Have you ever wished you could jump into a painting and join its inhabitants in their idyllic lives? For me, that feeling is never stronger than when I look at a painting of The Shire by artist Joe Gilronan.
Joe is a full-time, professional artist who portrays Middle-earth through the use of oils, acrylics, and clay. His love of Tolkien started at a very young age when he heard a reading of The Hobbit on a British children’s show. “I just loved the whole world that he had created,” Joe said. “This in turn led me to ‘The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Ever since, a part of me has inhabited this world and art has allowed me to continue this magical journey.
“The landscape of Middle-earth is without a doubt my favorite subject matter. The world Tolkien created is just full of wonders, and at the same time, very real. This is what really inspires my work and fires my imagination—finding the magical in the natural landscape.”
Joe frequently posts updates on his work on Facebook, Twitter, and his blog. And if you want to be able to own his gorgeous renderings of Middle-earth there are several ways to go about it. One way is to purchase his upcoming book, From the Shire to the Sea, from Oloris Publishing in 2014.
Another way is to enter the Middle-earth News Hobbit Day giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a print of The Party Tree by artist Joe Gilronan. He will also do a follow up original artwork created just for the winner! The winner will personally be in contact with Joe to receive updates on his progress for the special piece that will be completed by December 2013.
In addition to donating this amazing prize package, Joe very kindly answered some questions for me about his new book, his artwork, and his love of Tolkien.
What can you tell us about your book From The Shire To The Sea coming out next year from Oloris Publishing? How did you decide on the paintings to include?
Firstly, I would like to say a huge thank you to Oloris Publishing. From the beginning, they have been a joy to work with. I knew that I wanted a variety of styles of work to be included from simple doodles and textured works to fully blown works of art. All of the pieces are set throughout Middle Earth, but they start in the Shire and end at the sea.
How often do you find yourself referencing the words of Tolkien when you are creating a piece of art?
I have several battered (but still treasured) copies of Tolkien’s books that always sit alongside each new work. Plus, its always a good excuse to revisit passages that you haven’t read for a while.
Each one of your paintings creates a beautiful vision of Middle-earth. If you could jump into one your paintings, where would you want to live and why?
That’s easy–Mordor!!! But in all seriousness (and sorry for the obvious choice), it’s the Shire; who wouldn’t want to live in such a peaceful, idyllic, food and drink motivated life. I almost forgot to mention that you also get to live in a hole in the ground.
A lot of your recent work has been focused around hobbits. What are the important parts of hobbit life that you try to convey? Do you incorporate specific motifs?
A very idealistic, traditional, bygone days way of life. I very much paint everyday comings and goings (think the artist L.S Lowry); you will often find washing hanging on lines, Hobbits gossiping, children up to mischief, the odd drunken Hobbit, but most importantly a world at peace.
I recently read that your trademark is that you put a mushroom in every piece. Now I have to search all of your paintings! How did this tradition start? Do you ever have difficulty figuring out a way to incorporate a mushroom?
Its something that goes all the way back to art school, I was dissuaded from painting fantasy as it was not seen as real art!!! So as an act of defiance, I included a tiny imp character in each work, none of my tutors know about this to this day, all very childish but good fun never the less.
Do you ever experience times of artistic block? What do you do to overcome it?
Not really. It’s such a rich and diverse world to paint, and it never fails to inspire. However, I run anything from 60/100 miles each week, and the solitude really helps to stimulate new ideas. It’s where most of my new works are born.
You and I have bonded over our love of war-game/role-play game miniatures. Did you play with them and/or collect them? And did you paint them yourself?
I will keep this brief, Lily, as I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to Role Playing miniatures. For me it started in 1980’s collecting and painting the classic Citadel and Ral Partha miniatures. At first it was mainly a way of making games like D&Ds come to life, since before, it was all pen and paper based. I kept collecting and painting miniatures up until 5-6 years ago. Sadly I don’t own a single miniature today. Like many, the lure of E-bay accounted for mine. I still keep up to date with all the new manufactures via the Internet and many a character in my paintings have been inspired by RPM’s.
If you weren’t painting Tolkien scenes, what would you be painting?
This is simple. I’d be painting massive canvases depicting semi-abstract landscapes of light and colour, with the sea taking precedence.
What are you most looking forward to seeing in the next two Hobbit films?
This is a much more tricky one. Smaug and especially the voicing of is a pretty obvious choice, The Battle of Five Armies which will be epic, I am sure, Beorn who’s always been a favourite, and The Necromancer. But best of all, we still have 2 installments to look forward to.
Fans can keep up-to-date with Joe Gilronan on the following websites: