Beam Me Up
I was in a Barnes & Noble bookstore with Tim Kirk, a Tolkien calendar artist, when he showed me the graphic novel adaptation of THE HOBBIT with Donato's cover. Tim asked, "Have you seen this artist?"
I hadn't but I sat down and visually drank in the cover, a panoramic painting of Gandalf, the dwarves, and Bilbo Baggins in the mountains. The cover was by Donato Giancola, a new name to me.
With that cover alone, Donato assumed his rightful position in the first rank of Tolkien illustrators, which includes (in no particular order) Alan Lee, Ted Naismith, John Howe, Tim Kirk, Michael Whelan, Kinuko Craft, Michael Kaluta, Steve Hickman, Michael Hague, and many others.
What Donato brings to his visual interpretation of Middle-earth is a rich imagination, a gorgeous color palette, and a keen artist's eye in choosing scenes that resonate.
Not surprisingly, Donato prefers portraits, which is one of his many strengths: His art inspiration is from the old masters, and this book certainly shows that. The oil paintings show a mastery by an artist who is only in his forties; I can only imagine, with delight, what else we have to look forward to from his talented pen and brush in the future!
The color paintings are gorgeous, and the toned pieces (graphite on brown paper) are exquisite studies; together, you get to see the visual story behind many of the finished pieces. (I own the original art to the toned illustration on page 9, and can attest that the reproduction in this book is exceptionally close to the original--the printing is THAT good.)
If you ever get a chance to see Donato's originals, do so. He was at the Comicon and had many of these pieces on display. And, as good as the reproduction is in this book, you haven't really seen a Donato until you've seen it in person, in the scale the artist intended. (The painting for THE HOBBIT, for instance, measures 38 x 68 inches; and the painting for THE LORD OF THE RINGS measures 33 x 55 inches.)
When I edited THE ESSENTIAL JRR TOLKIEN SOURCEBOOK, I interviewed Donato (among others: Tim Kirk, Michael Whelan, Michael Kaluta, and Tim Kirk--all calendar or book artists), and he spoke long and lovingly about his great enthusiasm for Tolkien's masterwork.
Donato's passion for art and Middle-earth combine in this wonderful, full color book that will delight, amaze, enchant, and mesmerize any Tolkien fan.
It'd make a great Christmas gift for any Tolkien fan you know, or a great gift for yourself. Either way, get a copy and make someone happy.
Kudos to Tim Underwood (SPECTRUM publisher) for publishing this, and to Arnie Fenner for a classic design. This book, simply, is one for the ages, and I look forward to more compilations of Donato's classic art.
I have been a Donato fan for a while so I knew a book with his name stamped on it would be good. But I tell you, it turned out even better. I don't look at this book as a reintroduction to Lord of the Rings but a book that showcases Donato's impeccable talent. When critiques title him as a 20th Century old Master they are correct. Great art work that tells a story.
Richard A. Tucker
I have to say, I'm Middle Earthed out.
The only down point to this book is the subject. Despite that, this is a delightfully packaged and beautiful showcase for the fantastic work of an artist who deserves more attention. Donato Giancola is a painter like few others. The richness of his colors, the varying hues and use of ambient light to show the translucent quality of skin is so well done it's hard to believe this is a modern artist. Even better are the drawings showcasing his design and compositional processes.
Being an artist myself I've found one commonality among artists- we like to see how well other artists draw. We know it's the key to good design, composition and, for illustrators, good storytelling. Donato's drawings are solid, well rendered, balanced and richly detailed without being cluttered. This is why he's an artist's artist.
This book is how art books should be done with just enough text to explain the techniques, inspiration and drive of the artist but really allowing the art to speak for itself in the event that the viewer just wants to get lost in bold pageantry of a master storyteller through his work.
I almost resent that I'm drawn again into the works of J.R.R. Tolkien but this book is an excellent excuse to reinvest some time into this literary giant of an idea, fleshed out again by an artist with a unique and yet very respect take on this world.
This book should be in the hands of both Tolkien's fans and those fond of artists so well skilled in rendering these themes.
I can only hope this book paves the way for a larger collection of Donato Giancola's artwork.
Donato is quite possibly my favorite artist alive today. When I got this book I couldn't peel my eyes away. Every page was a feast. Being an artist myself, Donato raises the bar for all of us wanting to make it into the business of illustration. His take of Middle-Earth is unique to his philosophy on story-telling and picture making. The paintings included in this book are but a fraction of the amazing output this man has. It's a great addition to any art book collection, but especially welcome to any Tolkien fans.
Donato Giancola is without a doubt the greatest artist to depict Tolkien's Middle-Earth this side of Alan Lee and John Howe. His work is beautiful, looking like it belongs in a classical art exhibit. Looking at his art is as if the Renaissance masters were depicting the events of Tolkien's literature.
I was first exposed to Giancola through his jacket art on the Sci-Fi Club's single-volume release of The Lord of the Rings (this same piece is used on the cover of this collection). Immediately I knew I had to find more about the artist. This lead me to Giancola's "Middle-Earth: Visions of Modern Myth", and it did not disappoint. His art is full of emotion, striking realism, and beauty. Most remarkable is how Giancola depicts these characters different from all others before him. Most other artists have followed in the foot steps of Hildebrandt, or Howe and Lee (especially due to the success of the film adaptations). In a vast ocean of fantasy artists who have tackled Tolkien's Middle Earth, Giancola's Visions of Modern Myth sits in a well-deserved spot in my library next to the likes of Howe, Lee, and the Brothers Hildebrandt.
Online I've seen that Giancola has done more Tolkien pieces since the time of this book's publication. Here's to the hope of seeing a second volume!