Lines and Colors art blog

Ted Nasmith, illustrations of  J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, and classic cars
Along with Alan lee, John Howe and the Hildebrant brothers, Canadian illustrator Ted Nasmith is one of the artists most associated with bringing to visual form the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

It’s difficult now to see past the look established by the extremely popular movies, but that look was largely developed from existing sources in popular illustration, one of which was Nasmith. Even though other commitments prevented him from accepting the invitation to work on the films directly, his influence on those who did work on them is evident. (There is an article here that discusses his unofficial influence on the look of the LoTR films.)

Influence and inspiration are a two way process, of course, and in Nasmith’s work I see an admiration for fantasy illustration greats from the golden age, like Arthur Rackham, John Bauer, Gustaf Tenggren and Maxfield Parrish, as well as his contemporary interpreters of Tolkein.

Nasmith has more recently been working on illustrations of the works of George R.R. Martin, including an upcoming deluxe edition of Game of Thrones.

In addition to his fantasy illustration, Nasmith has a background in architectural rendering, and a personal penchant for paintings of classic automobiles, some of which show an affection for 1960s advertising illustration. I enjoy the way he incorporates his skill with landscape and naturalistic elements into his automative renderings.

I’m particularly knocked out by Nasmith’s handling of his primary medium: gouache. I’ve frequently described gouache as an underrated and insufficiently appreciated medium, with a unique character and dramatic potential, and Nasmith’s mastery of opaque watercolor is a beautiful case in point.

With the exception of the image of Galdalf and the two hobbits at the glowing door to Moria (which was done in acrylic), all of the illustrations shown above — and with a few other exceptions, most of the pieces in his portfolio — were painted in gouache on illustration board.


2 responses to “Ted Nasmith”

  1. Brian Harrison Avatar
    Brian Harrison

    Very, very nice Charley, thanks 🙂
    Yeh, Designers Gouache was the medium of choice for commercial agencies and studio`s back in the 1960`s. It was surprisingly versatile, and quick drying, which helped in meeting those inevitable deadlines.
    Pushing the colour through an airbrush was a particular skill, but the medium was soon replaced by acrylic inks.
    I still have a HUGE collection of Designers Gouache which I can now enjoy without the pressure, and a nice change from digital media.

    1. Yes, it was replaced, as you said, by Acrylic, and then digital. (The amazing space themed illustrations of John Berkey were often done in a combination of gouache and acrylic.) Gouache has another characteristic that made it ideal for illustration, its matte surface makes it much easier to photograph than glossy mediums like oil. I think it’s also part of the medium’s visual charm; gouache just has a unique look to it, particularly when looking at originals in person.

      Gouache is regaining favor, I think, among plein air painters (myself included). James Gurney often posts interesting articles about his use of gouache on his blog, and is planning a new instructional video.