Thursday, March 31, 2011

Eowyn and the Nazgul

Petar Meseldzija just posted a gorgeous new painting depicting Eowyn fighting a Nazgul, for which he had posted several progress sketches of a while back. Check out his awesome blog for more insight into his process as well as some detail shots.

It's a pretty epic scene from one of the greatest fantasy novels of all time, so it is no wonder that a lot of fantasy artists have painted their homages to it over the years. Here are a few great ones:

The Brothers Hildebrandt:

Donato Giancola:

John Howe:

Ted Nasmith:

W.M. Kaluta:

Matt Stewart:

Frank Frazetta:

Angus McBride:


  1. Great post, seeing how different artists interpret the same scene is so awesome! All of these are great solutions to the same problem, but it begs the question, how many more are still out there?

  2. I am just returning to painting after many years...and it is works like Petar's that both humbles and inspires, just awesome. Also, if you have ever seen his pencil sketches they are amazing.

  3. Interesting, Howe was the only one who put Eowyn on the right side of the picture.

  4. hey, what about Frazetta's B&W version? :)

  5. Awesome post. I am a big Angus McBride fan so we can't forget this one as well.

  6. what alonzo said. don't forget Frazetta's version just because it's in black and white.
    these are all spectacular by the way.


  7. Great post, this was my favourite part of the books.

  8. Then there is Matt Stewart's Eowyn and the Nazgul.

  9. Thanks for the great suggestions guys. I've update the post.

    I can't believe as many times as I've seen that Frazetta piece that I never once realized it was Eowyn.
    I think the thong is to blame!

  10. Too much awesomeness to process *head explodes* I've got to do some more proper painting.

  11. Nate Furman recently did one too.

  12. Great post. I really enjoyed this collection, thought it seems Frank Frazetta forgot to pen Eowyn some pants. :)

  13. Also, is it just me or does the Ted Nasmith piece look uncannily similar to the image Disney used of Alice and the Jabberwoky in the most recent adaptation of Wonderland? Obviously Nasmith came first.

  14. I think Howe's is my fave. But what a great line-up. Now I want to see these same artists' version of when Gimli and Legolas kissed in the unauthorized special edition of Return of the King.

  15. Some of these are great, but others I take issue with how feminine Eowyn is dressed... she disguised herself as a rider of rohan, and would thus would NOT be wearing a thong and armour built to accomodate a pair of breasts...

  16. I didn't think about it until I started designing my own painting, but the reason for Eowyn being on the left side in all of these paintings is probably because she is right handed. It would present a visual challenge to put her on the right because her shield would obscure her body and its pose, arguably one of the most important parts of the story-telling process.

  17. I think that the illustration of Donato Giancola is great!

  18. I love Frazetta, but am I the only one bothered by his overly weak and passive depiction of Eowyn? For Pete's sake, she looks like bunny about to be squashed by an anvil. It is a bit disturbing.

  19. Madeline: Frazetta's picture also makes me wonder how Eowyn managed to convince the rest of the soldiers that she was 'just another guy' in order to be allowed to ride with the army. I think the other interpretations make it clear that an artist can portray a woman as simultaneously strong, martial and feminine... I think the Frazetta is the weakest of the lot because he just doesn't capture how I saw Eowyn in that moment.
    Imladrisine: Haven't seen Disney's 'Jabberwocky' but John Tenniel (sp?) did an awesome illustration for 'Through the Looking Glass' (I am not sure but suspect it may have appeared in the original edition)that looks to me like it could be the source.
    Perhaps they share this common ancestor?

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  21. I think the Kaluta is my fav. and the Frazetta is my least....its the phallic mushrooms ;)
    The Giancola is right there at the top though.
    For you artists...I noticed right away that almost everyone has used a horizontal format....something to break out of perhaps?

  22. Sadly I had a nice post written out. Very proud of some of the insights I had, but apparently I still haven't learned to hit ctrl C because computers and websites still suck.

    I will be blunt. Not to be mean, though you may take it that way, but more to be critical in a constructive manner.

    Essentially I sad that, while I apologize to my heroes, Howe and Nasmith, Donato Giancola's painting makes the rest here look like amateurish color sketches.

    Petar Meseldzija's piece - I love the brushwork. That's the kind of feeling and texture I strive for, and on top of that, he managed to still paint an amazing image despite the fact that the Witchking is holding a sword. HOWEVER, that is the ugliest Eowyn I have ever scene. She's got the Vallejo curse on her. She looks like a bad model painted exactly as photographed and then painted with armor. Her head is too large and she looks like a Little Person with that barrel chest, and her eyes are focused on the WK's crotch, not the sword that's gonna break her arm or the eyes freezing her heart. Everything about her screams hackery. The rest of the piece bellows genius, but Eowyn hollers cop-out. She reminds me of almost any Vallejo painting you want to pick out. A model is chosen, then photographed in various poses for reference. The artist renders her in nearly perfect accuracy and then adds the various fantasy-esque accoutrements to make it a fantasy work. Yes, technically it's well done, but hellooooo, I can see the clear demarcation between imagination, talent and passon and photo reproducing a mediocre model in mediocre poses with swords painted in later.

    The Hildebrandts are brilliant when it comes to light, but suck with action. This is as stiff as ever. It looks like they took a cheap chinese-made dinosaur from Michaels and tied a modified Vader to it, photographed it and painted what they saw. No life, no passion. Eowyn looks like she's raising her sword in anger because Redbox didn't have Harry Potter and the Contractual Obligation.

    Sorry John, I love ya bruthah and I love this painting, but I still can't figure out what that Fell Beast is supposed to be doing.

    Nasmith, in my opinion, has always been brilliant setting scenes, invoking moods, but I have always felt his figures were weak. Eowyn I can take here, but that Nazgul looks like Urkel with a lollimace. I Love the details of the surrounding scenes, the color scheme, but man, that Nazgul...

    The second Nasmith image is better in some ways and worse in others. I like Eowyn's face turned away (I've always felt that showing the hero or heroine's face was a mistake as it messes with people's own mental imagery, not always in a good way), but the fell beast in this one, aside from looking like a giant chicken with amazing drumsticks, has a mouth/beak that just looks physically un-usable. Couldn't exist. Like bentwood effigies of dragons. Blechk.

    Kaluta is brilliant. I have always liked his style, along with his contemporaries, Barry Windsor Smith, Jeff Jones and Bernie Wrightson. Amazing pen or brushwork, subtle yet vibrant colors, an, I don't know, Edwardian style to his work? Like old etching accompanying Alice in Wonderland or even Blake. His stylized poses and spare watercoloresque tints gave his work an historical feel, like he was creating myth rather than simply giving it heart and flesh.

    Frazetta was almost my favorite, simply because it is Frazetta. Lynyrd Skynyrd is the epitome of southern rock and Free Bird is the call. They get a life time pass on everything southern rock. This is how it is with Frazetta, and like Skynyrd, few who were not around then understand. It's Frazetta. He kicked every ass there was to kick. Except maybe that Wizards movie. Not his fault. The too-soft bunny girl? That's as much his signature style as Death Dealer or his Every-barbarian. Yea, I can agree with the criticism, but on something this small, he gets a pass from me because he's Frazetta.

  23. Matt Stewart's piece is well decent, though I cringe at the overuse of fog, or mist or whatever, and would wonder if this is digital or paint. My only critique is the composition, which bothers me and I'm not sure why. I think it's the 'too much black to one side' thing. That and the odd jumble of 'stuff' that makes up the Nazgul and beast. One specific thing that bothers me is the position of the Nazgul's hand holding the mace. Just awkward.

    And lastly, Angus McBride. Very nicely executed. All the major elements are there, including Merry, but like the Hildebrandt's piece, the action seems nonexistent. Like the artist is relying too much on what the reader already knows. The artist assuming too much in his story-telling, or lack there of. Why does the WK seem to be ignoring Eowyn? Why is the bird thing so small compared to its rider? But the main thing that kills this one despite the obvious talent is the color. It has "dated" the piece. It looks like it's straight off of a 1974 paperback and belongs back there on one. I don't know when it was painted but I hope it was then. It's like a forced limited palette of one type of yellow and various umbers. "Oh yeah, you can have one red". Just muddy and dated.

    Ok, hope I haven't been too harsh. I believe it criticism, so feel free to give it to me if you see my stuff somewhere. I did, after all, paint Glaurung the Golden, red:

  24. Sorry, I failed to address what made Donato Giancola stand out so much for me. So many things.

    First of all, his color palette. The subdued palette not only helps to draw the viewer in, as the colors become more vibrant towards the focus of the piece, it alos gives a sense of approaching darkness. Doom. Which is indeed what is coming, embodied within the Nazgul, rising from the wrack of his fallen mount. Facing the foe that took down the fell beast and finding it a girl. The slight turn to its body, perhaps caught in mid 'wtf?' as recognition and shock overcomes tired anger.
    The lightness of Snowmane, King Theoden's horse, framing the golden maiden defending her fallen uncle and King. The fetid darkness of the fell beast's wing, extended in it's death throes, framing the Witch King as it turns to face another petty nuisance.
    Minor critiques? The swirls in the background used to hide whatever detail he didn't want to paint ;) and the awkward digit set up within the Nazgul's wings Batlike wings would have, at most, five 'fingers'/wing ribs.

    Again, minor. My favorite piece by far.

  25. @Guy: That was a really nice crit. Reminds me to be more critical with the "awesome" stuff I am so impressed with. ^^ And shows again how difficult it is to build up a good picture.

    I want to do one too, but I was too late for the contest.


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