... John Howe on »Lost Worlds«, Tolkien, Jackson, del Toro, reenactment and inspiration
: I really dont know! We simply got a phone call one day. I believe that during the time Peter Jackson and his co-scenarists were tackling the herculean task of refining a thousand-page novel into a readable script, they has covered the walls with all the Lord of the Rings artwork they could find. I think they simply became so accustomed to seeing Alan Lees and my work that they decided to have us develop artwork for the movies.
A conceptual designer simply puts the situations described in the script into images. Much of the work involved designing how everything that needed to be built would look. We were also involved with weapons, armour and creatures to a degree. Tolkiens descriptions were simultaneously very useful and allowed a good deal of freedom, since they were not taken in a restrictive sense. Tolkien often describe not a thing itself, but the emotions of the character when looking at that thing. This leaves a good deal of freedom to work. Readers of the Lord of the Rings are, in a way assumed to be familiar with history and art. When Tolkien describes Edoras, you know he is referring to Heorot, thus his description can be more imaginative than explicative, as he knows our minds are filling in the gaps. Tolkiens illustrations are excellent sources of information, but not necessarily of inspiration.
I think they very much enjoy working with each other. They share a huge number of common interests and great enthusiasm for the genre. They are also both true admirers of Tolkien. Guillermo is very good fun to work with, his enthusiasm and energy are quite contagious.
The idea central to the book was to choose 24 worlds which either have either physically disappeared or become culturally removed from our preoccupations, and treat them in the same mammer. We chose twelve real civilizations, and twelve myth cycles, so the book ranges from Atlantics and Camelot to Cahokia and Mohenjo-Daro.
Personally it was incredibly rewarding, since the research was quite thorough and fascinating. (It may be a book for young people, and be unable to go into great depth on any one subject, but you still must try to get your facts right.) I was fortunate to have the help of a real historian, Neil Phillip, who did his best to keep me on track, make sure I missed nothing essential and check my texts at the end to make sure nothing terribly wrong slipped through.
There is a difference between information and inspiration, the first, information, constitutes the (hopefully) solid foundation upon which imagination can build an image. Without the latter, and image would not tell a story, but simply be an exposition of details, and without the former, the image would not have any historical validity.
Yes, I would like to consider myself a spiritual person, especially if I was able to understand what that really means! I do attach a great value to myth and legend. The stories we now call myth or legend are stories of divine beings, once considered sacred, but that become folklore once the link of meaning is broken. (Religious legend, on the other hand, is about divine beings but trivial stories.) It is clear, however, that the deeper meanings, beyond world creation, divine retribution and twists of fate, are ones that have not changed since the stories were themselves created.
I very much enjoy serious medieval reenactment, where a good deal of effort is spent to make things are historically accurate as possible. Its a very artistic undertaking, as information is not always available, and sources must be interpreted. Visually it is stunning at times, and it does provide a very helpful body of knowledge for illustrating knowing how to wear a cloak, carry a sword, what helmet straps are like, etc., etc.
The members of the Companie are all amateurs, who participate out of interest for the period portrayed. When the undertaking becomes professional, and one has to make a living off it, it is hard to remain authentic. I no longer have any real position in the Companie, since Ill be away here in New Zealand for a while. I hope to get back into reenactment when weve finally gotten There and Back Again.
Yes, of course, it is very inspirational, and constitutes a true mine of information. When the public has gone for the day, and the Companie can relax a bit, it is very much like being inside a painting by Memling. The Companie does have a web site: www.companie-of-st-george.ch. If I had a LOT more spare time, I would love to create a fantasy reeactment group, but to the same standards at a historical one.
I have a couple of book projects that I am very much looking forward to starting in on. I hope to accomplish the writing for them while working on the Hobbit and get layouts and sketches done. I believe there are also a couple of exhibitions planned.