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I first read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit when I was eighteen. It felt as though the author had taken every element I'd ever want in a story and woven them into one huge, seamless narrative; but more important, for me, Tolkien had created a place, a vast, beautiful, awesome landscape, which remained a resource long after the protagonists had finished their battles and gone their separate ways. In illustrating The Lord of the Rings I allowed the landscapes to predominate. In some of the scenes the characters are so small they are barely discernible. This suited my own inclinations and my wish to avoid, as much as possible, interfering with the pictures being built up in the reader's mind, which tends to be more closely focussed on characters and their inter-relationships. I felt my task lay in shadowing the heroes on their epic quest, often at a distance, closing in on them at times of heightened emotion but avoiding trying to re-create the dramatic highpoints of the text. With The Hobbit, however, it didn't seem appropriate to keep such a distance, particularly from the hero himself. I don't think I've ever seen a drawing of a Hobbit which quite convinced me, and I don't know whether I've gotten any closer myself with my depictions of Bilbo. I'm fairly happy with the picture of him standing outside Bag End, before Gandalf arrives and turns his world upside-down, but I've come to the conclusion that one of the reasons Hobbits are so quiet and elusive is to avoid the prying eyes of illustrators.

Alan Lee

There is a storytelling element in there. The tango form is a little like the blues in that you have a kind of structure. It’s not as rigid as twelve bar, but it's very much a storytelling medium -- and there’s an element of call-and-response, and a particular arc in the musical form, that suggest a story. It's about being in the moment, with the music; and responding to your partner, and the particular feeling and momentum in her body in any one moment. It’s a very concentrated thing; you can’t think about anything else while you are doing it. If you try to hold a conversation, it just kind of falls apart. The music was what really drew me into tango. Everyone knows a few of the more popular tango classics, but once you get into it, there’s such a rich field. It’s astonishing, this kind of miraculous musical form that developed in a very small locality: two cities on either side of the River Plate, in Argentina and Urugauy. It started in the 1880s or '90s, and there are all kinds of mysteries, myths and stories, about how tango started and developed. It was first of all considered really low-life, almost reptilian. Something to be avoided and not talked about. And then it became this word wide phenomena. . .and I could go on talking about tango forever. . . . but its also to do with movement. I try to get that into my pictures: a sense of movement, something flowing through. A while ago, I realised how much I'd been drawing dancing figures in the corners of my sketchbooks for years before I discovered tango!

Alan Lee
Alan Lee
Alan Lee

Born: August 20, 1947

Profession: Illustrator

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