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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

On styles of LotR fan art....plus 'Frodo on the Rocks'....

Posted on 2006.03.18 at 07:48
Tags: , ,
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Warning: Adult content (discussion of LotR erotic fan art, although not at all graphically).

Recently, following links to links, I have been browsing LJ's and galleries for LotR fan art, specifically erotic art featuring Frodo. I don't mean manips, but paintings and drawings.

I found it very educational (and, in the end, inspiring)....

What a wide variety there is in levels of expertise! And how different are the graphic styles that influence fan artists.

I'll say up front that some of the illustrations that artists post are plain bad. If their content weren't NC-17, they could be drawn by small children, which makes them look all the more unsuitable as erotic art. A primitively-done drawing of Batman saving a busload of people has charm, a crudely-done drawing of Frodo in the clinches with his lover has little or none.

But sheer technical skill isn't a guarantee that a work will appeal. Even among illustrators who show real skill, what appeals to the viewer has as much to do with a work's style and tone than with the technical virtuosity with which it was made.

I am terribly picky about LotR art. (Surprise!) As might be guessed from my Frodo Art Travesties, I am an appreciator of art from the archives of classical western painting and sculpture. One of the reasons I so love the LotR film trilogy is because of the way its art designers made countless visual references to great art from the past. Screencap after screencap looks as though it were a canvas painted by one of the masters of western art. I think this sort of art - representational art from the western traditional - best suits Tolkien's narrative world. I think it best conveys the adult-level depth and complexity of his story, and gives a flavour of the cultural history that informs Tolkien's Middle-earth.

Many LotR artists and illustrators seem to work out of the received tradition of western painting, and it is this sort of Tolkien illustrating I most appreciate. Having said that, I do like some of it better than others. For instance, I imagine the hobbits to have slightly pointed ears, a propensity for curly hair on their heads, and a thick thatch of it on the tops of their feet. Other than that, I picture them proportioned and looking like humans, merely smaller in stature. Some Tolkien artists working in traditional styles picture the hobbits as being much less like humans. They proportion them differently -- usually making them squattier; short-limbed like dwarves in a Grimm's fairy tale -- or portray them with slightly different-looking faces. The hobbits look like a race apart -- human-like but not human. As may be imagined, I tend not to like these hobbit illustrations (except as displays of skill). I like hobbits depicted this way even less when they are shown in erotic acts.

When I browse LotR art sites featuring the work of fans, especially those that specialize in hobbits, a lot of it seems influenced more by cartoons than by traditional painting. Some of this fan art reminds me of older cartoon styles, recalling the sort of work found in older Disney-style features that were based on fairy tales. These films drew heavily from classic storybook illustrators. The animation artists seemed to be trying to produce a look that was beautiful, idealized. Except for the comic ones, the characters were rendered in a way that was more realistic than stylized. Other hobbit artists seem to be more inspired by cartoon art in which the style is less realistic and more exaggerated; the characters are depicted as more "quirky and cute," than beautiful. (I am thinking of later Disney-type animated features, usually featuring comic characters. Bakshi's hobbits would be in this style.)

What seems extremely popular now in hobbit fan art are the cartoon styles found in Manga graphic novels. We can't keep these books on the shelves in the library's "Young Adult" section. Like the older American counterparts, there seem to be two major categories. Some Manga art goes for a more story-book, idealized beauty, especially in the humans, but the basic look is more realistic than exaggerated. Other Manga features graphics that are more heavily stylized. Humans, especially, are less realistic-looking, portrayed more as funny or "cute and quirky." Although I can tell from the icons and images many users post, cartoon-based LotR art is extremely popular, for me, whether it draws from the American-based models or the Manga styles, it just doesn't "feel" like the right style to illustrate Tolkien. Perhaps, because I associate cartoon-style graphics with simplified stories and simplified characters, the style fails to convey, for me, the sense of depth, complexity, and rich detail I see in Tolkien's world.

I am afraid cartoon-based hobbits are not for me. And, the cuter and prettier they are the less I like them. Whether done in the style of older American animation or in the Manga styles, the characters are so pretty and so cute, they become infantilized. When I look at pictures showing these childish-looking hobbits performing sexual acts, I tend to shudder. Some of them are so cutsie-wootsie, however, even for this genre, pictures of the hobbits in the clinches look more silly than disturbing. Last night I was looking through some erotic illustrations done in this style and it was like leafing through an illustrated edition of the Kama Sutra starring Precious Moments figurines. Or they made me think of "Lord of the Peeps" (a parody of LotR made from dioramas, in which all the characters are played by marshmallow bunnies).

But, the erotica of some of the artists really, really appealed to me. Some was simply hot, but the best of it was moving, too. Even when an artist's draftsmanship was not superior, I really appreciated it when they seemed to make an effort to render the hobbits as if they were real, adult characters, in real, adult scenarios, making real, adult love. Some felt so true to life in tone and immediacy, they gave the sense they had been drawn from life; if not, from vivid memories of real encounters. I suppose some of them worked only from their imaginations, while others worked from photographs or the drawings of others. Anyway, I so enjoyed the best drawings, I thought, "I want some pictures like that for my story!"

That's right: I felt inspired! But, I decided that in order to produce illustrations that could make me happy, I would have to work from existing images and copy them in a rote manner, modifying them selectively. I did some looking around. Eureka! Right at our own library (home of "Too Hot to Sleep"), I found a sex manual for couples, illustrated with tasteful but graphic pencil drawings that would do just beautifully. They just needed a little modification. I'd have to de-herk-ify the man's body, plump up the woman's (and give her hair from a previous century)....

Ah, but I would need to change the model's face and head to Frodo's. This would be the difficult part. I had always been good drawing the human body, ever since a class in Life Drawing. But while I could draw a good face, it never looked like the model's. I stunk at portraiture. This, I could see, would be the challenge: drawing a Frodo face.

I tried doing it on the computer, really I did. But it did not work. Still, I decided the computer could help me a little. I could use what our computer could do as a guide, the original photograph having been super-simplified into a vague scheme of lines. I could let those lines guide my hand and eye. (It is not as though "my" Frodo looks exactly like film-Frodo, anyway.) Maybe I could learn to draw better while I was at it!

Note: if any of you digital artists out there know of a way to make a photographic image look like detailed pencil sketch, please let me know. Thanks! (This will be a project for the future, of course, but I really am excited about trying my hand at erotic drawing!)

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Below is a version of the screencap I was trying to make look like a pencil drawing. It didn't work, as I said, but effects other than "Drawing" came out interestingly. I liked one effect so well I tweaked it for an hour. I am posting it below.

In the source screencap, Frodo is lying on a rock in the lava flow remarking how, at last, he has regained his sense memory. "I can see the Shire...!" he sighs ecstatically. While I am actually engrossed watching the film, I can see the Shire, too. But, seen out of context, I confess this image makes me see things other than the Shire. Like Frodo stripped, sweaty, and crying out in pleasure.

This version did not come out as particularly hot, but I liked it very much:

~ I Can See the Shire, using the "Watercolor Wash" effect:

~ Mechtild


Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2006-03-18 20:13 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for the interesting essay and the images Mechtild.

I will be looking forward to seeing the result of your future experiments in the Photoshop/tweaking department.

P.S. I must take a closer look at what is on the the shelves at our local library *wink*
mechtild at 2006-03-18 21:21 (UTC) (Link)
Was it interesting? Thank you, Este. I worried it was sort of long and dull. I suppose I just wanted to get it down in words what I most liked (and didn't like) in Tolkien illustration art.

Plus that I was excited about the idea of having some illustrations I could post to go with my story. I had been collecting images of paintings all this while, paintings that could not be actual illustrations of the fic, but which could give a flavour of this or that scene, or set the mood for the opening of a chapter.

The library book I got out does have good illustrations, but, primarily they are good for my project, not for erotica. They actually are not very compelling. The faces of the models are drawn with little expression. The man's face is a little better, but the woman is wearing the same pretty little smile in nearly every image, no matter what her lover is supposed to be doing to her or she to him. For me, the looks on the faces (conveying the emotions) are always more important than what the bodies are doing.
(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2006-03-18 20:57 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I've been looking at his "suffering Frodo" screencaps with a hard-core swooner's eye ever since I fell for him romantically and erotically, when I saw RotK. *blush*
maeglian at 2006-03-18 20:16 (UTC) (Link)
I had a look at what my picture management program had to offer. This is the closest I got - I think I quite liked it:

Image hosting by Photobucket
mechtild at 2006-03-18 20:55 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, that came out really good, Maeg! That's a much better version of a pencil drawing that what the programs on our machine could do.

What is the name of your program? And what functions did you choose?

(We have "ACD Photo Editor 3.1" and "Microsoft Digitial Image Suite 2006 Editor".)

Here's the best I knew how to get in the Microsoft program, using nearly the same screencap as yours....

This is using the filter called, "Pencil Detailed Sketch":

This one is from using "Photocopy" - I thought it would do best as a guide for drawing the face free-hand.

What do you think? You are an artist.
stillscarlet at 2006-03-19 00:59 (UTC) (Link)

Oh, too tempting!

Putting images - especially images of Frodo - through various effects is one of my favourite things to do, so I couldn't resist this.

Your photocopy effect looks promising to me, Mechtild. I tried the same pic with the pencil sketch effect in PhotoStudio, but the result was not great. I remember when I tried to do a 'portrait' companion for my Traveller's Sketches that it was very difficult to find caps of faces that worked well with the 'sketch' function; it worked much better with the strong lines of architecture.

The Gimp threw up an interesting result using 'cartoon' - it looks rather like your photocopy imposed on top of the original picture.

And just for fun, I love what Gimp's 'soft glow' does to Frodo's face. I could sit and apply 'soft glow' to images of him all day.

(I hope the images appear: this is the first time I've tried inserting pictures into a comment.)
mechtild at 2006-03-19 02:15 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Oh, too tempting!

First: your posted images and link worked perfectly.

But, Oh, Scarlet! While "Cartoon" is helpful, "Soft glow" is simply beautiful! Frodo looks as if he's been bathed in a fine-quality oil. No need to tell you where my mind goes with that notion.... Even if it weren't in smutty directions, I would think of it as an act of reverence, annointing his fine, beautiful, noble face with oil.

I looked at your "traveller's sketches" entry at War of the Rings. It was sooooo cool. What was the original image? I can't place it at all.

But, in the end, it looks as though while I can use digital helps, I still will actually have to hand-draw my erotica. I really could use the bodies from the sex manual, as is, but the face will not match if I can't draw it in a way that resembles the pencil work of the bodies. I probably will end up having to re-draw the whole thing, faces and bodies together, whenever I actually do it. But, as I said above, that will probably be an drawing lesson in itself, so not at all a waste of time.

It's great to see you post here, Scarlet. I was wondering how you were.
aelfgifu at 2006-03-19 08:05 (UTC) (Link)
this was an interesting post! I actually don't mind the cartoony stuff, though when someone draws Frodo and Sam just "wrong" it actually makes me mad. (stupid, I know). For example, every time I see on of the Hildebrant drawings, I get upset. How can they make my Frodo looking like something that should be coming out of a German Cuckoo clock???? BAD!Artists! Bad!

mechtild at 2006-03-19 13:41 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for commenting, Aelfgifu. Yes, "wrong," is worse to look at than anything. But what constitutes "wrong" is up to each viewer. Most can agree whether the actual execution of an art work is good or bad, but what has the right "feel" depends on the imaginings the viewer brings inside her own head. No matter how well-done a picture is, if it is seriously at odds with my own inner Tolkien world, it can't "work" for them as an illustration.

For me, the cartoon genre as a genre doesn't "work" for me. I have guessed from your very interesting icon that you well appreciate at least some cartoon illustrating for Tolkien.

It is not as though I cannot see that cartoon art has merit. I can see that this or that cartoon-based piece is very good or not that good as art, they just don't work for me as illustrations. I think I don't like to see the Tolkien world made to look like cartoons simply because I associate cartoons with simplification, with reduction of complexity to more easily-recognized components.

I much prefer the work of Alan Lee, for instance, because it is full of visual subtlety, with his use of delicate, earth-toned very subtle colour work, and the use of a lot of tiny faint lines. It makes all of his illustrations as detailed as those of a naturalist, yet they are at the same time vague and a little unfocussed -- vague enough -- almost misty in their faintness, sometimes -- to suggest "otherwordliness" along with fidelity to the natural world. Cartoons, with their strong outlines and blocks of single colours, do just the opposite. But others may see in LotR other features that suit that: strong themes, clearly delineated good and evil (in characters, buildings, landscapes, etc.), marvels, etc.

John Howe's work, the other LotR artist, on the other hand, is almost "cartoonish" in that way. Even though he is an illustrator who uses a more pictorial, story-book-based style, he tends to use starker, bolder colors and stronger, clearer lines (how he loves diagonals!) that gives added drama to any scene he illustrates, but at the expense of subtlety. That's probably why I usually always prefer Lee's to Howe's work as illustration for Tolkien.

Hildebrant's drawings mostly make me laugh. Although they use a lot of detail, I think of them as cartoony in an early Disney-ish way with their cutesy hobbits, the quaint costuming and props, and the overall "children's storybook" look they have. Mainly I dislike the static quality in the brother's pictures. Maybe they are going for a sense of nobility, but I think of their compositions come off as artificial and stagey. They do have a few works that I really do like, but they are more vaguely rendered and the characters so small they are more suggestions than full renderings. I am thinking of their illustration of Sam, Frodo and Gollom in the Dead Marshes. It's awfully good and worlds away from their silly-looking Cara Galadhon or the one of the Fellowship that makes me guffaw on the cover of "The Complete Guide to Middle-earth."
frodosweetstuff at 2006-03-19 14:37 (UTC) (Link)
But, seen out of context, I confess this image makes me see things other than the Shire. Like Frodo stripped, sweaty, and crying out in pleasure.
Join the club! :)
mechtild at 2006-03-19 15:02 (UTC) (Link)
Ha! Hey, scroll back up and take a look at Scarlet's treatment of the screencap in her comment box. It's the bottom one of the two, using "Soft Glow."

mariole at 2006-03-19 15:44 (UTC) (Link)
Interesting discussion! I don't generally like sexually explicit art. There are a (very) few pics I have seen that are nice to look at-- I doubt if I remember where they are or who drew them. I suppose seduction for me is more of a mental exercise, and I get far more "hot" reading a story, for example, than looking at a picture of hobbits or Rangers having sex.

Canon art I like. _Suggestive_ erotic art I like. _Explicit_ sex art must be very capably rendered, both in terms of talent and emotion, for me to find it appealing. Facial expressions are more important to me than the "mechanics," although I do insist upon a capable rendering of anatomy.

Oh, oh, I remember one I like! It was done for "Wines, Vines, and Veils" by Fennelseed. I'll put a link here in case you haven't seen it. Notice it leans towards suggestive, although it... suggests quite a bit. :)
mechtild at 2006-03-19 18:46 (UTC) (Link)
Hmmm. Lost my post. Here goes again.

Mariole, it would appear you exhaust your taste for the graphic in sex to what can be painted with words. I would agree with you that it rarely gets me "hot" to look at pictures of hobbits having sex. Or anyone else, really, if the focus is on the mechanics, as you say. But if the mood and atmosphere is there, and the rendering is good, and the characters look close to what I already have pictured, I can find the pics very pleasing to look at. As I said in a comment to Este, above, it is the faces and expressions on them that most appeal to me in an illustration that features characters (rather than ones that mostly illustrate a place, or a set-piece event in the story). But, if the bodies show, dressed or nude, sexually charged or not, I want them to be capably rendered.

I clicked open your Fennelseed drawing. No, I have never seen it.

Nice drapery. I see Fennelseed is firmly rooted in the history of western painting, at least in so far as the lengths (*snort*) to which it has gone to veil the genitals of male subjects.

At first I was going to ask if the subjects in this drawing were supposed to be hobbits or Elves, but, looking more closely, I can see fur on the instep of the one who must be Frodo. I know he must be Frodo because a) he has very dark hair and pale skin and b) he is tied up. Frodo spends a lot of his time tied up in fan fics. It's not just in comedy pieces, either. In just the last week or so, I've read at least three (short fics or chapters of longer fics) that feature Frodo being restrained in sex. He alwaysloves it. And it's never the other party who gets restrained, only Frodo. I haven't read of him tied to railroad tracks yet, but I'm sure it's been done.

Is it just a feeling fans have about Frodo, about his inner workings, psycho-sexually, that he spends so much time in bondage? Or do fans simply want to tie him up because the mental picture of him is so exciting to readers?

I was wondering who the rather butch-looking woman was on the bed with Frodo. Not Goldberry, surely! Her hair was too short and she would be a lot prettier. Maybe even prettier than Frodo. On further observation, I have decided it is supposed to be Sam, but wearing some sort of dress or slip along with a crown of leaves. That Sam! -- who would have guessed it? I suppose having to wear rough homespuns and gardening gear all day long, day in, day out makes him go for the silks and satins once he gets into a bedroom. Rosie better lock up her stuff.

This picture has a very interesting look, art-wise. It's quite stylized, enough to give it a strong "story-book" feel, but not a cartoonish one, and definitely not a contemporary one. I really like that. The art reminds me of illustrations from a previous eras, which goes well with the "feel" of LotR.

Has Fennelseed done anything less kinky?
pearlette at 2006-03-20 00:11 (UTC) (Link)
How can they make my Frodo looking like something that should be coming out of a German Cuckoo clock????

*roars laughing at Aelgifu's comment!* The Hildebrandt brothers' art is just ... bizarre.

I find words sexy. Verrrry sexy. I also find art sexy when it's not graphic or explicit (that's when the erotic tips over into porn, IMO). I'm going to use my Canova icon, made for me by Lindenella, because that's exactly the kind of art I find to be wonderfully sensual and uplifting (ahem, no pun intended) at the same time. Yes! I know what I'm getting at: when the spiritual infuses the sensual, or is it the other way round? :)

My favourite Tolkien artist is Alan Lee. He was the first artist I came across who seemed actually to paint the landscape as I imagined it from Tolkien's prose. I also want to praise Anke Eissmann, who posted at TORC under the handle Khorazir. Her Tolkien artwork is exquisite. She paints in watercolour, and I just ADORE her renditions of Faramir and Frodo. Her Silmarillion paintings are also beautiful. She has a real way with light.

I confess to loving the idea of Frodo being tied up ... nicely, that is. Not in a way so as to hurt him, noooo precious (I get upset when Frodo gets hurt.) But WHY???? Why do I love Frodo in bondage?? (For pleasure, not for pain.)

Maybe it's because Book Frodo is such a proper, buttoned-up English gentleman and suffers with such stoic fortitude in Mordor. One wonders what he would be like should those emotional restraints come off. *brain sizzles at the thought* Or maybe it's because Movie Frodo looks so deliciously young and innocent that one simply wants to corrupt him. One can imagine those huge blue eyes opening in astonishment and delighted anticipation as one gently slips the silken veils over his wrists ...

I think I'd better stop right there.

But it's that combination of masculinity (as in Book Frodo's stern resolve) and vulnerability (Movie Frodo's look of angelic innocence) that makes this such an unusual fantasy (IMO). I never fantasise about tying anybody else up. But Frolijah, that dewy hobbit-morsel ... hoo boy.

By the way, I want to make it clear that my shameless fantasising is about Movie Frodo the character, not Elijah. :) Not that I don't fancy Elwood, I think he's adorable - but out of deference to the real actor, I limit my online fantasies to the movie incarnation of a fictional character. I trust that makes sense. :)

mechtild at 2006-03-20 01:00 (UTC) (Link)
Maybe it's because Book Frodo is such a proper, buttoned-up English gentleman and suffers with such stoic fortitude in Mordor. One wonders what he would be like should those emotional restraints come off. *brain sizzles at the thought*

I think this is exactly what the last three fics were doing (the ones I just read) that featured Frodo restrained. It was even seconded, Pearl, in the sex manual I mentioned above, the one that I checked out of the library for the illustrations done in coloured pencil. I was reading the book in the bath last night (I always try to bring some "easy reading" along when I loll in a hot tub), and there was a section on fantasy and sexuality and a big one on bondage. It talked about how well most non-neurotic people responded to incorporating a little restraint-scenarios in their lovemaking, if they would try it. Most would refuse, thinking it was the same thing as S&M and therefore what they would consider really deviant.

The book made a point very like what you just said. A lot of people really don't feel they can permit themselves to just let themselves go in anything, including sex. The typical normal-person reasons are that they are afraid how they will appear to the other person (sex fiend), or because they are so hyper-vigilant about everything they do with their lover being even-steven. Men, especially, are supposed to suffer from this: feeling they are responsible for the doling out of sexual pleasures, so that they feel guilty and selfish if they just get "done to." Women tend to suffer from the thing where they feel they have to cater or please the other and so are unwilling to let themselves be pampered, or else worry that they will appear too assertive or grabby for sexual thrills (since they are supposed to be selfless, etc.). Both types, then, said the book, tend to really love getting [safely, by a loved one] tied up and done to. Assertive men enjoyed being bound so that they could be forced to let the other person do everything, make all the choices, and drive them crazy. If they weren't bound, they would feel compelled to reciprocate or even take charge. Women liked to be bound for similar reasons, but also to take the responsibility off them for being pleasing all the time. They also liked the fantasy thrill of it, that is, experiencing the other's dominance in a safe way. I remember when I was a teenager in the 60's, one of my huge fantasies was a tumble in the haystack in which the male of my dreams pretty much forced me to submit, since I was raised to feel that "good girls shouldn't". The scenario made it possible for me to imagine the sexual encounter without the societal guilt for having been "easy." Maybe some of that still lingers; I hear that girls still get called sluts for being as sexually free in their ways as their male counterparts.
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