Talks with Tolkien artists: sassynails

16 min read

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MirachRavaia's avatar
By MirachRavaia

Some artists have a great sense for combining materials. Today I talked with :iconsassynails: - sassynails whose collages prove that she is one of them:

Finrod Felagund by sassynails Celegorm the Fair by sassynails
Orome by sassynails Glorfindel by sassynails
The Wolfmaster by sassynails Maglor by sassynails

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

Hello and thank you for this wonderful opportunity! I live in Russia and I'm a professional interpreter/teacher of foreign languages, though I've been working in IT industry mostly.

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

Ah, I've had this nickname on various websites for ages and, to be honest, I don't remember why I thought of it. I know there's a network of nail salons with the same name, but I always thought of the 'nails' part in my nickname as the nails you nail with a hammer )))

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

I first read The Hobbit and LOTR, along with Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham and Leaf by Niggle when I was around twelve. My edition had an extensive introduction about Tolkien and his other writings, and I was absolutely desperate to read the Silmarillion and get to know more about the history behind LOTR. Unfortunately, a translated version of it was hard to come by in Russia at that time, but I was obsessed. When I was sixteen, I got my hands on the English version of the Silm and three more volumes of HoME. My knowledge of English was seriously lacking at that time, and I was basically unable to read it. But read I did. Numerous times, piled up under dictionaries and grammar books, crying in frustration and trying to dissect every sentence to understand it. Eventually, it gave in. In a year or so, I knew English well enough to get a scholarship at a university for linguistics effortlessly. I owe my knowledge of English, my choice of education and my love for linguistics to Tolkien (and to Tolkien fanfics, to be honest). Still remember lots of quotes and passages by heart from that time.
So, I guess you can tell, the impression was very, very profound.

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

Closer to a nerd, I think. I'm that dude my fandom friends go to when they need a Sindarin or Quenya name made for their character. But I'm by no means a canon purist, nor would I call myself an expert. Just a person who loves Middle-earth dearly.

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?

Books first. I'm one of those people who always separates books and their adaptations, and I enjoy both the books and PJ's rendition of them. Not all of PJ's views coincide with how I see Tolkien's characters, but I love them all the more for it. One of the most important things in fandom for me is diversity of creative views. I love, love, love to see the many ways people imagine, enact and embody the Professor's characters and world. Though I do believe PJ's treatment of canon was as careful, loving, thorough and respectful, as the rules of movie-making allowed him. I was also squeeing with delight when I learned (prior to LOTR movies) that he had invited John Howe and Alan Lee to work on production design.

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 not a professional and I never went to school for it. I've always wanted to draw and craft things, but when I tried to enter an art school for kids – most of the time, it's required for further college education in the sphere of art and design in Russia – I wasn't accepted. That was very discouraging, but I did draw all the same. Now I really feel the lack of formal education and try to self-learn a lot. Since I have a full-time job, my progress is much slower than I'd like it to be. I also often feel very insecure about what I do and blunder a lot. Many of my works go 'inside the table drawer' as we say here, because one moment I like it and then it seems like it's just a tasteless, kitschy orgy of colours and textures. As for the influences, they are very many. I like so many things and swing between styles all the time.

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

It's always a random impulse. Suddely a picture pops into my head and I just have to do it.

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

It used to be Harry Potter. And I also really admire folk fairy tales, mythology of various cultures, especialy Slavic and Norse mythology.

9. 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 wouldn't call it experimenting, but rather random swinging. I easily get carried away by something I instantly like and I just have to try it. But anything that involves a lot of texture and colour is my preference. Mixed media, I guess, it is.

10. How do you find materials for your collages, and how difficult is it to put everything together?

Sometimes it's embarrassing to tell how much into my 'magpie' mode I get ))) I look for things everywhere. Pretty flowers, wrappers, beads, cloth, pieces of paper. I go around looking out for these things constantly. My friends who know of my passion supply little things – cat's whiskers, pretty stones, seashells, pet parrot feathers, antic lace from grandmas' chests and so on.
Picking the materials and putting the collage together usually comes naturally somehow. Doing the initial composition and anatomy sketch is the toughest part.

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

I really don't think I'm in position to offer tips or tricks, since most of what I do myself is done by trial and error. 'Don't give up, whatever happens' would also be a trite thing to say, considering how many times I've given up and succumbed to bouts of depression about how I would never be a professional illustrator/artist. So, one thing I can say is probably this: if the process of making art makes you happy – keep doing it, no matter the outcome. Your fun and happiness – that's what counts most at the end of the day. If it gets you frustrated – there's nothing wrong with stepping away for a bit.

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

Curufin by sassynails
- I think it’s this one. I really like how the sails played out. You can tell I aspire for stylized art, heh. Getting there very slowly.

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

Not really proud of my other stuff featured on DA. I’d remove it, but I’m always so sad when artists I like remove their things. Someone did like them, even if I find them faulty now. And there’s also the need to see that I progress.

- a picture that was hardest to create?

The dance by sassynails
 this one. Mostly because of the poses.

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

Glorfindel by sassynails
chronologically, it was the first ever paper collage I made.

12. 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 fandom friends have been extremely supportive. I don't know if I would ever have got the courage to post what I do. I'm also very much inspired by papercraft of Brittney Lee and Morgana Wallace. I hope one day to come remotely close to their level of elegantly deceptive simplicity, the clear cuts of their lines and awesome use of colour.

13. 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?

I really adore the art of :iconjohn-n-mary:
She has a unique style and vibrancy. And that adorable 'hairy' paper! Look at it!

And I also think that :icongranks: has some highly interesting, well-drawn and unconventional concepts of Valar.

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

I would really like to use this awesome opportunity to thank every single one of those wonderful people who took their time to like/leave a comment on my work. It will never fail to amaze me that there are people who actually like what I do. It is immensely satisfying, as a fledgling artist, to see your feedback.

Thank you for your time and answers!

Coding by Felizias Drawings by ebe-kastein Borders by PhoenixWildfire
© 2015 - 2021 MirachRavaia
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NordicLynx's avatar
This was a great interview. She has a unique style :)
Granks's avatar