Art and Literature News

Interview with Jenny Dolfen, Author of ‘Songs of Sorrow and Hope’

Oloris Publishing is releasing a book entitled, Songs of Sorrow and Hope: The Art of Jenny Dolfen at the beginning of this year.

Songs of Sorrow and Hope: The Art of Jenny Dolfen is a rich, visual journey that celebrates over a decade of work by renowned German fantasy artist, Jenny Dolfen.

In a showcase of more than fifty illustrations, this book guides fantasy fans and art enthusiasts alike through an exploration of Jenny’s artistic output, accompanied by narratives, reflections and insights from the artist herself.

Middle-earth News: First off, I just have to say how excited I am for this book! I remember reading an old Tolkien Society article that said publishing a book with your work has been a long-time dream of yours, how long has this project been in production?

Jenny Dolfen: Thank you!

I think the first talks were right after Return of the Ring in Loughborough, 2012.  I did most of the work on the texts in 2013. When the project finally took off this spring, we added some more recent images.

M-e News: I was told that half of the book will be about your Tolkien artwork, and the other half will be about some of your other favorite stories and the Rhyddion Chronicles. Can you expand more on the Chronicles?

JD: The Rhyddion Chronicles are a Fantasy book project that’s been around for almost fifteen years now. They’ve been on hold for a while now, and I’m waiting for a spark of inspiration to hit before I continue. It’s been through several incarnations with lots of changes to the world and the storyline along the way; in essence, it’s a Fantasy world modelled on Medieval Wales in a clash with England, loosely following the Welsh Wars that ended in 1285, with the death of the last Welsh Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd.

I even learnt a bit of Wales for the project. 😉

M-e News: I’m definitely intrigued now! It’s great that there’ll be a nice mix of fantasy subjects.

I know we’ll get to see a lot of your art, but what does the text contain? Do we get to read about your process and/or techniques?

JD: Both! We struck a balance of talking about the art, the inspiration behind some pieces, there’s a full process with wip shots, and also “technique sidebars” with insights on how certain things were done.

M-e News: You create a lot of work relating to Tolkien, specifically The Silmarillion, which I really appreciate, it helps me envision the stories and characters whenever I read it. What stories from the Professor’s legendarium are included in your book? Is there any that you consider to be your favorite?

JD: It’s not hard to guess that the Feanoreans’ story arc is my favourite, and since they feature heavily in my art, they naturally feature heavily in the book! We did not include full stories – that would have led to copyright trouble – but there are some quotes included.

The Oath of Feanor by Jenny Dolfen

M-e News: Aside from Tolkien, what would you say your favorite subject matter is to draw/paint? And are there any stories/tales you’re hoping to delve into one day?

JD: I just love tragic tales (which is reflected in the title, “Songs of Sorrow and Hope”, so I often explore stories or actual histoical characters and fought and lost against impossible odds. The Feanorenas are good examples of that, as are historical figures like Llywelyn and also Hannibal, whose story I explored in an illustrated novel last year.

M-e News: What has it been like working with Oloris? They do a really great job with giving people a chance to put out their work!

JD: They do, yes! They have highlighted several new artists in recent years and months, sort of a new generation of Tolkien artists beyond the ones that have been well-known and in the business for years.

M-e News: Indeed! The earlier generation of Tolkien artists are brilliant of course, but it’ll be nice to see a lot more interpretations of the stories we know so well.

JD: And there are a lot of people emerging – some of them taking the art world by storm, like Donato Giancola, or the lesser known but no less brilliant Elena Kukanova.

M-e News: Yes! I’m familiar with both of their work and they’re phenomenal! I would love to see a book of Elena’s Tolkien art become a reality one day. (And I still need to get my hands on Donato’s “Visions of a Modern Myth”)

Your “Harp No Longer Sings” painting is very beautiful, was it at all difficult to choose which piece to feature on the cover? How much were you involved in the design of the book?

JD: “The Harp No Longer Sings” was created specifically for the cover. The format was slightly different from my usual ones – most of what I paint is more elongated – so I wanted to create a new painting for the cover. Initially, that was “Eärendil”, then when the title stood, I went for Maglor. That’s why those two paintings have the same formats, slightly squatter than most of the rest of my work.

M-e News: It’s wonderful, you managed to fit the essence of the title into that one piece!

JD: It was important for me that the image have something to do with the title!

M-e News: Going back to Return of the Ring, have you attended other Tolkien conventions? In the future, will you be selling copies “Songs of Sorrow and Hope?”

JD: I’ve been to at least one convention per year since 2012 – mostly RingCon, Spiel Essen, and Tolkien Tag, all in Germany. I will be getting copies from Oloris that I can then sell at conventions too. We even left a page free in the book for me to put a sketch in.

M-e News: Do you have any “dream projects”? And any plans for future publications?

JD: My job as a teacher makes it difficult to pursue all-out dream projects, for which I would need much more time to focus completely on my art. But I have to say I have been very happy with my art in the last few years, mostly working for private clients with whom I share a love for the subject matter, and who are not on a deadline.

M-e News: Over the years, where have you drawn inspiration from?

JD: Pretty much 100% of my art comes from stories that inspire me. Mostly it’s books, sometimes it’s movies (but they rarely capture me as deeply as books). For the creative process, I much prefer to create visuals from texts, not visuals from visuals.

M-e News: I’m always interested in learning about other people’s journeys on becoming Tolkien fans, what is your story?

JD: I grew up on Tolkien. My mother read the Hobbit to me when I was six, and when we were through, I asked her if there was more of that – she said yes, and we started reading the Lord of the Rings together. I must have been around eight. She also had the Silmarillion standing at our home, but it was in German, and she said she never read through it because it was so depressing. That deterred me until I was seventeen, by which time I gave it a go. The German translation is very ponderous and cumbersome, but I read it in English again right afterwards, and was hooked for ever.

M-e News: My final question is: what was your goal for “Songs of Sorrow and Hope”? What are you hoping readers and fans of your art will take away from it?

JD: It offers a chance of holding a lot of my art in your hands, on paper, where it belongs (nothing beats art on paper), together with a sense of what went into its creation. It’s what I love most about other people’s art, and I hope that those who like my hand will love it, too!

Thank you so much to Jenny and Oloris Publishing for this great interview!




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