My Own Bit of Rivendell


“Rastoke Study 1” – Rastoke, Croatia Graphite on paper – A4


My drawing style and technique have been greatly influenced by two contemporary artists in particular: Alan Lee and John Howe. I’ve spent hours poring over Lee’s “Lord of the Rings Sketchbook” and Howe’s “Fantasy Drawing Workshop,” both of which helped me take my skills to a whole new level. I also learned how to loosen up my sketches, how to suggest detail and what to leave out. I discovered a high value in NOT drawing everything “just so.” In fact, I find that the less meticulous I get with my sketches, the more I learn about atmosphere and texture, and the better I am at depicting such things in more finished work.

Howe and Lee are masterful creators of imaginary landscapes. Their sketches of the deep woods, high mountains and rocky crags are viscerally believable. Add to that their facility with ruins and architecture, and an entire world comes alive. Still, it’s the ease and deftness with which they do it that I find so astounding: a few lines, some scratching, a bit of scribbling, and suddenly the Grey Havens or the Gates to Moria magically appear on the page. Both artists are known for sketching outside, drawing their inspiration from their immediate environment.

The more I get outside, and the more I travel, the more inspiration I find. Many seemingly fantastic landscapes actually exist on our planet. It’s not much of a stretch from Croatia to Middle Earth, for example.

In the town of Rastoke, the river splits and dashes off in different directions. Several branches of it flow directly through town, passing under and around the houses and winding through the park before cascading down the cliffs to rejoin the main stream. The locals use the hydro power for their old stone mills, among other things. When we arrived in mid-Spring, the water level was probably as high as it gets without flooding.

 As we walked up the road across from the town, I thought: “I could spend days here, just drawing streams and waterfalls!” We didn’t have days, but, fortunately, we took a lot of pictures.

This sketch is based on a small section of the cliffs at the edge of town. You can see the edge of the park in the upper left. I removed a few elements and modified others slightly to get the image to fit on the sheet. I felt like I was drawing my own bit of Rivendell.

As I do with most of my sketches, I used a 2mm drafting pencil with 6B lead, and a 0.5mm mechanical pencil with 2B lead. A lump of a kneaded eraser helped with some of the spray.