This great report came in from Robert Marks, a fantasy author:

“I just returned from the Ad Astra convention in Toronto this weekend, where the artist guests of honor were John Howe and Ted Nasmith. I had the pleasure of spending a fair amount of time with them both.

I suppose I should start with John Howe. John is a very gentle, soft-spoken man. He’s a bit on the thin side, with dark hair and a beard with a touch of grey in it. During his Guest of Honor hour, he talked a bit about the role he and Alan Lee played in the production design of the movies, including the interest he took in the swords. One of the more interesting tidbits he dropped was that the model for Barad-dur (Sauron’s Tower), was ten meters high. No wonder it looks great and awe inspiring.

Ted Nasmith was also a very kind and interesting man. He has an average build, with dark hair and a goatee. He began with architectural rendering, and branched out into freelancing. For this convention, he brought a slide show that included some previous art, and some of the artwork that convinced Christopher Tolkien to allow an illustrated version of the Silmarillion in the first place.

After some interesting panels, I ended up doing my own signing at a table with John Howe, and Ted Nasmith was nearby. Ted signs very much like an author…on my copy of the Silmarillion, he wrote “To Rob: With Warm Regards”. John, on the other hand, actually sketches something on whatever he is signing, and then signs his name to it. As he puts it, he believes that an illustrator should give a fan more than just a signature. Regardless, the end result was that it took him about three or four minutes to sign anything, and that what he signed ended up becoming a John Howe original.

Sunday ended in a very good way for me: Ted Nasmith and I went to the restaurant pub to grab some food and drinks, and John Howe joined us. The conversation was long and varied, with Ted talking about how he managed to get the commission for the Silmarillion, and all of us sharing our opinions on the movie. At this point, I discovered one thing that John Howe was not soft-spoken about: Medieval recreationism. A very enthusiastic conversation developed regarding replica swords, authentic swords, and various other issues. For me, it was a high point for the entire convention.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. John had to go and pack (he lives in Switzerland, and he was heading to the airport earlier that evening), Ted had to get going as well, and my lift to Kingston was waiting for me. My only regret is that I didn’t come out of it with a John Howe original; I had left my hardcover copy of Lord of the Rings at home because it was too heavy with everything else I was carrying.

For those who are interested, the Artist Guest of Honor for next year’s Ad Astra will be Alan Lee, and Ted said that he was going to try to make it.”

The Ad Astra Website is