I’ve never fully understood the power that the written word can hold. Or the beautifully painted canvas or that piece of music that resonates so perfectly with your mood that it moves you to tears. I admire artists of all mediums that can project complete worlds and landscapes into your head.
As a teenager reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I found that the words on the pages evolved into rich scenes, colourful and moving worlds and stories that you never wanted to end. This experience was enhanced by my 1992 edition of the trilogy, a truly mammoth hardbound book with golden lettering, glossy black dust cover and astounding watercolour illustrations by British illustrator Alan Lee. (sadly, this beautiful book is no longer in my possession).
So when the stories came to life on camera, thanks in no small part to the work of Alan Lee in bringing these stories to life, I was hooked. Twenty years on, I’m still hooked and still The Return of the King is my number one film. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever truly got lost in fantasy.
So naturally for me a trip to New Zealand would not be complete without a visit to some of the landscapes and sets that made the film possible. Apart from the amazing mountain valleys, streams and forbidding hills, a real life-size Hobbiton set still exists! Nestled in the town of Matamata in the shadow of a mountain range, the Hobbiton Movie Set enables you to walk through those blossoming gardens, peak through the iconic round doors and experience the magic for yourself. You could call it Disneyland for geeks.
The trilogy was filmed all around New Zealand, and the whole country is pretty iconic. Mordor, Hobbiton and Rivendell were all shot here, while other scenes were created digitally.
Here is today’s painting from this iconic world that I have humbly tried to recreate.
And here’s a quote from Alan Lee himself when asked how an artist goes about recreating such a visionary piece of work as The Lord Of The Rings.
“Humbly,” Alan says promptly. Then he pauses to give the question more thought. “Every artist works differently, of course, but my own approach to The Lord of the Rings was to allow the landscapes to predominate. In some of my scenes, the characters are so small they are barely discernible. This helped me to avoid, as much as possible, interfering with the pictures in the reader’s mind, which tend to focus on the characters and their inter-relationships. My task lay in shadowing the heroes as they traveled on their epic quest — often at something of a distance, coming closer at times of heightened emotion — rather than simply re-creating the dramatic highpoints of the story.
Would you visit if you were in New Zealand?