John Howe has fast become a household name in art circles, much like Drew Struzan and Boris Vallejo whose work has become synonymous with certain movies over the years. Howe's art has graced the covers of George RR Martin's A Clash of Kings, Robin Hobb's Elderlings series, Robin Holdstock's Mythago Wood and Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Trilogy. He is, however, better known for his work on The Lord of the Rings where he depicted the evil lord Sauron in sketches, the Flight from Gondolin, Boromir, and The Mouth of Sauron.
In the chapter on Materials and Techniques, Howe lists the tools he uses for creating his own artwork, though he suggests that as no two artists ever use the same equipment, that you develop and interest in the type of pencils and paints you will use. You can use any sort of pencil or paint and even the surface paper you will draw, sketch or
paint on can be a standard sketch pad, Xerox paper, or good quality paper or card. They all produce different results and line qualities depending on the quality of the paper. Of course, if you are being commissioned to draw a picture for a client you will be expected to use quality paper. Here, the artist tends to prefer to use a particular grade of pencil to sketch. His basic advice to budding artists is to not leave the house without a pencil, eraser and craft knife. All these tools can be taken anywhere and don't take up much space, and along with a small sketchbook, it can turn a normal member of the public into an artist overnight.
For making various marks on your paper, he recommends using HB pencils, or B to get a certain look to your artwork. You can even use coloured paper. Hugin and Munin is a prime example of a black and white picture of the Norse god Odin's twin ravens on a beige background. It gives the piece extra character, and the ravens look realistic around him that standard pencil might not bring out.
Everyone has their own thoughts on what they want to draw, whether it is fantasy scenes, portraits or specific characters, but Howe makes sure you get to start with some idea of what you want to do. His pencil sketches are a mix of simplistic and detailed. In his details he uses hatching and line thickening to create powerful images of what will later become paintings.
Howe views fantasy as "a magnification and an enhancement of reality, a stripping away of the commonplace and an exploration of the potential of imagination." In art, fantasy is the extension of the real, with a centaur, it is a composite creature, half man, half horse who aims his arrows at the sky as symbolised by Sagittarius, one of Howe's alternate pieces of art. Dragons are half snake, bat and other animals too numerous to mention, but in fantasy art; they work as they look real enough to be true.
Review by Sandra Scholes
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