A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.
Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring
Unlike Gandalf, my artwork often arrives late. These nine tiny men have been in my painting queue for over ten years, but they have roots that go back much further. When I got the 1991 Citadel Miniatures Red Catalogue, one of the first minis I ordered was Gandalf from their Fellowship of the Ring set. My dad helped me to paint it. But since it – sadly – didn’t survive to the present day, that’s not the subject of this post.
It’s probably no surprise that I’m something of a Tolkien fan, although I’ve never read The Silmarillion. I started reading the Lord of the Rings when I was probably too young to really get to grips with such a hefty tome, so it took literally years for me to finish it. In the meantime I watched Ralph Bakshi’s 1970s cartoon movie on VHS cassette, picked up dozens of art books featuring the likes of John Howe, Alan Lee and Cor Block, and drew hundreds of trolls, orcs, dragons and other creatures of Middle Earth. One of the things I loved about Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy was just how closely the film reflected the artwork I’d been obsessing over for years, which I didn’t know at the time was because both Howe and Lee had worked on the design.
In winter 2004 I was working on a sequential image making project for the second year of my illustration degree. I’d made a simple Snakes and Ladders style board game, and picked up a couple of Games Workshop’s then-new LOTR minis to use as playing pieces. I painted them terribly (but I was very pleased at the time) and they are two of a very tiny handful of pieces that I’ve reworked areas of to improve, rather than merely repair, since I started painting again. And that Christmas we played LOTR Trivial Pursuit, so it must have been in the new year of 2005 that I bought the Fellowship of the Ring set from my local Games Workshop. It lived on a shelf in my old room at my parents’ house until summer 2016, when finally I started work on the ‘big people’, and again languished until I plucked up the courage to paint the hobbits – which being closer to 25mm scale are utterly tiny, and quite highly detailed – in early 2017. Here’s the results, photographed quite poorly even though all my lights were on:
Frodo has some sort of facial disfigurement that I mistook for part of the sculpt prior to painting. I guess it’s the corrupting influence of the One Ring.
So, skipping quickly past him, I’d like to dwell on Boromir a little. This was one of the most enjoyable minis I’ve painted, and the yardstick against which I’ll measure future human-sized minis. Somehow it just seemed to take the paint exactly as I intended first try (that isn’t damage on the leather strap in the lower-right hand picture; in fact I’m not sure what it is as it’s no longer on the mini). It’s got large smooth areas of fabric, sufficient detail to be interesting (there’s his face, recognisable as Sean Bean, the ‘Horn of Gondor’ and various other bits of equipment), and very few inaccessible corners. As soon as I finished it I felt like painting him again. That’s a really rare experience for me, as I normally prefer to paint minis as individual characters and immediately get put off by the experience of painting even very small ranks of troops.
Painting a series of nine minis was a little challenging, especially when some of them are so tiny and detailed. But it’s complete and there are, for now, no more LOTR minis in my painting queue!