Talks with Tolkien artists: fish-in-fridge

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By MirachRavaia

:iconfish-in-fridge: - fish-in-fridge is not only an artist creating an interesting blend of anime and Tolkien in her illustrations (if you read the interview, you will also find out why anime), but also a fanfiction writer, translator and illustrator. You can read her stories at her AO3 account, and her art you can see in her gallery, including some lesser known scenes from Tolkien and illustrations to several fanfiction stories:

Finrod and Amaire by fish-in-fridge Elrond's Request by fish-in-fridge
Elvish Smith and Dwarvish Smith by fish-in-fridge Elessar the farewell gift by fish-in-fridge
Of Narya by fish-in-fridge Lord and Lady of Imladris by fish-in-fridge

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

Hi, I’m fish-in-fridge. I am from China. I am studying education as graduate student in U.S. and currently working part-time in China at an education agency. I have fallen in love with drawing since kindergarten and now I sketch and draw in my free time.

2.It is interesting to find out the stories behind people's usernames. What is yours?

Fish-in-fridge is a simplified translation from my username on Chinese BBS, (whose literal translation should be “little white fish in fridge”.) It dates back to my high school days, when my friends and I enjoyed a sort of word game where we should make up phrases and sentences with (nonsensically) comical meanings. I was quite proud of “little white fish in fridge” and started using it for my BBS id, and later for other sites and archives.

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

I started reading The Hobbit after watching the first Hobbit movie. And The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion followed soon enough. I took The Hobbit as light reading at first and it was mostly “what next?” that pushed me on, and then the quarrels over Lonely-Mountain gold and the ensuing Battle of Five Armies made me start marvelling at this story whole-heartedly. The Lord of the Rings is both fascinating and though-provoking in both depth and details. Each time I read The Lord of the Rings I come to see something I didn’t notice at my last reading. The Silmarillion is really beyond my meagre vocabulary when I want to praise it (, which I always want). In short, Arda is really a world you can lose yourself in.

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

I am definitely no Tolkien expert. Middle-earth is broad and I’m only a beginner when it comes to its exploration.

5. Did you read the books, or see the movies first? 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 booking reading and movie watching sequence is like: The Hobbit 1 (movie) -> The Hobbit (book) -> The Lord of the Rings (books) -> The Silmarillion -> The Lord of the Rings (movies) -> The Children of Hurin and a few other pieces of Tolkien writing -> The Hobbit 2 (movie) -> The Hobbit 3 (movie). With this order, I am indeed heavily influenced by the movies, especially when it comes to landscapes, architecture and costume design. I do have a lot to say about (and probably against) a few character designs and story writing in the movies, yet I really admire their effort in giving enchanting visual images to the wondrous world in Tolkien’s books. I gladly take movie character designs for reference when they agree with my interpretation of the characters (like Sir Ian McKellen’s Gandalf, Bernard Hill’s Theoden, etc.), and disregard the movie interpretation/alteration of the characters when they don’t agree with mine (like Elijah Wood’s Frodo, Lee Pace’s Thranduil, etc. I mean no disrespect to the actors and their effort in playing them, but I just love their book counterparts better.)

6. Now, could you tell us something about you and art (meaning both visual and writing)? Are you a professional artist, or is art just your hobby? When did you start doing it, and who or what influenced your style?

Drawing is a hobby to me, mostly just to please myself; if any piece of my drawings bring pleasure to others, I take it as bonus effect. I am not drawing to make money and probably will never live on drawing. Besides, I never received systematic art training. I started drawing when I was 4 or 5, I guess, for there’s no way to remember it precisely now. I modeled my style after different genres and artists. Anime has been a heavy influence (and the sole influence in my early teens), yet I am also a big fan for realism, impressionism and art nouveau. I wish I could learn to draw all these styles in near future.

7.A bit more about your style - why anime, and how well do you think it fits with Tolkien?

It is really not like I chose anime for Tolkien, but anime has been the only style I’m confident with and the urge of drawing Tolkien art was so strong that I could not resist. That’s why anime and Tolkien came together. I won’t say my style fits with Tolkien perfectly: it fails in conveying the nuances Tolkien gave to his characters more often than not. I am still making small shifts and changes in my style to fix that problem as best as I can.

8.Most of your art are uncolored pen drawing, which gives them a sketchy look. Are you one of those artists who take a sketchbook wherever they go to quickly capture their ideas?

Well, no. But I doodle a lot in the margins of my textbooks when I’m bored with classes. Not that I’m proud of it. But to be honest, sometimes I would base my more formal sketches on those classroom doodles.

9.You often illustrate rarely seen themes or even fanfiction. How do you choose which scenes and characters to illustrate?

I don’t even consider them rarely seen themes ;) (Wink) I think I have seen all the themes I’ve touched on in dA, and many are quite popular in fact. Mostly I start drawing when I come across a line, paragraph or scene and feel like “Aw!!! So many feels! I need to draw them out!” It goes the same with canon and fanfiction.

10. Can you tell us more about Tolkien fanfiction from the point of both reader and writer? What do you expect from a well-written story, and what makes you want to illustrate a fanfic?

I read fanfic mostly because I want to know more about some characters and their back-stories that are not described in detail in canon. Therefore characterization is the key issue for me. I believe a well-written story must consist of characters that are actually in character, and both the proceeding of the general plot and the arc of each character should be consistent with the setting of Middle-earth during different Ages, and the inner personality and belief of the characters. In-depth and well balanced character study is essential to fanfic, and a good story does not sacrifice minor characters to highlight the main ones. And the story has to be convincing, whether it’s pre-canon, canon-period, future fic or AU.

Most of the fanfics I illustrate are the ones I translated/am translating into Chinese. Sometimes a short sentence can inspire an illustration, and translation ensures that I run into such sentences often enough.

11. As a writer, how do you feel about the position of fanfiction in current literature?

From my experience, I find fanfiction somewhat misunderstood by non-fanfiction readers. In their eyes it is too often associated with slash pairings, Mary Sue and erotic writing. Not that fanfiction is free from these things, but they are not the purpose why fanfiction is created. Many of the fanfics I love, especially the shorter ones, are canon gap-fillers with sincerest respect to Tolkien’s world and characters. There are also canon-divergent stories that respect Tolkien’s beliefs and motives in very creative ways. I don’t think fanfiction, as a whole, should be looked down upon because some fanfics are poorly written and consist of immature characterization and cheap story-telling devices.

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

I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire early this year and now I’m totally into it. Actually I’ve been drawing more ASOIAF than Middle-earth these couple of months. I also draw fanart for some of my favourite anime and short stories.

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

Keep reading and keep drawing/painting. Take tips about proportions, perspective drawings, etc. but stay faithful to your own understanding of characters and your own styles.

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

The Ring of Barahir by fish-in-fridge

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

Before and After Robert's Rebellion by fish-in-fridge

- a fanfiction you are most proud of?

The only fic I’ve written that I think is worth reading.

- a picture that fits your current mood?

Out for A Walking Party by fish-in-fridge
I want to have some hobbitish fun!

- a picture that was hardest to paint?

Fingolfin and Finarfin by fish-in-fridge
Because of the map.

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

Elros, Elrond and Maglor by fish-in-fridge
I am fan of Maglor and his two wards, and for me there is never enough art portraying these three. This is the best one among all my attempts at this theme.

15.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 grandmother enjoyed drawing in her youth and she left me all her artworks she did in her youth. She encouraged me to draw and dropped me pieces of advice as she aged and quit drawing. It is always a pity that we didn’t talk about drawing and art as often or intensively as we could have.

16.Is there some artist(s) at dA you know, who doesn't have as much attention as they would deserve?

:iconecjetko: - EcJetko
Her ethnic costume designs are really stylish, and she blends them into her Tolkien art, with very good effects.

You really better not miss her stylish webcomic Thicker Than Blood.

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

For Tolkien fans: Glad to know you and/or look forward to knowing more of you!
For fans of my art: Thank you for your continuous support!

Thank you for your time and answers!

Coding by Felizias Drawings by ebe-kastein Borders by PhoenixWildfire
© 2015 - 2021 MirachRavaia
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ManorasFlame's avatar
I love fish-in-fridge's artwork!  I'm so glad you interviewed them!
Ewa-a-nie-chce-spac's avatar
"From my experience, I find fanfiction somewhat misunderstood by non-fanfiction readers. In their eyes it is too often associated with slash pairings, Mary Sue and erotic writing"
Heh, it reminds me about one "discussion" on YouTube, below one of the Polish translations of Nostalgia Critic's vid. One guy kept on telling that pairings in general are stupid, worthless, and they are the sign of the fact that the people, who like them, have weird fetishes... yup, in the end it turned out that he thought that the word 'pairing' means 'erotic stuff between two characters' ;P