Do you ever find artwork that quickly makes you daydream of another world? Well, when I first laid eyes on Steamey’s Tolkien art that’s exactly what happened. I found myself spending a long time looking at each piece, and searching information for all of the characters and scenes. Steamey’s work does what I think is the best thing Tolkien art can do, which is to make you want to go read the books straight away. So you can imagine how excited I was to learn more about this artist and her work!
Steamey is a professional artist who at first did not draw from any particular genre or style, but once she discovered fantasy that all changed. She was truly fascinated by this new world. Like many of the new generation of readers, she first discovered Middle-earth through The Lord of the Rings trilogy. “Several inadvertent pages of The Return of the King later and voila! You will not believe – the book immediately captivated me. I bought the trilogy and read it instantly. This world was so fabulous and at the same time realistic!” She admits that the films have influenced her, “and I think it is very noticeable. In my drawings I repeat everything that I liked the most in the movies.”
When I asked who she considers to be her favorite character, she chose Galadriel. “She is one of the few in the legendarium who binds a distant past and present, and she is such an incredible person.” As for location? It’s Moria, a place that has always made Steamey feel curious and in awe. But if she could live in Middle-earth, she’d like to live in Valinor, or “walk somewhere in the gardens of Lorien.”
The beginning of The Silmarillion, Ainulindalë, is Steamey’s favorite story by the professor, “when I first read this book, it seemed to me as if it suddenly revived Gustave Doré’s engravings. It was a grand-scale, live, full-color story… I felt like I was watching a film being shot for me.” She hopes to one day illustrate all of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, and I would love to see each and every one of them. Especially if they were featured in the books themselves!
I was curious whether the lack of images/drawings of the events and characters included in Middle-earth’s early history made it easier or harder for her as an artist. “It’s easier and most importantly – fun. Drawing popular stories is like trying to imagine the original character after watching the movie. Its hard, and often impossible. It’s good if the film gives all the details exactly like in book or even better, but that rarely happens.”
Because we don’t have many images of the characters and events from stories such as Of Beren and Lúthien and The Children of Hurin, I’m thankful that artists like Steamey take time to bring those tales to life. In fact, creating appearences for characters is Steamey’s favorite part of drawing.
Like I said before, her work makes me want to find out everything about the history of Middle-earth. For example, after seeing this piece, I wanted to learn everything there was to know about Gilraen and Arathorn. And this one of Théoden and his family makes me want to read everything I can get my hands on about Rohan. Honestly, the list goes on and on.
While it’s true that the fantasy world is so vast and never ending in stories, Steamey says she’s interested in one day illustrating from other interesting books. “I also like animation and video editing… So I never get bored and I’m always busy with something.” Like a filmmaker and animator, she says she sometimes wants to show a scene from multiple angles, because she feels that it is impossible to fit everything into one picture.
Steamey gets inspiration from classical art, sculpture, architecture, oil paintings… and from artists such as John Howe, Alan Lee and Justin Gerard (you can read our interview with him here). I can definitely see the classical elements in her work, especially in “Ten Cats of Queen Beruthiel” which is pictured above.
I of course had to ask Steamey about The Hobbit trilogy and what she was most excited to see in There and Back Again. “I like it! Yeah, not exactly by the book, but nonetheless I like it. I am especially delighted with the women-dwarves! And in the third film I am mostly looking forward to the final battle.”
To see all of Steamey’s work, visit her Deviantart page.