- frecklesordirt is the author of an ongoing comic The Seduction of Mairon, focusing on the beginning of the relationship of the two dark lords of Middle-eath. But besides that, you can find more Tolkien themed art in her gallery, both humorous and serious:
1. Hello! For the beginning, could you tell us something about yourself?
Hi! I've spent most of my life in Virginia and completed undergrad in architecture at the University of Virginia this year. I'm currently working as a graphic designer before grad school.
2. It is interesting to find out the stories behind people's usernames. What is yours?
One time when I was younger, my mom suddenly began brushing furiously at my shoulder and when I asked why, she said she was trying to get the dirt off. A second later she stopped and laughed because she'd forgotten I was covered in freckles. It's a running joke in my family now.
3. When did you read Tolkien's books for the first time, and what impression did they leave in you?
10-year-old-me fell hard and fast when I started Lord of the Rings. Even before this I could only remember drawing things like elves and dragons, so Tolkien was a massive fuel for the fire. I was so amazed that such a large and detailed fantasy world could exist and I continue to be amazed because I never seem to hit bottom.
4. How extensive is your knowledge of Middle-earth? Do you consider yourself Tolkien expert?
There are people out there who have the equivalent of a PhD in Middle Earth history/anthropology/political science, so I can't say I'm anywhere near expert! I would say I'm about average in the community and I'm delighted whenever I learn something new.
5. Did you read the books, or see the movies first? How much did the movies influence your imagination when reading the books?
I saw the Fellowship, read the books, then finished the movies. I have to say how I imagined the characters was greatly influenced by the Fellowship movie. I'm not bothered by it since I was young and didn't have any pre-existing ideas that conflicted.
6. 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'm a hobbyist who wants to be professional-- I'm waiting until my portfolio is more built and of better quality. I've been drawing for forever but I've been doing even more since I really connected with the Tolkien community recently. Influence comes from so many different sources including my own observations and many other artists' works I've seen over the years. There was a book of Russian fairy tales I had with photos of pretty little scenes painted onto jewelry boxes that I tried to imitate . I spend way too much time on details like in facial expressions, empty earring holes, flyaways, and whatever else because I think it gives the drawing a kind of intimacy and makes the subject feel more real to me.
7. Your comic, "The Seduction of Mairon" focuses on Sauron and Melkor, not depicting them as "one-dimensional evil" that we often see in the books and movies, but as a very complex character. Can you tell us more about your views of Sauron and evil in Middle-earth in general?
It feels a little strange for me to talk about something that started off as a couple of silly sketches, but there are some legitimate questions about the nature of good and evil in Middle Earth; most of what I'm going to say is just conjecture and me working out what I thought would make an engaging story. I think that Mairon and Melkor became evil, without a doubt; mass murder is no grey area. The inital reasons that led them down that path, however, may not be so insidious. The fact that Eru claimed Melkor's attempt at independent creation (or rebellion, however you see it) as still being a part of his own design instead of recognizing autonomy among the Ainur could suggest that Melkor's deviation was not necessarily out of a desire to destroy, but to maybe craft a different vision of Arda that clashed with the majority. No argument that he went about it terribly wrong, though, and spiraled out into hate and destruction. I'm new to the Silmarillion, but Gandalf's reference to Sauron's purity in the beginning jumped out at me. I searched everywhere for any clue Tolkien might give to his early nature but there was frustratingly little. I believe that there had to have been an internal struggle for Mairon to be persuaded, which also makes for a much more interesting story of his fall. Tolkien's brief description of Marion's behaviors included him despising wastefulness and disorder, which led me to believe his reasons for joining Melkor included a need to create a more ordered world. Still, I feel that he fell down the same path, likely even more quickly due to Melkor already being beyond redemption and that influence. Mairon is first and foremost a servant, albeit an incredibly ambitious and powerful one, suggesting to me that he allied with Melkor because he was in awe of what he was able (or willing) to accomplish that Arda may have been too delicate for and desired to be a part of that movement. Perhaps he came to reason that Melkor was the strongest of the Ainur and possessed the "greatest" vision for the world, so he would be the one to follow.
I hope I somewhat answered your question and I apologize if it's long-winded!
8. There is a recent trend in Tolkien fanart to depict the villains in beautiful forms, which Tolkien himself probably didn't intend. What do you think about this trend?
I think a big reason is just that people connect well with humanized things, especially if they're nice to look at. Whether it's right or not, I don't think much of the sympathy for villains like Melkor and Mairon would exist if we didn't portray them as beautiful. I'm not immune either. I'm perfectly fine with it since we all know and respect Tolkien's portrayal. While I don't think he would agree with their new images, he might appreciate that we're taking the opportunity to delve into their psyches to figure out why they are the way they are. However, the idea of a beautiful Mairon may not be too divorced since it was said that he often took on a fair form.
9. Can you also tell us a bit about the humorous side of your art? Lifting Galadriel, lava surfing Melkor, merman Thranduil... How do you get the ideas?
Oh man a lot of this stuff didn't have a ton of thought behind it since I usually just draw what makes me happy. My best friend is really into Tolkien too so we're always laughing about dumb scenarios. I also get ideas from just seeing what other people are talking about in the fandom.
10. Who is your favourite Tolkien character and why?
There are so many! Currently it's probably Thranduil. I know LOTR and the Hobbit film adaptations have gotten their share of backlash, but I really appreciate what was done with Thranduil's character because he was given depth and interesting motives in the short time there was to spend on him. I also love costume design and I have so much respect for the incredible work that went into his wardrobe.
11. What other book or movies (or anything else) inspire you to create fanart, and why?
I've done one or two things for Game of Thrones because there are so many great, strong female characters. I'm also enthralled with the costumes for the show and the level of detail put into them... With more time I'm sure I'd be a busy cosplayer.
12. 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 can't really say which I like best since I have a few different styles that always seem to be changing a bit. It really depends on the subject. I try to do at least one thing outside of my comfort zone for each "serious" piece and it's a lot of fun to experiment with different techniques.
13. Do you have some tips and tricks you would like to share with the other artists?
Use references! Use many and often. Whether it be from real life, photos, or other artists, it's one of the surest ways to grow in every area from anatomy to rendering to color usage. Also don't fence yourself in and think that you have to develop a personal style right off the bat; let it go and over time it will happen without you even thinking about it. Just have fun!
14. Could you give us a link or thumbnail from your gallery of
- a Tolkien illustration you are most proud of?
It's impossible for me to look at art older than a couple of weeks and see nothing but flaws, so here is a recent one of a concept of Mairon's judgement before Manwë.
- a picture from other fandom or original picture you are most proud of?
Obera from Game of Thrones
- a picture that fits your current mood?
Lots to do!
- a picture that was hardest to paint?
It's old and definitely not my best, but for some reason Kili's face was very persnickety.
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 wonderful best friend has been with me for 18 years and is the greatest supporter of my art. She doesn't merely tolerate it no matter how crazy it gets as she's more of an enabler, if you ask me.
16. 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?
Unfortunately I don't spend much time looking through Deviantart and I don't know anyone personally, but all of the artists I've seen put so much care into their pieces that it's difficult to pick just a few.
17. Is there something else you would like to tell to the fans of Tolkien and your art?
It's just incredible how everyone takes Tolkien's world, studies it, adds to it, and grows something new from it so it never feels "done" or tired. Keep doing what you do. My followers and watchers are the best of the best and I'm so grateful to you guys for supporting me!
Thank you for your time and answers!