Composer Howard Shore
Play 01 A Storm Is Coming
~ Anthony Gibbs   February 1, 2020
~ itd64   January 03, 2020
~ Bruce Gerlach March 14, 2018
~ Stormcrow  February 27, 2018
~ YB (Hadiya)  January 3, 2018
David Rabbitte  December 30, 2017
~ Kenneth Ditrich   November 3, 2017
~ ARDA  October 14, 2017
~ Anthony Gibbs  July 6, 2017
~ Ingrid Hardy  June 3, 2017
~ Holly  May 3, 2017
~ Kevin Reinke  April 3, 2017
~ Anthony Gibbs  March 3, 2017
~ Soni Alcorn-Hender  February 3, 2017
~ Kenneth Ditrich  December 29, 2016
LOTR Arts reviews, experiences, insights on The Lord of the Rings, Art and Collecting Articles from LOTR artists & collectors added each month.                  
February 1, 2020   This Replica Life – by Anthony Gibbs

Officially licensed replicas are all well and good for the big ticket items that can be mass produced (in either limited numbers or as open editions), but what happens if there’s a specific item that you really want that the license holder doesn’t think is viable to produce? One could always wait it out and see if a commercial release happens or even contact a company that currently sells a range of licensed items and suggest what you would like to see released.

There is an off chance that the wish may come true and in fact it has happened in the past. When the Sideshow/Weta range of 1/6th scale statues came to an end, for many one main character that remained missing was Faramir and so at the time a custom commission sculpt was made and sold to around 30-40 people. Years later when Weta got the 1/6th scale statue license back a forum poll was started to ask people what they wanted to see most. Right at the top of the list was Faramir and Weta listened, even to the point that as it was being sculpted with the hood up over his head a second poll between hood up or down was very much in favour of the hood being down. Once again, Weta listened and the final statue did indeed ship with the hood down.

In many ways it was the ‘custom’ statues, in the form of garage kits (so named as these were often produced by individual fans, in the backyard shed and sold as unassembled and unpainted resin kits) that grew into the officially licensed business of collectible statues. While much the same could be said for prop replicas, if one want any such reproduction to be as close as possible to the real thing, then custom ‘home made’ creations become somewhat more difficult. Unlike any given statue, which involves sculpting the master and then creating moulds for all the resin production parts. Any prop replica is usually made out of metal, wood, fabrics/textiles, paper, gems and glass all of which require different skills and equipment in order to create the final object.

Nevertheless, this did not stop some from dreaming big and with the release of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy there was one very special item that had a few people wondering just how far you could push the idea of a custom replica. Near the start of The Fellowship of the Ring, we see Bilbo writing down his experiences travelling to Erebor and back again. In time, Frodo too would record his quest to destroy the One Ring in the same book. Ultimately, this manuscript would come to be known as the Red Book of Westmarch and form the basis of the books, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Hand inked, with numerous maps and illustrations and bound in red-leather, only a few pages would be seen in the movie and as a prop, only around 20 complete pages were ever made. But what if a full complete replica could be made, containing the whole story of both Bilbo’s and Frodo’s adventures as told and experienced by them? Crazy idea right… at the very least, it would require completely ‘re-writing’ the Tolkien text as if it was experienced and written in first person, basically as a journal from a Hobbits point of view.

Yet back in 2004, on a LOTR based forum, an individual by the name of Alan using the avatar tag of ‘ob1al’, proposed to do just that and was meet with overwhelming support for the idea. However, re-working the whole text was only half the challenge, in order to create an authentic replica, one still needed skills in calligraphy, illustration and leather working. As it turned out, Alan contacted a master artisan in New Zealand by the name of Indy, who not only had a deep interest in prop replicas, but at the time was also thinking about recreating the Red Book. For more than year, Alan plus a couple of other people worked on reverse-engineering the books back in to a chronicle of the same events, people, places and emotions as experienced by the Hobbits. At the same time, as chapters were finalised, Indy was crafting each page of the supplied text (using a unique hand writing style for both Bilbo and Frodo) along with any appropriate maps and illustrations. In time, including some of the more complex pages taking 2-3 hours to complete, a full Red Book of some 300 single sided pages was done.

Then these master pages were printed on a heavy parchment type paper and individually aged by hand. After which all pages are then stitched bound and wrapped in an embossed genuine leather cover, resulting in arguably the most ‘precious’ Middle-Earth artefact one could own, a complete Red Book of Westmarch.

Outside of the original order group back in the mid 2000’s, Indy does from time to time and when not busy with other work, make a few more Red Books each year. I was not part of the original group or forum and in fact did not start collecting at all till early 2007, when I joined another forum, the old Shadow and Flame. It was there that someone made us aware of the Red Book project and worked on another group order. When they just stopped posting for some reason, I ended up taking over and communicating with Indy for the group as we arranged to purchase our own copies of the Red Book. I received mine around July 2009....but the journey didn’t end there.

On top of the polystone statues, prop replicas was starting to become a bigger interest, around a certain theme and display idea, with the Red Book shaping up to be the centre piece. I had already purchased licensed replicas of some jewellery items, such as Aragorn’s Ring of Barahir, along with Arwen Evenstar’s Pendant and Galadriel’s Phial that she gave to Frodo. Plus the One Ring, which I would later replace with a more authentic version made by the actual jeweller which made the ones used in the film. All of these items are commercial products and fitted together well, but still lacked a bit of that direct connection to the Red Book. On looking at the films, the solution was obvious and sitting right on the drawing table… Bilbo’s Inkwell.

Purchasing a licensed product was not an option, I looked and no one made an Inkwell. Even checking around for a source of already custom made Inkwells proved to be fruitless. While it did confirm that the idea was not anything new, the original group that produced the Red Book had the same idea and found someone to make a short run of Inkwells (which was not Indy, while he is skilled in many crafts, glass blowing isn’t one of them). As this was now a number of years later, any Inkwells had long since sold and general discussions ended. So if I wanted an Inkwell, I would have to make one myself, which was a problem, since I had no idea how to make glass objects either.

I floated the idea on the Shadow and Flame forum at the time, just to see if anyone else would be interested and I got around half a dozen or so that would like an Inkwell to go with their Red Book. But as always, it would depend on the quality of the item and of course the final price. With that in mind and some reference photo’s I headed into a local crafts type business that was known to me, were a whole group of artists get together to make and sell a wide range of products that have a bit more of the personal touch compared to mass produced items.

I already knew that glass works was one of the things they did, but as it turned out that was mostly done on a bit large scale then what I had in mind. Rather than hand making just a few Inkwells, their solution was to create a mould and then produce the Inkwells from that. While this would have resulted in a more consistent shape/size for each Inkwell, the initial setup cost, along with then each individual Inkwell, made any final cost too much for just a few to be made. This would have been the type of solution one would use if the goal was to make say 400 unique wine glasses for a top end restaurant, not 10 Inkwells for a bunch of ‘strange’ collectors.

The search therefore continued for a glass blower, with a preference of at least being in Australia (where I live) so that if a local pickup wasn’t an option, the postage wouldn’t be too much. It would have been a little silly and added more cost if the Inkwells ended up being made overseas, shipped to me in bulk, where I then had to ship just about all of them back overseas to each individual collector. As it turned out, I did managed to find an interstate glass blower who could take on the job at a cost that was reasonably acceptable to all those interested.

This then started a series of emails, including an overall description of the Inkwell and image from the movie. A few factors made getting an ‘exact’ match to the movie somewhat difficult. First of course was the fact it was only seen on screen briefly, from one angle. At the very least that angle was mostly in profile, so that did help.

In addition I also draw up a simple outline image to help guide the glass blower based on the initial sample they produced. Another fact that was very much guess work, was what size to actually make it. Which included a forum discussion about if it should be hobbit size or ‘normal’ size.

In the end, we went with normal size given that the Red Book replica was also much more normal human size (basically oversize A4, which would seem to be too big if an actual Hobbit had written it). With overall general agreement reached, the glass blower then made up a total of 12 bottles, all of which had some variation in size and shape due to the very individual handmade process. While the size didn’t vary that much, the shape in a couple of cases did. In the end I took 9 of them that I felt was the closest match to the movie version. One was for me and the other 8 for the forum members that wanted one.

The other variable in the production, which in some ways turned out to be more extreme then the shape, was the colour. Ideally each Inkwell would match the light-ish red colour as seen in the movie and while the same amount of additive was used during the production process, the final range of colours turned out to be much broader than expected. While partly dependent of the amount of light shining through the Inkwells, they ranged from a very light red, to a light-medium brown, all the way to an almost brown-black colour. In the end, this was just the nature of hand-made glass (or more likely random impurities in the colour additive that the glassblower had no control over), making each one unique in its own way and ultimately everyone was happy with the Inkwell they received.

As always happens with any ‘limited’ type production, I soon started getting messages from people wanting to know if there was any Inkwells still available. There wasn’t, since I only took what was needed for the initial interest. However the requests for more kept coming, so in the end a second round was ordered from the glassblower. Production was somewhat smoother and faster this time, having worked things out previously but there was still the basic variation due to the hand-made process.

I never did a third round, it was a fair bit of work to manage payments, all the hand packaging of bubble-wrap/peanuts and paper to make sure that something made of glass arrives unbroken to various locations all over the world, while at the same time not really making any money out of the whole process.

While my collecting was starting to slow down as the Hobbit movies were released, a couple of items still caught my eye. Like many, first was no doubt all the gold coins that Smaug was ‘keeping safe’ inside Erebor. This turned out easy to get, as a few people starting making and selling them over ebay and the like, till of course Weta ended up producing and selling an official set of the coins.

The other item that caught my eye was Beorn’s chess set and the single Hedgehog Pawn piece that we see Bilbo had ‘borrowed’ and stored, along with Sting and various other items from his adventure, in a chest at Bagend.

This time I very much doubted that Weta would release such an item and initially no one else had that I could find. So I started making some local enquires, thinking that maybe I could find a local woodworker that could carve one based on a few reference photo’s I could find. As it turned out, this ended up being somewhat harder and more expensive then I had first considered. As such I put the idea on hold for a bit of time but it turned out I wasn’t the only one who thought it would make a good collectible. While reading over the forums one day, I came across a sculptor that had already made the Pawn piece in resin and painted to look like wood. So in the end, that was easy, I just ordered one to add to my collection and I was done………

Well, almost.
All of those gold coins looked great and I bought around 8 (2 sets of the 4 different coins) from Weta, but they posed a bit of a display problem. While one could just ‘scatter’ them around, it really didn’t look right. It got me thinking that these are really dwarf coins, currency that likely would have been used daily in transactions between Erebor and the City of Dale and maybe by dwarfs all across Middle-Earth. As such it stands to reason that any self-respecting dwarf would use some sort of coin pouch to carry his or hers gold coins. There wasn’t anything obvious like this that appeared in the films or was clearly visible, however Weta are known for considering every detail, so it was possible such an item was considered and even made, regardless of if it appeared on screen.

For The Hobbit, Weta produced a whole series of detailed art books: The Hobbit Chronicles covering the design process for all 3 films. While reading each book, I was on a constant look out for a possible dwarven coin pouch, and then I found one…. sort of.

There was this single small image of what looked very much like a pouch used to hold coins, only it was labelled “Bofur’s tobacco pouch”.

With further searching not providing any other suitable alternatives, I decided that the ‘tobacco pouch’ would make a very fine coin pouch. My next problem was of course finding someone that could make a leather item with the look and feel of Middle-Earth and that I could afford. It turned out that was the easy part, as I knew a certain New Zealand artist that did a lot of leather work and had a keen interest in Middle-Earth props. When I contacted Indy about the project, he was indeed keen to take on the job and at a very reasonable price for the final product. The only ‘catch’, he was very busy with other work (which is nothing unusual, he’s always busy), so it maybe some time before he could make a start.

From memory, it ended up being about a year before he could take a shot at making the pouch. The first go was pretty good, but there was a few minor issues that Indy wasn’t totally happy with and so after making some adjustments, he produced another. I did make a forum thread about it at the time, but not really sure just how much interest or orders Indy had in the end. Even so, I was very happy with the final result and it fits in perfectly with the rest of my prop replicas.

Dealing with the creation of custom replicas at various levels was an interesting experience and over the course of time they all proceeded fairly smoothly. As such, it’s possible I slipped into a false sense of security and thought that all custom/commissioned projects would go just as smoothly. Turned out I was wrong…. But that’s a whole other story.

Anthony Gibbs      February 1, 2020
January 3, 2020

From another collector's viewpoint based in the UK..........

Take a step back in time..... circa 2001 - From Cate Blanchett's opening words, 'The World is changed ............... ' I was captivated to the point of obsession. Yes we have all heard of Bilbo Baggins and JRR Tolkien. But I was never book-learned. The only book I ever read was John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids which I had to do for 'O' Level English Literature - I just never had the patience for all that text. I sort of cheated afterwards and bought the audiobooks and the excellent BBC dramatisations.

Looking back now it's difficult to envisage what a profound effect Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring would have and still has on so many people. I grew up a fan of Science Fiction / Classic Horror fan - Star Wars, Close Encounters...., Planet of the Apes, The Invaders, The Devil Rides Out, The Omen etc.. The Lord of the Rings however fascinated and engaged me on a whole new level. From day one I was engrossed with the storytelling, the characters, the languages, the whole Tolkien World, I knew there was time worth spending here....

I've always been a collector of one thing or another, Marvel and DC comics, stamps, music cds and memorabilia, magazines and football cards. LOTR collectables gave the chance to enhance the passion and fill a void. It all started with polystone Sideshow Weta statues, busts and environments, then Decipher CCG trading cards. Then pieces from the Noble Collection and United Cutlery.

Keenly followed on by Topps trading cards - Yeah autographs - How cool were these I thought? - Signed on card by the all the main actors from the films. What is unusual on the first trading card set is that Topps managed to get all of the main stars to sign. The nine Fellowship members plus Cate, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee and Ian Holm. I had to track them all down. I was truly hooked!

There was however a twist. I later discovered not only was the Merry card inserted into 'Retail' only boxes, the rumour goes that only a small proportion of the cards made into boxes as they were signed in the pub by Dominic Monaghan, allegedly some were lost or defaced, making them an extremely rare pull. The inserted signatures were also quite inconsistent. Suffice to say I ending up paying a small fortune to secure the Master set and a card I was happy with - The card remains a very expensive purchase to this day.

Further card sets followed on for through to 2005. Regular followed by update sets just to make sure the cobwebs never form in deep wallets. The last a rather nice 'Trilogy' set with an exquisite base set. The only drama I can remember following the Merry card was the clamber to obtain a Peter Jackson autograph from the ROTK Update. Not Merry proportions but a very expensive card nevertheless. So that was it for card collecting after six sets. Or at least that's what I thought. Which bring us nicely on to ............................ sketchcards.

Mid 2006 I got a call out of the blue from Richard of Card Vault fame. 'Have you seen the new Lord of the Rings Evolution set with sketchcards?' Despite Richard's obvious enthusiasm and sales-pitch I was quite dismissive - I wasn't convinced. What can sketches add to the collection I asked myself? No cases for me then.

Then much later on I came across them on Ebay. Some of them were good, some really, really good ....... and expensive. Could I have got this all wrong? Obviously my conclusion was I had but I'd already missed the boat. There I was scouring the Topps boards trying to find out information. Reading engaging entries from collectors such as ocdlotr - some of those stories have been duplicated on the Scoundrel Forums if you want to find them. I managed to secure one case and selected cards from the secondary market. Rafael Kayanan and Cat Staggs dominated the high prices on this set but most cards were already tucked away in huge collections.

But late to the party could have been a blessing financially with the next release late 2006 - LOTR Masterpieces 1. And I was ready .............. the fun was about to start.

I remember there being quite a lot of hype surrounding the set. Artists proudly displaying their best cards previewed on MarleyEds emerging website Scoundrel Arts. Discussions as to what are considered the best and favourite sketchcards. The set contained many new emerging artists eager to promote and please. Everyone was starting feel the buzz. I ordered eight cases to break which I thought was a huge investment considering its very much a role of the dice. Four from Card Vault and another four from a dealer in the USA I had bought from before to secure full sets of LOTR CCG cards - Bushkill Cards and Games. I remember them arriving more or less together. I opened Richard's cases first. Opening each case by opening all eight boxes & spreading all of the packets n block on a tray. Sixteen sketches to come, or so the odds said.

Bingo! - First case soon reveals the most amazing card ever! The centerpiece of Kayanan's one of one artwork that was used to make the foil sets inserted into packs. The Gandalf piece with Saruman alongside. It couldn't get better than this.

But I was to carry on pulling amazing cards by The Master Len Bellinger, Sean Pence, Steven Miller, James Hodgkins etc. The next four cases revealed more stellar cards, two full colour sketches by Cat Staggs, beautiful cards by Jerry Vanderstelt, Patrick Hamill, Colleen Doran and Allison Sohn etc.

Wow, but what other cards to add? Hundreds of cards on ebay. Artist Return cards to track down. The Bank balance to think about - But OCD had well and truly kicked in by now. Thought I'd try to add a few returns from my favourite artists including an incredible card by Cat Staggs of Aragorn at the Gates of Moria. Made it matter of priority to collect further characters by Cat, Len, Sean and Allison in the secondary market.

This was also the season of the Memorabilia Show and Collectormania. I remember getting to NEC on one Saturday morning early and picking up a few cards including an amazing mounted Arwen card by Allison Sohn and another few cases to break when arriving home. This was at a time when Dealers pitched up with all their wares. Richard of Card Vault, Dave & Mike, Derek, Anthony, Steve, Chris, Rich with Cards etc - The scene was an extremely vibrant, civilised and exciting place to be.

I broke the cases that evening and pulled half of a diptych by Len Bellinger - Boromir and Lurtz. But.... I remembered seeing the other half at the show. Next morning raced back to Birmingham to acquire the other half and luckily the card was not sold - A deal was done with Richard.

One show Richard also had a beautiful card by Jerry Vanderstelt to show people - Arwen return that looked airbrushed but in the collection of private collector and not for sale - Still one of the best cards I have seen to date. He also organised a meet up with other like-minded UK collectors to share some their collections with each other. Happy days were these!
The secondary market at the time was ultra-competitive and International. I referred to it as the Ebay wars. I remember bidding on numerous cards only to end being sniped or outbid during the night as the majority of auctions tended to be USA based. But bear in mind the exchange rate was $2 to th £1 which was a great help in those early days. It took me about six attempts to win a Pence Legolas and the prices were ever increasing.

Also, you got to know who you were losing to as winning identities were then clear to see. I can't say I never had a chunter to myself but this was about collecting passion and obsession. Some of these bidders I couldn't compete with - I knew I had to show discipline........

Early 2008 bought the eagerly anticipated release of LOTR Masterpieces 2. After the quick sell out of M1 this was going to be bigger, much bigger with over 100 artists contracted - The format however was the same - Two sketches per box - Sixteen per case. I had pre-ordered ten cases and couldn't wait. Looking at the early breaks posted it I was starting to worry - Certain artists contracted for thousands of cards of poor quality, duplicated over and over in the same break. A definite case 'like butter scraped over too much bread'. Flippers and Dealers starting to vent about losing money. Still, for the collector there were great cards on ebay to be plundered and lots of surprises. The previews had been far less revealing than M1 so listings and breaks were fresh and eagerly anticipated.

I had decided to concentrate on some of newer artists this time - Soni Alcorn-Hender had been wowing the Tolkien collector for some time with her amazing free-hand personal sketches, Mark McHaley's amazing pencilling and colouring had come onto the radar and Ingrid Hardy's landscapes also appealed to me a lot. Lots of great new art to feed the need.
When I eventually got to break my cases, including some more loose boxes acquired at the next Memorabilia show, the pulls were actually much better than expected. No Bellingers, Pences, Staggs or one-of-ones this time, but three cards by Soni, multiple cards by Dennis Budd both full colour and sepia, great cards by Clay McCormack, Wayne Lo, Jeff Carlisle, Irma Ahmed and Mark McHaley plus other nice cards.

Also secured some beautiful cards direct from Cat Staggs and Allison Sohn and some other beautiful return cards by David Rabbitte, Soni, Irma Ahmed, Grant Gould, Joe Corroney, Rich Molinelli, Nick Neocleous and Dennis Budd from other collectors and dealers.

Over the years its always been a target to complete Master Sets for all of the LOTR releases, then upgrading and adding to my favourite artists. The fixation has never ended for me although the aura surrounding sketchcards has dwindled since the 2010's. Some collectors have left the hobby and some are just quite happy to sit on and enjoy their collections. Which leads me on to 2014 and Peter Jackson's The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey.

I was somewhat grateful for the lull in card sets as it gave me the chance to return to Sideshow Weta and pick up pieces I had neglected the first time around. Also chance to pick up some great new releases from Weta. Minas Tirith and Barad Dur environments come to mind. I'd also observed an upturn in the interest in LOTR and a few new and obsessive collectors joining the ranks. Scoundrel's traffic was starting to increase again and for the first time I'd started observing Blowout's message board. Contrary to many I actually liked The Unexpected Journey film a lot and was looking forward to breaking new product. Cryptozoic had taken the contract on and the reviews were excellent and all the main cast had signed except those we already had from LOTR, so I was happy - Except this time only three sketches in a twelve box case - And they were much more expensive – In fact double the price. Taking this into account I ordered four cases.
I was especially looking forward to cards from UK artists Andrew Fry and Carolyn Edwards who I already had a deep admiration for. Plus class act Soni was signed on for her second Tolkien set. Alas this was her one and only Hobbit set due to other commitments.

In honesty the AUJ sketches I pulled were overall disappointing with the exception of a fantastic card by Soni of Balin riding out from Hobbiton. On the flip side I pulled a complete set of autographs with plenty extras with trade value and a three autograph redemption card which I traded rather quickly for a fantastic Sean Pence Thorin Oakenshield.

The next set in the series in early 2015, The Desolation of Smaug followed far too quickly for my liking. I had been given the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy and took it gratefully as I'd become disillusioned with the job anyway. The natural reaction is to pull up the drawbridge and I sort of did this. I thought the film was a big step down on AUJ - Far too much Hollywood and gimmickry for my liking.

Still managed to secure four cases but the sketch pulls were again overall disappointing. I even had to use extras to make up the autograph Master Set. Not that I was lucky enough to pull any, but Cryptozoic added some rare 1/25 Illustration autographs all drawn by John Haun - Very nice touch. One noted pull was a beautiful full colour Bilbo by Gavin Hunt.
About this time I decided to trade off a few of my LOTR sketches to put together a modest set of Hobbit sketches. Inevitably, I do miss some of the old cards but never mind, the LOTR Master sets are preserved and without trading with some very honest and enthusiastic collectors my Hobbit collection would not have been possible. Truth is I still don't have the will power to resist nice cards when offered them or see them on ebay. I managed to find a good selection of Hobbit cards from some of my new found favourites - James Henry Smith, Mike James, Bob Stevlic and Marcia Dye amongst others.

The final set in the series - The Battle of the Five Armies - Came out in 2016. This was a great set on many fronts - We got Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans and Peter Jackson for the first time, and I was to pull multiples of them from my four cases! Disappointed we didn't get Cumberbatch or The Big Yin but you can't have everything. There was again six rare 1/25 illustration design autographs which I believe are from Alan Lee - Easily my favourite autos from all of the sets. The Ian Holm autograph was also a very short run and now very difficult to track down.

The sketches were also a little more widespread, a minimum of four cards per case and revealed my best pulls of the series - An amazing card by new artist to me Helga Wojik - Bard facing Smaug, Thorin by David Debois, Bofur by Rich Salvucci and Thranduil by Scott Houseman amongst the highlights. Must say on the whole Cryptozoic have done a great job on the Hobbit but the artists - Even better - Great bodies of work from the majority. Kudos to everyone.

But the luck on BotFA didn't end there. Those who frequent the Blowout Forums will know about the Group Case Breaks from various products by ifish73. I was late to the breaks and had had a go previously without much success. I bought four of the twenty-seven slots in the final case of BotFA and to my surprise won the first pick in the draft - Then amazingly one of the four R13 redemptions which are booklets with the autographs of all thirteen dwarves was pulled - The rest they say is history!

So to date.... Well if you're like me and you like structure you will always be looking to add cards to meet certain collecting goals. That's why there's always one more card ..........whether we will see another Tolkien set though remains to be seen but I think if Cryptozoic were up for an all encompassing set covering the six films, this would be great. I have a feeling however we will be waiting for the new TV series.

Good to see Weta still producing new LOTR products but how those prices have risen - And with VAT now added for European buyers, its a case of just buying the must haves which is a shame.... Just checking out the new SDCC reveals from Weta. Two standouts, an amazing 1/6 Treebeard with Merry and Pippin on branches, also Arwen and Frodo on Asfaloth. Probably out of range for most collectors but incredible additions for those that can endure.

Take care

My name is Bruce Gerlach and I am a freelance illustrator and sculptor. Always involved in the arts in some capacity throughout my adult life, it wasn’t until about ten years ago that I took the plunge and became an artist full-time and I have been making a go of it since. I have been lucky enough to have worked on some fun and interesting jobs in my career, including t-shirt designs, murals, cartoons, sketch cards, book illustrations, greeting cards, storyboards and logo designs. I have also had paintings, drawings and sculptures exhibited in shows and galleries here across the US and also in Iceland, Australia, and Italy. My cartoons have been selected for International exhibitions all over the world, including a one man show in Croatia. I’m sure it wasn’t much of a thing, but it’s a good conversation piece.

So, on to all things Lord of the Rings. My very first sketch card set was the Lord of the Rings Masterpieces II set released by Topps some time ago. I had originally signed up for 400 cards, but ended up over the next few months doing a total of 700 cards. Since this was my first time doing anything like this, I really had no idea just how to approach them, so I thought to do a variety of mediums, including pencil, colored pencil and ink. As I fumbled about trying to find something that could unify all my cards together, I ended up with some that I really was happy with and some that I was not so happy with.

The cards that I really was happy with were the black and white inked cards. I seemed to be gravitating back to ink work at this time and haven’t really stopped. The subject matter always helps and who wouldn’t just love to draw orcs all day?
Gandalf turned out to be a favorite of mine to draw, as well. Perhaps, it was the grizzled, craggily old man look, but I hope that I did a good job at capturing his likeness and expressions.
This card here is the only card that I ever kept for myself, not offering it up for sale. I just wanted a memento of my first card set and chose this one of Gandalf standing next to the door to the mines from my Artist Proof cards. Continuing with the black and white motif, below are some cards featuring more orcs. I tried my best to get in as many orcs as I could without being to repetitive. And there’s an Aragorn to boot.
Looking back at these cards, I think that I achieved something with them that I haven’t been able to capture since. The line work and contrast was working well for me on some of these. It would be interesting to do another Lord of the Rings set just to see if I’ve improved any with the subject matter.

I did a few cards just in pencil. I learned a tough lesson with these. There are unscrupulous people out there. At this time, I didn’t think of using a protective coating and learned the hard way that there are some people who will erase the pencil work and then offer up the blanks to an artist of their choosing to do something ‘better’ on them. But, I do enjoy drawing in pencil, so I did some of them so. There is a subtleness that can be achieved with pencil that I haven’t found in ink work. But, I can say that about any medium and that’s why I have a tendency to jump around looking for the right mode of expression.

And speaking of expression, there is only one way that I can express certain things and that is through cartooning (how’s that for a segue?). I was asked in an interview a few years ago just what is it about cartooning that is so appealing to me and though I haven’t a complete answer to that, I think it is the perfect vehicle for so many situation, but mostly, social satire. I have yet to find such a perfect way to show my thoughts and feelings about this as through the wonderful world of cartoons.

I mentioned above that my cartoons have been in some international cartoon exhibitions and shows and I truly believe that this experience led to me quitting my day job and becoming a full time artist. Luckily, I gained some awareness to my work and actually seemed to be appreciated by some. The great thing about these shows is that if one was selected for the show, they published a book, usually hardcover, with all the works in them and gave each artist a copy.

Having my cartoons in print in these various countries looked good for other potential publishers. Before these shows I did have some publication credits in various magazines, but this picked up some with my experiences internationally and I landed a couple of monthly gigs with a sex education magazine called Debaucheri and one with a physical rehab magazine called the Rehab Tribune. With each magazine they gave me a theme each month and I did a cartoon for them

Each time I submitted a toon to the sex ed. mag I thought that I might be pushing it too far, but they loved everything that I submitted. I soon learned that my cartoons were probably the raunchiest part of their magazine!

This toon here was one of the later ones that I did for them.
This cartoon is an unpublished one that I did as of late. Last year I took up kayaking finally and my first time out I was trying to come up with ideas for cartoons about kayaking. To my surprise, I have a few to go on, so when I came home I whipped up a few. There are kayaking magazines out there, but I have yet to find one that have a cartoon section. I did garner some interest with one and we communicated back and forth for a bit, but they just couldn’t find any room for some at this time. We’ll talk some more, I’m sure.

So, as you can see my cartooning habits run the spectrum of ideas and topics. They can be thoughtful and slapstick and I always employ them both.
One project that I worked on that was a lot of fun was with a start-up greeting card company called Dead Beat Dads Greeting Cards. And it was just that. Cards that one could send to that lovable loser in your life that has a habit of neglecting his own responsibilities. So, I was asked to draw up a variety of dads in all makes and sizes for all the major holidays, birthdays and the social event type days. They wanted just back and white (to keep costs down, I’m sure) and I sure hope that they are still kicking around somewhere.

I also paint (and sculpt) and here are a couple that I did just for the sole purpose of selling prints of them at comic book conventions and such. Hey, Crabman and The Boondock Saints. For quite some time these two were my most popular prints and the painting for the Saints piece remains one that I am most happy with. It was also the first time that I used an airbrush on a painting. I’m not sure how I feel using that tool, but it worked well enough for this piece.

Now and then I am able to do a logo for someone. Here are two that I think that I did a good job on. At least, the client did, so…

Hogsnot was one of those projects where the first sketch that I came up with was the one chosen for the final design. this happens quite a bit. Perhaps, it is because the first one is the freshest and raw. Of course, you have to work that out by a process of elimination. Hogsnot was/is a motor cycle motor oil company. The second logo was for a delivery service that wanted to use the Mercury motif in the design. With both of these designs you can see the cartoony element come through some. Of course!

The Hermit was a book illustration that I did for the Book of the Tarot published by Transfusion Publishing and the zombie giraffe for Zelda’s Zombie Zoo by Binary Press. Both titles were written by Gary Reed.

So, that is a brief (or maybe long winded) summary of my career as an artist. I certainly do love to work in the realm of pop culture and have been very lucky to have been able to play in that particular sandbox.







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