The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook — Alan Lee

“Drawing, for me, is more a process of editing out than attempting to delineate something that already exists as an image in my mind.” (Alan Lee)

I received The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook by Alan Lee for Christmas. I’ve always loved drawing concept art, and seeing sketches from one of the lead concept artists of LotR was awe-inspiring, to say the least. This book takes it to a new level, especially because it showcases simple (“simple,” when you consider the far reaches of digital art in many concept art books), traditional pencil sketches that, when you see what they have achieved, are truly breathtaking.

It wasn’t just the sketches, but the artistic journey that went with them. I enjoyed reading about the author’s experience going from illustrator to lead concept artist, how a single pencil can create and lead to the magic we now know as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The sketches are arranged in chronological order as they appear in the films, so the reader can follow the journey from the Shire, to Bree, to Rivendell, Moria, the Borderlands, and beyond. It was such a massive undertaking that I got lost in the book for hours.

For a sketchbook that—based on the title, at least—focuses on Alan Lee’s sketches, I found the text to be lighthearted but raw in emotion. I do like the Lord of the Rings films, so reading about his work with different artists, filmmakers, and even cast members (there is a foreword from Sir Ian McKellan, just throwing that out there) both brought me back to the films and hammered home just how much effort went into making them. I suspect the entire cast and crew of LotR are really wizards in disguise—some not even in disguise—to bring these artistic visions to life.

I very much enjoyed The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook. It was inspiring to me not only as an artist but also as a storyteller. And of course, LotR is the perfect example in proving that big things can have small beginnings. If that is not inspiration, I don’t know what is.

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