Alan Lee

Oh there’s one drawing of mine if you scroll down a bit.


Alan Lee was born in 1947 in Middlesex, England. He studied at the Ealing School of Art.

He moved to Dartmoor in 1975. He is best known for his work as a fantasy illustrator – most notably, he seems to have become entrenched in everyone’s memories as “the Tolkien art guy” more than any other Tolkien artist. I mean, when I talk to people online about the Hildebrant brothers or even Ted Nasmith and they give me blank stares (or the text equivalent of it), but mention Alan Lee and they will go “oh, the LOTR guy, right?”. This is because he has illustrated for The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Children of Húrin. Together with John Howe, he was also a lead concept artist for Peter Jackson’s film adapatation of LOTR, and the two of them have been contacted by Guillermo del Toro to design for The Hobbit (shooting won’t start till 2010, if it starts at all – funding for the movie is still a bit murky right now /wrings hands ).

Another one of his more famous works is Faeries, together with Brain Froud. Alan Lee has also illustrated Rosemary Sutcliff’s novelizations/adaptations of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and done concept art for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, which firmly roots him in the fantasy/mythology category. He won Best Artist at the World Fantasy Awards of 1998.
I managed to see some footage of Alan Lee sketching in the LOTR DVD edition’s Appendices (12 hours of bonus footage, interviews, behind-the-scenes at Weta [yes!] photo galleries, concept art etc. It’s fantastic.) Now I will let you know how I was inspired by him: I tried sharpening one of my really short 3B pencils to that length. And then I tried copying some of his drawings from The LOTR Sketchbook. Here is the result.

So anyway, on to his work. I own the illustrated paperback edition of LOTR (in three parts, as it usually comes packaged nowadays) and so I have had a chance to peer at his work in slightly more detail than most will be able to, viewing the images online. I’ve picked some of my favorite illustrations and put them here:

From observing his artwork I think that most people would agree on using “lyrical” to describe his drawings and paintings. His outlines – when visible at all – are delicate and wispy, and the shading is extremely subtle, nuanced and sensitive. His figures look distinctly Grecian, which is very obvious in the paintings of Luthien (pale woman on darkish background) and Galadriel (tall woman, hobbits looking into a fountain). The pencil is gorgeous as well – from what I remember of the artbook and the brief DVD footage, he shades not with hatching but with loose scribbly lines. He seems to favor very fine, squiggly lines actually – if you look at how he draws hair for some of the Elves in his pencil work it will be quite obvious. That method of shading conveys the quality of hair (and form overall, I guess) very well, though it probably only works for his type of style.

Next Up: Matt Stawicki and Lucio Parillo!


2 thoughts on “Alan Lee

  1. Hiya wondered if you could help I bought two pencil drawings in Camden Market 20 years Ago,only recently did I look at the artists name,and found they are both Alan Lee’s the smaller one called Gawain Finds The Green Chapel 1983,the larger one The Inheritence,they are both signed and dated and appear to be original pencil drawings rather than prints and alas both have suffered a bit of pencil fade,could any of your contributers please tell me how to verify an original

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