing. I am not so good at colouring, so I make sure the lineart is complex enough to make up for this - which means that with minimum work in Photoshop I get a satisfying image.
My themes tend to be rather fluffy as you might have noticed (I guess it is to bring me comfort). They are often inspired by conversations with my friend who shares my love for various characters and motifs. There’s something pure about it - I just really love to draw what we talk about.

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

Like probably the whole of Tumblr, I am currently obsessed with the Good Omens TV series. To tell you why I love it I would have to write another book right here.
Otherwise, I love researching the notion of what today would be described as queerness throughout the centuries and cultures - this heavily influences my headcanons and produced fanart.

10. 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?

As an artist, I work in multiple techniques and mediums, but in terms of fanart I usually stick to my traditional lineart + digital colouring combo. I still have a lot to learn, so I reckon I will carry on doing that for a while.

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

I mentioned that I do my linearts on paper. It is great not only because I can work on my ideas anywhere and later bring a doodle into digital life - I find that it is much easier to find the right human proportions when working it out on a page. If you like expressive linearts but like me do not have expertise to make it happen with Photoshop tools, this is a great way to cheat - you can make use of your favourite markers or pencils.

12. Could you tell us, which

- Tolkien illustration you are most proud of?

Probably the scene of Celebrimbor & Annatar dancing. 

Memories of Eregion by ToastedBuckwheat

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

Not sure if I am most proud of it, but it is a meaningful picture to me. I painted it for my friend and it features our vision of Goethe’s King of Elves.

Faolan by ToastedBuckwheat

- picture was hardest to paint?

Aziraphale and Crowley in Kew Gardens by ToastedBuckwheat

The background is a London botanical garden. It killed me, especially the architecture of the glass ceiling.

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

“Are you going to publish those” The redhead asked, nervously turning the china saucer under his third cup of flat white.
William’s eyes followed his every move with almost obsessive attention. Hungrily, he absorbed every detail - from rosy bumps of...

This one. I made it long time ago, but it still brings me peace to look at it. It was an illustration for one of my fics, and features two people falling in love over working on turning their RAF pilots grandfathers’ dramatic love story into a book.

13. Would you like to thank somebody here? 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 wanted to thank Mimi for supporting me on a daily basis. I would have been very lost if she was not there helping me survive the last two years. Plenty of my artwork developed based on conversations with her and she is always my source of motivation and advice.

Thank you for your time and answers!

Coding by Felizias Drawings by ebe-kastein Borders by PhoenixWildfire
© 2019 - 2021 MirachRavaia
Join the community to add your comment. Already a deviant? Log In
greenapplefreak's avatar
aahhh!! this is a great find! really like how they shade skintones..and the light! thank you so much for introducing me to them!!
MirachRavaia's avatar
ToastedBuckwheat's avatar
Thank you so much for interviewing me!!! It was a pleasure, and means a lot to me since I am new to the fandom and never expected this much attention! thank you for the time you spent putting it together x
MirachRavaia's avatar
You are welcome! Btw., I fell in love with Good Omens as well and I love your recent pictures for them :D
ToastedBuckwheat's avatar
Thank you!! ahaha I don't think anyone is safe from Good Omens' awesomeness. I'm glad you like the series and my fanart!!