Out of all the esteemed artists who have created images of J.R.R. Tolkien's work, Ted Nasmith is probably in the top five somewhere.
Heck, he'd probably be higher on the list if it weren't for John Howe and Alan Lee, because his paintings of Middle Earth are lushly detailed, and rich with light and colour. And the "Tolkien Calendar 2010" focuses on the events at the end of the Third Age (aka, "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit"), filling these pictures with clouds and mountains, light and shadow, armies and hobbits.
It begins with a beautiful, light-filled picture of the hobbits setting out across the Shire's rolling green hills, and proceeds through a series of striking, haunting outdoors images -- the hobbits and Aragorn wandering across the countryside by night; a pair of wizards walking past a vast grey mountain range; Boromir's boat falling over a white waterfall, with his friends watching from the middle of the wide river; and Haldir showing Frodo the autumnal splendor of Lothlorien.
And while the landscapes of Middl-Earth dominate, Nasmith tries out some action scenes here and there -- the eagles carrying Bilbo and his dwarf buddies over the Misty Mountains, and even the Riders of Rohan following Gandalf into battle. But there are darker sides to Nasmith's art too. There's Frodo and Sam in the rocky, desolate Mordor (complete with volcanic clouds and lightning); Merry and Pippin heading into Fangorn, with lots of twisting knobby trees and dark blue light.
But Nasmith is at his best in the picture of the Argonath -- the vast white pillars rise on either side of a fast-moving river, even as soft sunlight shines through the clouds and lights up the water. And the highlight is the last and simplest of them all: the group heading to the White Tower by the sea at the end of "Lord of the Rings." The entire picture is suffused in deep blue light, with a full moon hanging over the little processions. It's utterly exquisite.
Ted Nasmith has illustrated most of the highlights of J.R.R. Tolkien's works over the course of his career, and his love for "Lord of the Rings" shines through in every image in this calendar. And the focus in this one is obviously some of the events of "Lord of the Rings," in more or less chronological order, with a "Hobbit" picture stuck in the middle.
The focus here is more landscapey than some of the past calenders -- sure, there are some pictures with close-ups of the characters, such as the eagles, or a miserable-looking Sam and Frodo. But most of the pictures are dominated by the rolling grassy hills; sharp mountains wrapped in mist or ash; expanses of trees and sharp stones; and magnificent dense forests. No matter what's happening in the pictures, the eye is drawn to the rich backdrop -- even a charging army doesn't quite catch your eye the same way.
This is partly because of all the colors -- cobalt skies over a moonlit sea, pale mists, the endless sharp rocks and grey skies of Mordor, the orange treetops of Lothlorien, the eerie blue light of grey-green Fangorn, and the soft white light around the Argonath. And he makes great use of light and shadow -- there's always a dark edge to the more sinister pictures, and loads of warm light when there seems to be hope for the good guys. It really makes you feel what's going on.
And Nasmith gives great detail to what he shows -- the twisting tree branches, the eagles' feathers, the spiky evergreens on their steep hills, the rolling clouds, tiny windows in the Towers, and even birds flying under the falls as Boromir's boat goes over. You can tell by looking how much love and attention was put into making them that good.
Ted Nasmith's "Tolkien Calendar 2010" beautifully depicts some of the loveliest (and nastiest) parts of Tolkien's Middle Earth -- lots of vibrant color, details, light and shadow.