Welcome to this months “Getting to know you” Q&A, this month we’re talking to talented Tolkien artist, Jerry VanderStelt.
Kelvarhin: For those who are less familiar with you and your work, could you give us a brief history about yourself?
Jerry: Well, I was first introduced to the commercial art scene in the mid 90’s, on my first visit to the San Diego Comic Con. From there, I had a portfolio assembled which I was “shopping” around at the time. Eventually, I acquired an agent in New York where I started painting book covers for some of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy publishers. Every year I would return to the San Diego show to see what other work I could get, eventually got a booth, then from there got the License to create LOTR and Hobbit art!
Kelvarhin: Some of our Message boarders are from The Netherlands and they’re curious about your surname and wondered if there’s any Dutch ancestry in your family?
Jerry: Oh yeah. My ancestry is very Dutch. My mother’s maiden name is Scholten. My Grandfather on my mother’s side immigrated from Holland in the early 30’s. The same goes for my Grandfather on my father’s side. Both grandfathers married Dutch women from Iowa whose parents were from Holland. My last name spelled properly in Holland, should be spelled : van der Stelt. But it does not look good that way, so I spell it: VanderStelt.
Kelvarhin: What kind of music do you like to listen to?
Jerry: It really depends on what I am painting at the time. I like country, some 80’s rock ( Journey, Bryan Adams, 38 Special ,etc. )
Kelvarhin: What is your favourite way of relaxing?
Jerry: My Sunday afternoon nap just after lunch!
Kelvarhin: Is there any special place in the world that inspires you?
Jerry: I grew up on a farm in the beautiful state of Oregon, where the smell of the evergreens, pines and juniper trees grow. Sounds like a great place for an art studio!
Kelvarhin: Along that line, what is your perfect holiday escape?
Jerry: See above!
Kelvarhin: How did you feel when you finished reading LOTR for the very first time — and how old were you when you read it?
Jerry: My mind had a hard time processing the depth and beauty of the story, which left me with a sense of longing, just like the works of C.S. Lewis in the Narnia Chronicles. I first read LOTR when I was around 11 years old.
Kelvarhin: What got you into drawing Tolkien/Star Wars and Indiana Jones?
Jerry: Back in 6th grade, a friend of mine handed me a book entitled, “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”.. I was pulled right into that world right away and read the entire series as soon as I could check out the next in the series at my school library. I heard that C.S. Lewis had a good friend named “Tolkien” who wrote a book called “The Hobbit”. By this time, I was very familiar with the interior illustrations of artist Pauline Baynes that did the art in the Narnia books. From there I knew exactly what I wanted to do in life.
Kelvarhin: Which is your favourite Tolkien character to draw, and why?
Jerry: Each LOTR character has unique aspects that I admire which make them each fun to draw or paint, but if I had to choose, it would be Aragorn and Gandalf. They both carry so much on their shoulders to bring about good and fight evil. Knowing their Origins from the LOTR books and the Silmarillion, makes their stories all the more interesting, when I attempt to illustrate them. I have several pieces in mind that I want to create based upon the books but as we know them in the film, but was not seen on film.
Kelvarhin: Which piece of art has been the most difficult to bring to life? What made it more difficult than previous pieces?
Jerry: Honestly, they are all difficult in their own way, but The Hobbit /AUJ was a challenge getting the story arranged in the layout design. My Darth Vader piece, “Apology Accepted” was pretty tough too. Right now, I am working on “Durin’s Bane” a piece with the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. So far, Durin’s Bane has topped them all in this regard!
Kelvarhin: What or who is your biggest inspiration?
Jerry: In the world of Tolkien, there are a lot of Theological parallels, especially in the Silmarillion. Tolkien wrote of other worlds ( the Undying Lands ) within the very fantasy world of Middle Earth. Although he is known to dislike allegory, Tolkien’s Christian beliefs shaped his writing that shines through if you look. Like Tolkien, I believe in the God of the Bible; my biggest inspiration. There are aspects of the Middle Earth stories, characters and locations that go deeper than the surfaces on the pages of these classic books. My job is to attempt to take you by the hand, so to speak, and see if you can feel those Eternal themes that are in the undercurrents of the world of Middle Earth and beyond, through the art. ( especially pieces I have in mind up the road )
Kelvarhin: Considering the availability of photoshop and other image editing software, do you think that there is less demand for the kind of work you produce than there was, say, ten years ago?
Jerry: Hard to say, really. I know that the traditional techniques have a certain look that digital cannot as easily replicate, although digital is getting better all the time. I always prefer to finalize my art traditionally, but I use digital technology in the building of ideas. I prefer to marry the two together whenever possible.
Kelvarhin: What other creative medium would he like to try? Jewelry, yarn, writing, etc.?
Jerry: I have always wanted to play piano, but there are too many LOTR ideas to paint!
Kelvarhin: What was his first introduction to Tolkien, and what did you think at the time?
Jerry: I believe I answered that already, but I will add that Tolkien has a style that can never be replicated. I suppose I re-read Tolkien because it brings back the feelings that first came to me when reading it for the first time, as well as making me see things I never noticed before ( I suppose that is the sign of a true classic ). The rich, detailed attention Tolkien paid to every aspect of the story, yet he had the art of subtle nuances that I can’t put to words. Perhaps if I was a writer, I could explain it better, so I try to relay these things with my brushes!
Kelvarhin: If you could draw something for one special person, what would you like to make for them?
Jerry: A favourite character that they happen to love 🙂
Kelvarhin: And a couple of fun ones: if you were a food, what type of food would you be?
Jerry: Asparagus, because I’m a fun kind of guy.
Kelvarhin: And grammaboodawgs favourite question, what was your favourite cartoon as a kid?
As always a big thank you to all our message board regulars, DanielLB, Endor Dweller, Kalimac, Ziggy Stardust, Rosie-with-the-ribbons and grammaboodawg, and Staffers, Quickbeam and Elessar for our questions this month.
If you would like to ask any questions yourself, just head over to our Message Boards, the sign up process is pretty painless. A lead post for questions is made at the beginning of each month on the Main board, if you don’t want to sign up to the boards just email me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Till next time from TORn’s resident Tiger.