Talks with Tolkien artists: TurnerMohan

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MirachRavaia's avatar
By MirachRavaia

In this issue of "Talks with Tolkien artists", I have the pleasure to share the art and answers of :iconturnermohan: - TurnerMohan:

The Herald of Manwe by TurnerMohan Carcharoth by TurnerMohan
The Long Winter by TurnerMohan Helm Hammerhand by TurnerMohan
Children of the Noldor by TurnerMohan Luthien dances before Morgoth by TurnerMohan

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

Sure. My name's Turner, I live in New York and I'm currently working as a book illustrator. I've also worked as a street-portrait artist, an assistant for a period-recreation armor maker, travel writer, carnie and occasional film-extra. I love learning about human history and mythology, and have a particular passion for medieval and pre-medieval european and mediterranean cultures. I would really like to travel more. I'm also a huge fan of parentheses.

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

I first read The Hobbit when I was about nine or ten years old, picked up The Lord of the Rings a few years later, and discovered The Silmarillion and Tolkien's other posthumous works a few years after that. I'd been a fan of all things medieval/fantasy long before then, but nobody did it better or more completely than Tolkien; when reading his books, you feel almost as if you're looking into a world of heroic legend and archetype that once existed, broken, confused fragments of which can be found in the "real-life" ancient mythologies we have inherited. I can't think of any other author that does that, at least not for me, and certainly none who have had nearly such an influence on me, in my art or otherwise.

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

Expert? Sure, why not? Tolkien's not an academic discipline, you don't have to be a PHD in anything to have lived and breathed Middle-Earth. the way I see it, if you've given over hours and hours of your life to reading and thinking and daydreaming about this fictional world like so many fans (and almost all fan-artists) have done, own it a little. I probably couldn't win some world-wide Tolkien-fan trivia contest, or tell you exactly what the professor said to so-and-so in a letter from ninteen-fortysomething, but I know what Dor-Lomin feels like in winter time, and Lorien in spring. Own it fans!

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 it happened, really more so with the settings than the actors. I think of the 'Lord of the Rings' films the greatest single body of "Tolkien art" out there. Jackson & Co gathered so much remarkable talent to make those movies, brought in artists of all fields, not the least of which my two favorite Tolkien illustrators, Alan Lee and John Howe. Everyone involved brought their A-game, and the results were, in many cases, better than what I had pictured while reading. So yes, while the films don't always match my vision, they've definitely had a big impact on how I picture Middle-earth.

The actors were all good aswell of course, and some were great (I'm pretty hard pressed not to see Sean Astin, Ian Holm or more recently Martin Freeman in my head while reading) but mainly the visuals were the star of those movies for me, and the part that has stayed with me the longest.

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?

Yes I'm a professional; I work as a book illustrator, and I also do commissions for hire; mostly medieval-fantasy/pseudo-tolkien type stuff. I've been drawing since I was a little kid, probably four or five. As for influences, the list goes on and on; Rodin, Frank Frazetta, Frank Miller, Arthur Rackham, N.C. Wyeth, William Blake, Norman Rockwell, Giambologna, Michelangelo, John Bauer, and the Hildebrandt brothers just to name a few. In terms of who I've learned the most from, and who has had the biggest influence on my style, Alan Lee and John Howe for sure. Their mutual emphasis on giving fantasy art a strong foundation in realistic, historical architecture/costumery/armament is what drew me to their work in the first place, and it's something I try to stick to in all my work

6. The comments under your pictures reveal much thought behind each of the characters and scenes you draw. How long do you spend by studying and thinking about what you want to draw, before you actually start drawing?

Yeah, I definitely like hearing myself talk :P (Lick)

Quite a long time, in answer to your question, but usually not in preparation for any specific drawing; I spend a lot of time thinking about Tolkien's world in general, and have a lot of opinions about it, especially in terms of how it looks, and when I do a drawing, though some of the specifics can change or get more refined over the course of the drawing, the general idea I started with is usually one I've had kicking around in my head for a long time.

7. How do you choose which scenes and characters to illustrate?

Like I say above, when I draw something, it's usually been on my mind for a while. I'll go into phases where it'll be all dwarves, or all numenor, or all Silmarillion-related scenes. since I began posting regularly on Deviant, I've had many conversations and back-and-forths with people which have helped to steer my interest toward one subject or another; I find the more I think about something in Tolkien's world, be it a place, a character, or a story, the more focused and better my ideas about how to depict it become. Sometimes it'll take more than one drawing to feel I've gotten it right, and then sometimes I'll see a thing two different ways, and I like to keep it open that way; I don't think of any of my drawings as being how that character or place 'has to' look per se, they're just suggestions really, even to me, a way of getting down on paper how the thing 'could' look. Most of my Tolkien-art is more concept art than finished illustration (actually, the earlier stuff in my Tolkien portfolio here, between '06 and '07, was done as an "audition" for a job with Weta as a concept artist, back when a "Hobbit" movie was still being discussed) and when drawing Tolkien-related things, I'd rather make a drawing that inspires scenes and ideas in the viewer's mind than make a finished piece of art. it seems somehow less limiting that way, more open to interpretation, which is how I feel when picturing the scenes and characters in his books.

8. 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?

Well pencil's certainly the medium I'm most comfortable with, but I've been trying for about the last year to get into watercolor, partially inspired by the beautiful work I see posted here on Deviant, and also because, though I love pencil, I've found that I'm seeing scenes increasingly in color these days.

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

Aerin by TurnerMohan

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

Chapter 3 sample by TurnerMohan
This was done as a chapter page for a fantasy RPG guidebook that never got published, more's the pity.

- a picture that fits your current mood?

Legolas by TurnerMohan
I'm feeling elvish today.

- a picture that was hardest to paint?

Three is Company by TurnerMohan

- some other picture you would like to share with us?

here's a picture of Feanor looking pissed off!
Feanor by TurnerMohan
and here's one of Helm Hammerhand being a badass
Men are freer outside by TurnerMohan

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.

My Mom and Dad were always very supportive of my being an artist, and my Dad especially had a big hand in investing in me a love of history and mythology, which plays a big part in my work. Beyond them, most of my inspiration has come from the artists I'm a fan of.

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/links to pictures/ from their gallery?

Leaving out the people you've already interviewed (many of whom I'm a huge fan of) there isn't enough praise I could heap upon Meneldil-elda :iconmeneldil-elda: his Turin, Celebrimbor, and Feanor are among the most intimate, pensive, and brilliant pieces of Tolkien art out there.
Turin Turambar by meneldil-elda Kelebrimbor by meneldil-elda Feanaro by meneldil-elda

Also Unita-N does great stuff, especially if you're into ancient mythology :iconunita-n:

I also recommend checking out Artigas :iconartigas:

and Oznerol-1516 :iconoznerol-1516: who do a lot of great concept art.

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

Thanks guys, for your support and your feedback! I'm always glad to know I can add something to a fellow fan's inner vision. And than you for this interview.

Next up: Tom Bombadil!

Previous talks:Bullet; Blue with Gold-Seven
                            Bullet; Blue with steamey
                            Bullet; Blue with ekukanova
                            Bullet; Blue with Tulikoura
                            Bullet; Blue with AbePapakhian
                            Bullet; Blue with kimberly80
                            Bullet; Blue with jankolas
                            Bullet; Blue with jgilronan
                            Bullet; Blue with ebe-kastein
                            Bullet; Blue with MatsumotoSensei

Rohirrim journal skin.

Horse head © 2009 - Grinmir-stock
Texture by kizistock
Knotwork by gbrgraphix
© 2014 - 2021 MirachRavaia
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Artigas's avatar
The best Tolkien Artist around here, and an exceptional concept artist too. Great interview!
Zeonista's avatar
I'm very glad you chose him! Clap He's my #1 Tolkien artist on this site, as we have many things we agree on. :)
MirachRavaia's avatar
That's nice to hear! :)