Jazmine writes: Picture the setting. Rolling green hills, blossom-shrouded trees, winding lanes, daffodils dancing merrily all around. Where might this scene be unfolding? The Shire perhaps? Almost. The Cotswolds, England, in the heart of Tolkien’s Shire, the land that inspired the creation of the hobbity homeland we have all come to know and love.
This is the setting for an annual Tolkien event that is not to be missed. At the marvellous Redesdale Hall, in the pretty village of Moreton-in-Marsh, arrives Lands of Enchantment, the 2009 Tolkien inspired Art Exhibition. Here you will find original artwork on display from the likes of Tolkien veteran Ted Nasmith, and the wonderful variety provided by the works of Ruth Lacon, Jef Murray and Peter Pracownik.
The focal point of this year’s art exhibition was a new commission by Ted, The Fair Valley of Rivendell. It is a stunning piece, an excellent demonstration of the awe-inspiring landscapes we have come to expect from Ted.
Talking to Ted at the preview on Friday evening, it is nice to see how humbled he is, and how lucky he feels, that he can earn his crust doing something that he so obviously loves. There is an enthusiasm in him, as he talks about each piece. He gave talks on his works throughout the weekend, a wonderful insight into how he approached each piece, and the challenges he might face.
All the artists on display have such unique styles, each with their own strengths. Ted’s strengths are obvious, the precision and technicality of his buildings, the realism of his skies and seas. There is an almost childlike quality to the works of Ruth Lacon. The textures she creates mix well with the incredible amount of detail she pours into even the most simple of pieces, making them a joy to study. (My personal favourite is her rendition of The Battle of the Five Armies, I could look at it for hours!)
Jef Murray’s usage of bright, bold colours make for vibrant pieces, and his sketches are precise, despite looking quite simple. Peter Pracownik’s first time exhibiting here was a success, his dark, brooding style, makes it easy to see why he has had a successful career creating album covers for many bands. He incorporates his love of rock n roll, and the world of tarot into his artwork, and the result is a remarkably unique take on the world of Tolkien, that really draws you in.
Alongside the art exhibition, there was also a chance to meet those behind the recent release, Black & White Ogre Country, the lost tales of Hilary Tolkien. The editor, Angela Gardner, gave talks on the creation of this lovely little book, and talked us through each of Jef Murray’s illustrations, which complement the text so well. There was also a progress report on the forthcoming full memoirs of HT, which should be released later on in the year. The highlight of this for me, was the opportunity it provided to meet a Tolkien. Not Christopher, as a few people had thought, but Chris Tolkien was present with his family at Friday’s preview, happy to sign copies of his grandfather’s memoir. Great-nephew of JRRT, for me this was an incredible privilege to meet a relative of someone I have admired for many years, and whose work continues to inspire me every day.
Alongside the artwork, and the discussions, are many stalls to keep you interested. From beautiful costumes and jewellery, to weaponry, games & collectibles from the books & movies, there is something for everyone. There are gems to be found in the book stalls, with rare editions of books by Tolkien, among many others. (I once found an old deluxe edition of The Jungle Book, which I snapped up!)
There is also the Birds of Prey, which has become a staple at these events. This years stars included a Chilean Eagle, and a tiny, delightful Pygmy Owl, both of whom sat on my arm, the former giving me a good slap round the head with a beat of his enormous wings!
Although I did not purchase anything aside from a book this year, this by no means spoiled the event for me. From the very start, at the opening ceremony, it is made clear that you are under no pressure to buy anything. While the original artwork and prints are there to be purchased if you wish, they are mainly there to be viewed and enjoyed. There is no entry fee, and drinks and refreshments are complimentary. Over the years, I have watched this event grow and expand, each year drawing in more people than the last. There is a wonderful sense of community there, as people share their love of an author who inspires in so many ways.
The Hall itself provides the perfect setting for such an event. Much more fitting than a hotel conference room, its rustic design and high-beamed roof lend themselves well to the events held within.
There was talk of another exhibition being held just before Christmas. To any of you who can make it, I implore you to go along. It is a must, not only for Tolkien fans, but for lovers of art and books alike.