Monday, January 14, 2013

Queer Lodgings

“He is a skin-changer. He changes his skin: sometimes he is a huge black bear, sometimes he is a great strong black-haired man with huge arms and a great beard…Some say that he is a bear descended from the great and ancient bears of the mountains that lived there before the giants came. Others say he is a man descended from the first men who lived before Smaug or the other dragons came into this part of the world, and before goblins came into the hills out of the North. I cannot say, though I fancy the last is the true tale… I once saw him sitting all alone on the top of the Carrock at night watching the moon sinking towards the Misty Mountains, and I heard him growl in the tongue of bears: ‘The day will come when they will perish and I shall go back!’ That is why I believe he once came from the mountains himself”

-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: Queer Lodgings

The imagery conjured by this passage has remained with me for nearly a year and a half. Countless projects have seen completion before this one, but ‘Beorn’ preceded them as a nearly polished idea in my subconscious. Despite its simplicity, illustrating the transfiguration of Beorn into a black bear was immensely challenging. The ambiguity of this ‘in-between’ stage was compensated for by fog and light. Intending for this to be more than portrait, I knew I had to introduce a conceptual element. I capitalized on the shapeshifter’s affinity for animals by encircling his body in an ethereal current made up of birds. Although Beorn had a particular love of bees, they didn’t translate as well from a visual standpoint. 

As this was an experiment of traditional and digital means of picture-making, constructive criticism is much appreciated :D

I am mightily excited for Swedish actor Mikael Persbrant's portrayal of Beorn in the second installment of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug. Although I did not take visual cues from Persbrant in this portrait, the duality of his facial expressions recall the kindness and ferocity of a bear. Excellent casting choice. 

1 comment:

  1. This looks simply gorgeous. although the idea of transforming into a bear wasn't really evident to me until I read your post the idea is an interesting one.