Talks with Tolkien artists: rowanbaines

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By MirachRavaia

:iconrowanbaines: - rowanbaines is an artist and fanfiction writer, whose stories are pictures are interconnected - you can't talk about one without mentioning the other. You can also find her on tumlr as acommonanomaly and read her stories on AO3. "I unapologetically love Fëanorians and people who unapologetically love Fëanorians," she claims, and so that is the prevalent theme in both her stories and pictures, which you can find in her Tolkien gallery:

Curufin and Celebrimbor by rowanbaines Nerdanel, Maedhros, and Maglor by rowanbaines
Modern AU: Elrond and Elros by rowanbaines Sibling bonds: Maedhros and Maglor by rowanbaines
Caranthir for Feanorian Week by rowanbaines
Finrod by rowanbaines Maglor and Elrond Reunion by rowanbaines

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

Hello, and thank you for your interest! I go by the name Rowan Baines online, which is the name I adopted when I started writing fanfiction, but I also use Acommonanomaly on tumblr and other sites. I am a single parent with two young boys, and I draw and write in my free time.

You have been on deviatart for two years. What brought you to this site and what has bee your experience with it so far?

I actually forgot that I had a deviantart account for a while, but last year I made it a point to start posting more of my art on this site. I'm much more active on tumblr, but I haven't had any negative experiences so far over here.

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

I read the Hobbit at some point when I was younger. It wasn't until I was older and saw the Lord of the Rings movies that I started reading more of Tolkien's books, though. I've always loved elves, but Tolkien's elves really intrigued and inspired me. It was once I read the Silmarillion a couple years ago that I felt compelled to create Tolkien fanworks. I'm really drawn to complex, tragic figures, and I fell madly in love with the exiled Noldor in particular.

So you have read the Hobbit before the movies, but LotR after seeing the movie - which way do you prefer? Did the movie influence your imagination when reading the book later?

I'm a very visual person, but with movies it's more just sitting back and appreciating the visuals as they are presented to you. With books, it feels so much more engaging because you're creating the visuals in your head. So even though I did see the LotR movies first, and it did affect how I pictured some of the characters, when reading there's a lot more freedom to visualize things how you want and I love that. I don't think I have a preference when it comes to reading books first or seeing the movies first, but in general I do tend to enjoy reading books more.

The Silmarillion is somewhere on the border between beletry and history annals. Do you enjoy the scholarly side of studying Tolkien's world as well?

I do! More so since I read the Silmarillion and started writing fanfiction. In order to really flesh out the characters in my mind, it has been helpful for me to read HoME and Tolkien's letters to get a better understanding of the characters, the world they live in, and Tolkien's intent when he was writing them. I have seen interpretations in fandom that are very black and white, but I feel like that flattens the story and does a disservice to the beautiful, complex world and characters Tolkien created. Even just learning about Tolkien's life (his romance, his experiences with war), has enriched my understanding of his writing.

That's great! You proclaim your love for the Fëanorians in your tumblr profile. Is it equal for all of them, or do you have a favourite character among them too, and why?

I really adore them all, but in different ways. Some of them I find more relatable, but it's hard to narrow down a favorite. I started off loving Maglor and Maedhros the most, Maedhros for how hard he tried to unite people to fight against Melkor, and Maglor for the bond he developed with Elrond and Elros. But since I started writing about them, I've formed a better idea of who I imagine each of them to be, and I've become very fond of Caranthir. He strikes me as someone blunt who speaks his mind, which is a trait I appreciate, and I really love his character development, the way he comes to appreciate the valor of the Edain once he meets Haleth.

Let's talk about visual art now. When did you start doing it, and who or what influenced your style?

I've been drawing and writing since I was young. I used write stories in little notebooks and illustrate bits of the scenes in the margins, though for a long time I was more concerned with writing than drawing. I went through a rough time in my 20's and didn't write or draw for years, but after having children I started back up again as a way to express myself. It's embarrassing for me to look back at my art from even a few years ago because I'm still learning, but I hope to keep improving. I admire so many different styles of art, so it's been tricky trying to find my own style, but I've always really loved art by Alphonse Mucha.

Feanorians are most prevalent subjects in your gallery. How do you decide what situation to draw them in, and whether it will be a happy childhood picture, or a more tragical later theme?

I tend to get hyper-focused on whatever my current interest is. Since I'm writing about the Fëanorians, they are often on my mind, and I feel inspired to draw them. I try to maintain a balance between drawing tragic scenes from the Silmarillion and more lighthearted scenes inspired by what I'm writing, because in life there is both sorrow and joy, and I want to capture that. I have also made Tolkien-themed shirts and pendants.
Crafty Feanorian Stuff by rowanbaines  
I do try to branch out and draw some of the other characters that I love, too. To help with that I sometimes open requests on my tumblr, and I recently started a drawing series of my favorite Tolkien women.

Yes, I saw the beginning of the series in your gallery. Do you think women are under-appreciated in Tolkien fan-art?

I think it would depend on where you look, as I'm sure some artists make it a point to show their appreciation for Tolkien's women. But overall I would say yes, with the exception of a few characters, like Luthien, who I see art of more frequently than many of Tolkien's other women.

The previous questions were about your pictures and I was planning to ask about your writing separately, but it seems they are interonnected for you. So let's focus on writing now - what are your favourite topics and genres, and which writers had most influence on you?

When I was younger I read books by Jane Austin, Emily Brontë, and Charles Dickens, but I became very fond of fantasy and science fiction later. Though I do appreciate Tolkien, my favorite writer is Ursula K. Le Guin. Her book, A Wizard of Earthsea, had a huge impact on me when I was younger. I loved that it didn't take a simple "light is good, dark is evil" approach, instead showing the importance of balance:

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk's flight
on the empty sky
- The Creation of Ea
― Ursula K. Le Guin

In my own writing I tend to focus on themes of healing. And because I deeply dislike black and white thinking, I have recently been exploring how even good people can fall and lose themselves, and how they can come back from that.

How do you feel about the position of fanfiction in the current literature?

I've come across fanfiction that was better than many published books I've read, and there are some fanfiction stories I've gone back to again and again because they so effectively transported me into whatever world they were writing about. When I was in the Star Trek fandom there were so many stories that had incredible world-building and well-developed alien races/cultures, and it was really inspiring! I think it's wonderful when such gifted storytellers carry on or expand on existing creative works.

You have mentioned Earthsea and Star Trek. Do you draw and write about these as well? What other book or movies (or anything else) inspire you to create fanart and fanfiction, and why?

I only seem able to focus on one or two interests at a time, so right now it's The Silmarillion and Dragon Age that inspire me creatively. I have written Star Trek fanfiction in the past, and some of a Dragon Age fic that I haven't posted, but lately I've been focused on writing for the Silmarillion. When I'm done with my current writing project, I would really like to start focusing on my original fiction, though, which I've started making art for. But I'm sure I'll be making a lot more Silmarillion fan art in the meantime because I'm not ready to move on from these characters!

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? (Not just in art but in writing too...)

I'm still learning and developing my style, so I do tend to experiment. I've only been creating art digitally for a few years, and before that I sketched with pen or pencil. At one point I experimented with acrylic and oil paints, but I wasn't really satisfied with any of my paintings and lost interest. To my everlasting horror both my sister and my father kept some of my early paintings, and I cringe whenever I see them! I've experimented a lot with writing as well, and I wrote poetry at one point, though I haven't done that in a while.

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

I don't know that I have tips to offer besides the most obvious ones, such as practice, practice, practice! Which is something I need to do more of, actually. Though I would tell artists who are doubting their ability to keep at it, and don't compare yourself to other artists. For me it's been helpful to draw inspiration from artists whose work I admire rather than despairing over how far I still have to go, and to remind myself that everyone improves at their own pace.

Could you tell us, which
- Tolkien illustration and Tolkien fanfiction you are most proud of?

For the fanfic, probably Many-Colored and Splendid because I was so nervous about writing a fic about modern Maglor from the POV of an original character, but I did it anyway and it was a very cathartic fic for me to write. For art, I think maybe my Thranduil drawing because I love him and was eager to come up with a design for him that wasn't based on the movie.

Thranduil by rowanbaines

- original picture and story (or one from other fandom) you are most proud of?

I'm proud of the fanfic Undone that I wrote for the Spock/Kirk pairing in the Star Trek fandom. Original art I'm most proud of would be the drawings I recently did of my OCs, Talvryn and Justine:

Talvryn and Justine by rowanbaines 

- picture or story fits your current mood?

For the story, Sunlight Comes Creeping In about young Elros and how his relationship with Maedhros develops, and I think maybe this drawing, because both are somewhat melancholy but also hopeful:

Let Us Be Glad by rowanbaines 

- picture was hardest to paint and story that was hardest to write?

The story that has been the hardest to write is the one I'm currently working on, What Fades Away. It covers the events of the Silmarillion, as well as what came before and after, all from the POV of Maedhros. It's a lot to think about! The hardest to paint was probably my most recent endeavor:

Defiance by rowanbaines 

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

I think this one because I have often been lazy about backgrounds but I actually put some effort into this one:

Favorite Tolkien Women: Haleth by rowanbaines 

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 would like to thank my friend NixieGenesis, who is also an artist/writer and has been incredibly supportive of me, taking an interest in both my art and my writing. Also, I am immensely grateful for everyone who has ever taken the time to leave a comment on my art, and all the wonderful people who have said nice things about my art in their tags on Tumblr. It can feel a bit like throwing your creations into a void when you don't get any feedback, and positive feedback encourages me to keep creating and sharing content!

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?

There are so many artists I admire here! Off the top of my head, the-ALEF:
The Tempered Steel cover. Fingon by the-ALEF  

Beleg Strongbow by Tottor   

and my friend 
Tyelpe by NixieGenesis 

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

Take care of yourselves, have fun, and be nice to your fellow fans! Heart

Thank you very much for your time and answers!

Coding by Felizias Drawings by ebe-kastein Borders by PhoenixWildfire
© 2018 - 2021 MirachRavaia
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EPH-SAN1634's avatar
Love this artist :)
EPH-SAN1634's avatar
And perfect icon!!!