On the 75th Anniversary of the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, I cannot begin to tell how excited I was to undertake this commission to celebrate the brilliant mind that has thrilled and inspired readers for generations. It was Tolkien's world of Middle-earth which began my foray into reading, and quickly developed into a life long passion for books. What struck me from the beginning was how Tolkien filled his world with a wealth of history to bring stories and characters to life. From the simple beginnings of Bilbo and the Dwarves in The Hobbit to the personal trials of Frodo and the fellowship in The Lord of the Rings to the epic tragedies in The Silmarillion, these are all woven together into a grand fabric of unifying mythologies. His stories offer a lifetime of images for an artist to interpret.
Taking a cue from the richness of his world building, this painting is filled with references to the realm of Middle-earth. I consider this portrait a 'thank you' back to Tolkien for what he has provided in my own life lessons - the best of my labors to honor the man who gave us the best of his imagination.
Here we see the scholar at work at his desk in the studio at Oxford just after the publication of The Return of the King, or his he laboring in a room at Bag End? The round window recalls those described at Bilbo's and Frodo's residence on the Hill. Out the window we see the large tree in a meadow, the gathering place for the opening celebration in The Fellowship of the Ring of A Long-Expected Party.
The chair is a gift to Bag End from King Elessar (better known as Aragorn), and carries the crest of the Kings of Gondor woven into its fabric backing.
On the desk we find Tolkien leafing through illustrations of the barrel rider from The Hobbit, designs for the glowing runes defining the doorway into Moria, and lastly unfinished manuscript pages waiting to be compiled by his son Christopher into The Silmarillion.
Drifting up from the desk are wisps of smoke shaping into a flight of eagles, the representatives of the Valar in Middle-earth. Tucked into the book shelves are first edition copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and in the far left shelf is an old faded copy of Beowolf, a nod to the inspirations which Tolkien himself tapped into for direction with his mythologies.
Lastly, resting in the lower left corner, is a set of teacups bearing the crests of Beren and Luthien, the two lovers portrayed in the most epic of love stories from The Silmarillion. Tolkien designed these symbols and always thought of his wife as Luthien and himself as Beren, so much so that he had these names carved on their gravestones. I thought it romantic that we have caught Tolkien in his study just as he was having tea with the woman he loved so dearly.