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Interview With Jenny Dolfen

"Fields of Gold" - Jenny Dolfen

The Questions of X:

You illustrate widely understood fantasy, not only Tolkien works. What is your opinion on the role of the illustrator in context of the author's descriptions? Should illustrator make his works with high fidelity to the writer's instructions or maybe he is an artist who has a right to his own vision of some characters or views?

I think the artist should do both. And still, she will never please everyone. I usually walk a middle path. I stay as true to the books as I can, and don't usually go knowingly against a direct description, but I will make use of artistic license from time to time.

Can you tell us something about Tolkien Fandom in Germany? Who are the most well - known Tolkienists (Tolkienite?) there? Have you got some convents or regular meetings of Tolkien fans? If yes, I really wonder how they look like.

I know that there are conventions, but I have never been to any of them. I'm not very active in the Tolkien fandom, mostly because I have been away from it for ten years, in which I didn't draw any Tolkien art at all. I probably would have loved to attend the great Tolkien Con in Bonn last October, but since that was the very day I gave birth to my son, there were other priorities ;)

Which other Tolkien illustrators do you like most and which the least? Why?

My two favourite Tolkien artists are John Howe and Alan Lee, and of the non-published ones, Katarzyna Karina Chmiel and Anke Eissmann, whom I actually prefer over the two "big names". I like the way they focus more on the characters.

While watching your works I noticed that you devote your attention mainly to the history of Noldor, and especially Feanoreans (with Maedhros as the most important one). I wonder what do you see in those characters and events that makes them so important to you. I ask with so much the bigger curiosity that they are also MY favourite characters.

The Silmarillion has been my favourite book ever since I read it twelve years ago. At first, my hero was Finrod, until I swerved to Maedhros. He is one of the more complex characters in the Silmarillion, with an evil streak to him which he probably hates, tries to fight, but loses everything in the end. It's an excellent example of the hero of a Greek tragedy. I didn't realize that back then, but that was probably it.

This question is simply impossible to avoid, although I know you have answered it many times before. What are your main inspirations in art and literature and how do they influence your image as an artist?

Tolkien is easily my greatest influence in literature. The feel of his work is evident not only in my Tolkien pictures. In art, there are many artists whom I like. I think the one who probably influenced my style the most is Ilon Wikland, who illustrated most Astrid Lindgren books.

Which aspects of your works make you especially satisfied? What still needs to be corrected?

I think I'm good at faces, expressions, colours and moods. I know I could do better with backgrounds, folds, detail, anatomy, perspective, dramatic angles, and variation of faces. ;)

Which scene in Tolkien's legendarium moves you to deepest emotions? Why?

Not so much a scene - the whole last chapters of the Silmarillion. If I had to decide a scene, it would be the death of Fingon. The utter hopelessness of the war against Morgoth, the utter destruction of all the houses of the Noldor.

Which illustration of yours is the one that you would call the best of them?

I think it would be "Fields of Gold". It's not perfect, and I have been tempted to redo parts of it, but it's a very special picture for me, and judging by the feedback I get on my work, other people feel the same way.

What do you think about PJ's adaptation of the LOTR? Would you be enthusiastic to the idea of him filming your beloved Silmarillion tales? And more generally: do you think that filming the Silmarillion is possible at all?

I think Jackson did a terrific job. There are parts I don't like (Faramir, Aragorn), some that I *totally* don't like (Legolas skidding down the stairs of Helm's Deep on a shield), but overall, he did a marvellous job that brings me to tears every time. I do not think the Silmarillion could be made into a movie. A series might be a way to do it, but there is so little dialogue in it that it would have to be heavily reworked for the silver screen; and I?m not sure if it would be "my" Silmarillion any more.

Can we hope to see a work of yours devoted to "The Lord of the Rings" solely? Why are you ignoring it? :)

I've drawn a lot of Lord of the Rings pictures in my younger days, but since I read the Silmarillion, the Lord of the Rings has had to stand aside. It may also be that there isn't a single character in the Lord of the Rings that I like as much as some in the Silmarillion. All my art is character-driven.
Also, there has been so much LoTR art since the movies came out that I feel there is little need for more. ;)

The Questions of Adam:

When did you encounter Tolkien books for the first time? In what cirstumstances was it?

At a very early age. My mother read the Hobbit to me when I was six, and then, in fact, we went on to the Lord of the Rings. I was eight by the time we finished. She would paraphrase at times, or cut long descriptions short for my eight-year-old attention span. ;) She is a great Tolkien fan and was delighted that I loved the book so much, as well.

What's the meaning of Tolkien books in your life? Do they play or have they ever played any significant role?

Yes, very much so. I have always loved Fantasy, and I'm very picky about what I read because my very first Fantasy novels were Tolkien's. Most of my daydreaming takes place in Middle-earth.

What stories/tales from "Silmarillion"/LOTR/HoME are most precious to you and why are they significant?

Always the one featuring Maedhros, of course. ;)

Do you read Tolkien books in German or in English?

When I was a child, I read them in German, but switched to English as soon as I was able to understand enough (that was at sixteen or seventeen). I was eighteen when I first read the Silmarillion - in German, but reread it later that year in English, and that was when I became hooked once and for all.

When did you think about collaboration with Anke Eissman on your recent paintings? How was this collaboration going on?

I had emailed her about a copyright question, we got to talking, and decided we'd do a collab of some sort. Then the idea of doing a two-ways scene quickly evolved.

Are you going to paint Eomer or Boromir?

I will draw probably both of them before I die, eventually, yes ;) Éomer is more likely than Boromir, however. I've always loved the Rohirrim, but never liked Boromir much. The Bakshi movie spoiled him for me, I think.

What do you think about Bakshi's film based upon LOTR? I mean the cartoon.

I have to admit I watched it as a child ad loved it, and it got me to reread the books. I sort of forgot the movie then, and it mingled with my own imaginations. When I saw it again at sixteen or so, I couldn't believe how I could ever have liked it. From an artistic point of view, the last half hour was abysmal.

What do you think about elven languages? Do you know any of them or maybe are going to learn one?

I so wanted to learn Elvish when I was seventeen, but then, there were no dictionaries or grammar books. I learned by heart all the snippets from the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings. Now that I could, I probably won't. Too many people do. ;)

Do you usually read Tolkien books surrounded by silence or accompanied by sound I mean do you read Tolkien books listening to any music? If yes then could you tell us about this music?

I never listen to music while I read. Even the movie soundtrack - which I adore and usually have running while I paint - can't always be fitting unless you have it running on repeat during a chapter.

Which of your paintings would you give A mark and why?

That's hard to say. I always see areas in every single one of my pics that I could have done better, but there are many that I am truly satisfied with because they're just right. "Fields of Gold", "Alone he set forth" and "Kinslayer" are three examples. And yes; it's not a coincidence that all three of them are Tolkien themed. My Tolkien works often come out a notch better than all others.

Which of your paintings aren't you satisfied with?

Loads - and most of them are not online ;) One pic I was unhappy with almost right after I had finished was "The Dispossessed". The reason why I left it up is that it's a nice complementary to "The Coming of Fingolfin" (they were always intended to be mirror-pieces).

Now it's high time I asked about George R.R.Martin. I love his books and am looking forward to reading "Feast for crows" this or next year. What do you expect from this book?

I read on his website that he has split it and left out some characters. I'm a bit afraid of that. I love Jon Snow, and I hate Dany, for example. So if "A Feast for Crows" has a lot of Dany and no Jon in it, I fear I'm going to have a tough time getting through the book. On the other hand, if there is a lot of Jon in it and Dany gets "A Dance with Dragons", then the problem will arise a while later.

Are you going to illustrate it?

I always illustrate books that really grip me. So, if it grips me, there will most probably be pictures, yes.

Do you read David Gemmell books? If yes then are you going to illustrate them?

I have read one -" Ghost King" - which, I think, is not representative of his work. I started other books of his but never got far. I never cared a lot about his characters.

I'd like to thank you for your time and attention.

You can see the ilustration by Jenny Dolfen on her official vebsite and Here.

The Questions were prepered by Adam and X from

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