Talks with Tolkien artists: ralphdamiani

14 min read

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MirachRavaia's avatar
By MirachRavaia

I would like to introduce you a brazilian artists and illustrator :iconralphdamiani: ralphdamiani today. He did not pick any of his pictures to feature in the talk in the 13th question, so the feature at the beginning of the article will be a little longer to make up for that.

Taniquetil by ralphdamiani
Before the Storm by ralphdamiani
Kementari by ralphdamiani
Beren and Luthien by ralphdamiani
Across Middle-Earth - Rivendell by ralphdamiani
Across Middle-Earth - Khazad-Dum by ralphdamiani
Across Middle-Earth - Bree by ralphdamiani
Alatar and Pallando by ralphdamiani

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

Hello! I'm Ralph Damiani, I'm an illustrator and sometimes concept artist. I live in São Paulo, Brazil, and I've been doing freelance work for a while. I'm also an avid gamer and I'm terrified at being asked this question in a public environment where I have to speak out. Thankfully, I can write this time!

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

If I recall correctly, I was 13 when I first read the trilogy. I read the Silmarillion three years later. I'm 35 now. I read them all again every couple of years or so and I intend to keep doing that until I no longer can. So that speaks a lot about their importance to me. The movies were released almost a decade later.

3. When the movies came out, many of the inner pictures of characters and scenes in the mind of the readers have been replaced by actors and settings from the movie.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?

Not quite. There is a reason for that. Actually two. They are called Alan Lee and John Howe. They have populated the minds of many a young reader way before the movies, and no doubt Peter Jackson was one of them. The films were perfectly conceptualized in that regard. They did not alienate the readers that were familiar with the Tolkien paintings that existed at that time, while still being visually rich to a new audience.

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

I'm not versed in Sindarin or Qenya, so I'm afraid not. While I'm not a Tolkien scholar and my memory isn't that great, I consider myself an enthusiast. I'm kinda like Stephen Colbert. He knows his Silmarillion, he geeks out over Elijah Wood, but he's not a Renaissance faire type of guy. I empathize with that.

5. Who is your favourite Tolkien character and why?

Oh dear, that's difficult to answer. I would have to say Gandalf from the trilogy. I've always had a thing for the wise archetype in fantasy. Merlin, Dumbledore, Obi-Wan, they're always fascinating to me. But back in the day I would have easily said Túrin Turambar. Tragic characters are always relatable to sensible artists. We're always struggling with self-doubt and trying to overcome our own nature.

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 like to call it professional but I really have a hard time doing so. Sure, I get paid for it, probably more than I deserve and less than I desire. I'm being influenced all the time by absolutely everything. By cinema, by master painters and contemporary artists. By music, by photography, by television. If you're in the visual crafts business, it's hard not to absorb pretty much everything you come across.

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

If it's commercial, they are partially chosen by someone else, right? But if it's a personal study, it could start in a number of ways. Random shapes on a canvas, something I saw painted earlier, maybe a photograph. I'm not very picky when it comes to starting (and I probably should be). It's the finishing line that is more troubling.

8. Can you tell us more about your Across Middle-earth series? Not many illustrators focus on the environment instead of characters. What makes illustrating the environment alluring to you?

I focus on environments simply because they are easier to me. I'm very ashamed to say I have done very little live drawing with models and there is only so much you can advance from still photographs. Learning anatomy is different from capturing all the subtlety that is only present on the real deal. Ideally, I would like to have a studio in which I can produce my own references, but right now that is not viable.

9. The illustrations in the series are inspired by Lord of the Rings Online. Are you a regular player of this game? Do you have some interesting characters?

As for that series in particular, I simply started as a homage to that game. I'm not a regular anymore, but out of nostalgia, I logged in one day and decided to journey through the old regions and some of the new ones. I was surprised to see that they're holding up quite well, even with a dated engine. I figured some of the screenshots would serve as good reference for paintings.

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

Oh, there are so many. I love the Harry Potter films, Star Wars, Indiana Jones. Pretty much anything from my youth really. I've been to Disneyworld a couple years ago and realized that very little has changed when it comes to my fascination with fairytales. If that is a good thing or not is debatable. Most parents find that slightly disturbing. But I've noticed that is a favorable trait in this business.

11. 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'm changing all the time. Whatever works best is what I end up using. Stagnation is not good for the artist. I have tried in the past to automate things and create static workflows and they simply fail at producing anything slightly different from what they were designed to do. And every project has unique demands.

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

I'm always ready to help and share what little I have learned. I'm afraid I would be to vague if I were to try and give general tips on a single paragraph. Please, feel free to contact me if you are somehow lost or feeling stuck, if you'd like a paintover or some of my tools.

13. Could you give us a link or thumbnail from your gallery of
- a Tolkien illustration you are most proud of?
- a picture from other fandom or original picture you are most proud of?
- a picture that fits your current mood?
- a picture that was hardest to paint?
- any other picture you would like to share with us and why?

That's a very difficult question. To be honest, I'm not particularly proud of any of them yet. I'm a great adept of "abandoning" things, simply because I want to move on to new stuff. Within a day, I can see all the shortcomings of my technique, where I have slipped in composition or lighting, if my figures are too stiff or bland. Those are the things I'm always trying to improve, sometimes to no successs. They are all hard to make in that sense, though some take longer than others.
As I mature, I feel that I have spent my first decade of study learning how to add things to an image, and in the past years I have been learning how to take things away. Less is definitely more in art, so there is that general tip I said I couldn't give.
But you can see my entire Tolkien gallery in my website, along with other paintings you will probably enjoy better than I do. (

14. 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've always been kind of a lone wolf. That has costed me many job opportunities and slowed down my learning, so I really recommend against that. Back when I started there was no Facebook, no social media, no online courses with live teachers. Today you have all that and I really encourage starting artists to mingle and get support from their colleagues and teachers.

15. 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?

You only ever see the tip of the iceberg in the artistic community. That is true for any kind of artist. For every successful one, there are literally millions of others that have never gained traction and never been under the spotlight. There are late bloomers, one-hit wonders. Fame can be fleeting for all of us! That can weigh a lot on your motivation, even if you've been doing this for a while.
I just picked a random one from my favorites list: :iconsoufmeng:
This guys is doing solid work that looks quite unique. He deserves more followers. Go +fav him! :) (Smile)

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

Thanks for encouraging me! Now and then I still think about quitting, though I'm perfectly aware that I'm not capable to. The urge to paint is as part of my nature as the temptation to give up. And sometimes the silver lining that makes a world of difference is that one stranger taking a minute of their time to appreciate something I made, having no idea how much that tiny push is important to keep me going.

Thank you for your time and answers!

Coding by Felizias Drawings by ebe-kastein Borders by PhoenixWildfire
© 2016 - 2021 MirachRavaia
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Miruna-Lavinia's avatar
wonderful interview!
AnotherStranger-Me's avatar
Great art! Thank you for the interview!
persian-pirate's avatar
sweet :D I like the same things (seriously, it's hard to find someone who likes Indiana Jones D:) and it's always cool to see someone creating with their own vision... I love your interpretation :3
Sterys's avatar
Thank you for this interview! I am glad I discovered a new artist. And congratulations on the baby!
EllethOfMossflower's avatar
I enjoyed reading this! His artwork is beautiful.

Congratulations on the baby, by the way!
ralphdamiani's avatar
Thanks for having me. Congratulations on the upcoming baby. :)
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