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An Interview with Anke

While it is possible that you have not heard of Anke Eißmann yet, but you probably have run across her artwork already. She was a guest artist at Tolkien 2005 in Birmingham; her artwork has been exhibited at German and British Tolkien Society events, seen in Ringers - Lord of the Fans, and can be seen in multiple Walking Tree publications. Besides her wonderful website , her art has appeared in Flammifer von Westernis, Frodo's Quest by Robert Ellwood features two of her paintings, and some of her illustrations appear in the Polish Tolkien Almanac "Aiglos". Some other places you can see her Tolkien-inspired artwork are:

An Interview with Anke

You mention that watercolor is your preferred medium. Have you produced any Tolkien works in other mediums?

Other than in watercolour, I work in pencil a lot. Most of my sketches (either for the watercolour paintings or simply to stand by themselves) are in pencil. Sometimes, I turn one of these sketches in a more fleshed-out pencil-drawing, and there are plenty examples of those in the drawings-section on my website. I also work in ink from time to time, for example for the creation of Tolkien-related logos, or drawings that are going to be reproduced as black and white line-art. Lastly, there are some drawings where I worked with charcoal or coloured chalks, similar to my illustrations for "Beowulf".

What's your favorite Tolkien piece you've made? Non-Tolkien?

That's a difficult question. I tend to be rather critical concerning my own art. But a piece I still like very much after quite a number of years is "Lúthien prepares her escape from Hirilorn", from the "Lay of Leithian"-series. Another piece also from this series, "Beren recovers a Silmaril", also remains one of my favourites. As for non-Tolkien art, I still like some of the "Beowulf"-stuff, especially the narrow drawing that shows half the warrior's face. Also, the more recent "Temeraire"-inspired watercolours I can look at and not start criticising them immediately.

What other Tolkien artists do you really like?

My favourite Tolkien artist is Alan Lee, and I think this shows in my own art. He is simply the best with watercolour. I'm also in awe of Ted Nasmith's landscapes and the way John Howe lights his scenes. Also, I like the art of Catherine Chmiel.

Given your interest in cinema, what did you think of the Lord of the Rings movies?

I'm somewhat divided in mind about these movies. I can and do appreciate the enormous amount of creativity that went into their making, and think that for examples some of the sets (Edoras) and props are simply stunning, as is the art-direction and conceptual design. Cinematography-wise I would have wished for a more natural approach, however (in some parts the lighting is simply bad), and a less obvious use of special effects (like e.g. in "Master and Commander"). The greatest problem I have with the movies, however, is the adaptation of the story, and the story-telling in general. I don't mind most of the cuts, on the contrary, I would have preferred more scenes to have been cut instead of mutilated and changed. The changes are the problem (not all, but most), because their motivation very often seems to have been based on commercial calculations. Often, these changes lead to a more conventional, and less subtle and intelligent, storytelling than what Tolkien so carefully constructed. For a project this grand I would have wished for a more self-conscious, individual approach to film-making, without bowing so deeply to Hollywood-conventions.

You mentioned that there are other forthcoming books with your artwork. Anything you can talk about?

At the moment I'm working on a series of illustrations for a special edition of Naomi Novik's "Throne of Jade", the second of her remarkable "Temeraire"-novels, to be published by Subterranean Press next year. For a great fan of Forrester and O'Brian, and the era they describe so vividly in their seafaring novels, I was thrilled to discover Novik's books, which add dragons to the world of Napoleonic Europe. Thus, I was very excited when Subterranean asked me to illustrate the first two volumes. Also, I've completed a couple of cover-illustrations for titles from Walking Tree Publishers, who specialize on books about Tolkien scholarship. And lastly I'm working on illustrations for a children's book. [Update:] The story was written by Jörn Stegmeier, with whom I'm currently working on developing a look for the characters and the general atmosphere of the book. The story is about a small boy who, when alone at home, has all kinds of adventures in the flat, some together with his ant-friend Ami.

I like seeing your illustrations of lesser known works like "The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun". What sort of scenes do you like illustrating best?

I prefer to illustrate scenes which other artists tend to overlook, mostly the quieter, less action-charged moments that focus on the characters and their interactions and emotions.

Looking at your announcements page, you have been getting more and more exposure professionally and it definitely is well deserved. Where do you want your artistic career to go from here?

My greatest ambition would be to see some of my Tolkien-inspired artwork published, although that seems to be difficult. Other than that, I'd be pleased about commissions similar to the "Temeraire"-books, which give me an opportunity to combine my interest in fantastical subjects with my fascination for historical topics.

You did a Masters work making an illustrated book for Beowulf. Were you drawn to Beowulf from Tolkien? Do you plan to do other illustrated works of classical Northern myths and stories?

I was indeed drawn to Beowulf from Tolkien. A great help here were the books by Tom Shippey (especially his Road to Middle-earth), which kindled in me an interest in Old English and old languages in general, which then led to reading Beowulf and other, similar tales. Although I don't have any concrete plans concerning the illustration of other Northern myths, given my interest in these subjects, I wouldn't rule out that one day I'm going to create artwork for one indeed.

I'd like to thank Anke for taking the time to talk, and definitely recommend that you check out her website at for more information and lots of wonderful images. You can also buy prints of her work, postcards, and other goodies.
Last modified: 03/09/20 by Urulókë
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