Selections to be published in 2014 as WRATH, RUIN AND A RED NIGHTFALL: The Art of John Cockshaw by Oloris Publishing.

Welcome to the blog and this collection of original artwork inspired by The Lord of the Rings and J.R.R Tolkien's wider mythology of Middle-earth. Aside from the influence of the source writing of Tolkien influence is also drawn from Director Peter Jackson's film trilogy (2001-2003) and the highly regarded Tolkien illustrators Alan Lee and John Howe. The magnificent musical score written for the film trilogy by Howard Shore also holds a significant influence upon the atmospheric and evocative quality of the works in this collection. From Mordor to the Misty Mountains combines landscape, miniature-scale and composite photography to depict locations, dramatic scenes and characters from the enduringly popular stories.

Copyright of all images belongs to John A Cockshaw


Now far ahead the road has gone...

It's been a very busy number of weeks recently in preparation for this upcoming show in my home city of Ripon, North Yorkshire.  The exhibition, I'm proud to say, will be the fruit of lots of hard work, tricky logistics and spades of enthusiasm.  Accompanying my own art will be the renowned Tolkien Artist Ted Nasmith and excellent graphite artist Katarzyna Chmiel-Gugulska.

Hosted at the luxury Art Cinema venue Curzon Ripon the exhibition will run over December and January with a preview on Friday 12th December from 7pm to 9pm.  It will quite nicely also tie in with the screenings of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  The main aim of the exhibition will be to provide a thought-provoking exploration of Tolkien's Middle-earth through distinct interpretations.

My thanks go to friend and curator Becky Dillon for guidance on exhibition planning and for facilitating the introductions with the artists and agents.

The full PRESS RELEASE was posted recently in the Arts section of The Yorkshire Times and a great feature story written by Lily Milos over at Middle-earth news.

Pre-release poster of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies at Curzon Ripon


Artist talk and exhibition in Oxford with The Tolkien Society

Artist talk: From Mordor to the Misty Mountains. Sat 13th September

This weekend (Saturday 13th September) I had the pleasure of giving a presentation on my Tolkien-inspired artwork at The Tolkien Society's annual meet in Oxford.  Oxonmoot took place in the beautiful surroundings of Lady Margaret Hall, one of the colleges of Oxford University.  The presentation touched on many aspects of my artwork and detailed a large amount of the thinking behind it and influences upon it.

It was also the chance to preview a couple of new works in progress at the end, despite running out of time to include all the content I'd prepared.  Overall it was a fantastic experience and I also had the chance to exhibit again as last year in the accompanying Arts show with artists like Jay Johnstone, Tomas Hijo, Ted Nasmith, Soni Alcorn-Hender and Anke Eissmann to name but a few.
The exhibition was organised and run by Elena Krysova whom I owe many thanks for her hard work in co-ordinating it all.

Preview of new work in progress

Confrontation with Smaug

Advancing army (Helm's Deep draft) or Battle of the five-beat pattern (2nd preliminary title in response to Howard Shore's Middle-earth scores)


Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of The Fellowship of the Ring

To mark the 60th anniversary of the first publishing of 'The Fellowship of the Ring' by George Allen and Unwin, Ltd. on 29th July 1954 I've gone back quite a way to the genesis of this very project to include variations on a scene of the Shire.  This isn't Bag End but it evokes a sense of the tranquility of the Shire that both Bagginses hold dear.  I hope it is a vision of the Shire worthy of J.R.R Tolkien's words.

In a hole in the ground...

Shire dwelling and a well-kept garden 

The Shire (variation of Shire dwelling and a well-kept garden)


A precious wants to be found!

Lost in the Goblin tunnels (a study of the ring before Bilbo's finding of it)

Study 1: For a new owner

I'm always very excited to photograph new studies of the ring at various points in the timeline of Middle-earth.  Here, it was about finding a location to suitably evoke the Goblin tunnels but had strong enough lighting to provide some decent images.  With these pieces the importance is very much on giving the ring a sense of awakening and a sentience all it's own as it very soon is about to come into the hands of hobbit Bilbo Baggins...

Study 2: Found in the tunnels

Study 3: A Golden ring

Study 4: It wants to be found

Hurrah for notching up 20,000+ page views this week too - a very preciousss chance to celebrate!


A resounding scoop on TORn!

This post largely, in content, duplicates the reflective article in the post previous but it was my pleasure that The One liked the piece and published it in full on Tuesday 24th June.

See how the article shaped up here!

Better still, it was a thrill that the article (referencing as it does the sterling work of musicologist and author Doug Adams) appeared in the same news cycle as an item announcing Adams' appearance at Salt Lake City Fantasy Con and his 'return to Tolkien's world'.

Doug Adams was also kind enough to respond with feedback and share news of my article's appearance on TORn on Twitter.  Much appreciated Doug!

The piece of artwork below didn't appear within the main article but further explores musical ideas of Howard Shore's Middle-earth music; with a particular focus on Smaug.  Smaug's musical presentation in The Hobbit films is something I intend to explore in upcoming work but this initial concept is a good start.  Using a fine exposure tool I've etched a portion of Smaug's musical phrase (referencing Adams' liner notes from the soundtrack release for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) above a grim representation of Bilbo approaching the sleeping dragon.  There will be more to follow on this idea in good time...

Lastly, other interesting things are also in the works with fellow artists and poets so it will be nice to drop hints along the way if I can...


Ascension, decline and a ring resounds: essay and artwork

A Ring resounds in Middle-earth:

An artistic response to the thematic theatrics of 
Howard Shore's scores

by John Cockshaw

Ring Cycle (2014)
Ascension and decline (2014)
A scene quietly unfolds onscreen.

A well-known wizard sits in front of a warmly-lit hearth in concerned contemplation,

The focus of his thoughts is simply a ring.

The orchestra stirs gently,

The strings swell ever so slightly,

An ancient-sounding musical theme is heard, circling with a breath-like regularity.

This is an early appearance of the History of the ring as identified and analysed by musicologist Doug Adams chronicler of Howard Shore’s score for The Lord of the Rings, and this breathing quality is a trademark of much of Shore’s music but also stands as one of the components that brings his Middle-earth writing to life so enticingly.

This is a theme of many guises and permutations over the course of a 10 hour plus film score that gives a musical voice to that most central of objects in Tolkien’s Middle-earth; The One Ring.  Through this theme the ring of power is bestowed with anthropomorphic qualities and assumes its central spot in the weighty drama with ever increasing diversity as the storytelling progresses.

Variations on a theme of The Ring of Power (2014) 
Howard Shore’s film score taken as a telling of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in its own right is a tremendously vast operatic work, a masterful orchestral powerhouse of a score written in the digital age of film music. Tied to the film trilogy it works beautifully and away from it works exactly the same on account of its multi-textured and thematically rich presentation.  It is a kingly gift to devotees of Tolkien’s books as well as enthusiasts of the film it accompanies and also to lovers of grand symphonic film music who might lament the lack of that trend in film music today.  Each of the separate scores for The Fellowship of The Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King form a separate act in a unifying and immensely satisfying whole.

Concert performances, lectures, a symphony, a whole book by Doug Adams and a trio of ‘complete recordings’ releases have sprung from this grand musical work – the legacy of Shore’s work has extended much further beyond the film trilogy it accompanies, but of course wouldn’t have been afforded the necessity or budget to come into being without it.  There will always be other fine orchestral interpretations of Tolkien’s Middle-earth to give it company, such as Johan De Mej’s Symphony No. 1 The Lord of the Rings, Stephen Oliver’s music for the much-loved BBC Radio adaptation and Leonard Rosenman’s score to the Ralph Bakshi animated film.  But none of these offer such an extensive effort at world-building through music that Shore achieves, and that is another particular aspect of Howard Shore’s score that defines its brilliance.  The benefit of in-depth planning and roughly a year-long period of preparation for each of the film scores is a circumstance that happens all too rarely on film projects simply for the lack of time, impossibly short deadlines and other conspiring circumstances. Shore’s The Lord of the Rings is a product of its unique circumstances with the composer being involved in the film production from an early stage in its development.  Canadian composer Shore came to the production with prior experience of composing music for literary adaptations and approaching projects with an operatic sensibility.  In his 2010 book The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films: A Comprehensive Account of Howard Shore’s Scores Doug Adams comments that the search for the right composer for the project was a crucial element for the production team to get right, “the author’s complex literary structure required a worthy musical equivalent.  And then there was the epic tale itself, overflowing with cultures, customs, friendship, sacrifice, adventure and danger.” 


HobbitCon 2 AND an Entish evolution (Step-by-step progression)

Photo courtesy of Becky Dillon

HobbitCon 2 took place over Easter weekend (19th-21st April) in Bonn, Germany at the Maritim Hotel and was host to a whole array of special events, guests (inc. the dwarf cast of The Hobbit and Richard Taylor from Weta) and presentations including a show of art that I was invited to be part of by the wonderful Becky Dillon.  The feedback I managed to receive from viewers and buyers was incredible and I wholeheartedly would have loved to have been there.

See Marcel Aubron-Bulles' article on The Tolkienist for more information about the collective of artists with links to their respective websites:

A step-by-step approach to depicting Treebeard

Taking the opportunity to delve a little more into my working processes my focus will fix on Treebeard.  Many a woodland walk has taken a magical turn when facial forms in the trees have jumped out to me when I've had camera in hand.  These photographic sources have been used in combination and formed the basis for progressing to a refined interpretation of the tree-herding ent.

This piece, because of the complexity of building a likeness of Treebeard from tree forms and texture, benefitted from a physical cut and paste collage from photo prints.  Being a crucial stage of developing the piece I could be confident that I'd selected the right elements to achieve the effect I was aiming for.

Many pieces begin with a collage stage in this way but are altered exponentially in the digital building stage, but this collage displayed such promise that I did not stray too far from the template - becoming the final piece as shown below.


Further based on all the original photographic tree studies, and referencing the final piece, came a pencil sketch of the same idea - particularly focusing on imbuing a personality on the character (the sketch focusing on the wisdom of the character as opposed to the far-away sadness in the photographic versions whether related to the entwives or Saruman's felling of trees).

The wisdom of Treebeard (ent study)

Monochrome variations and presentations of Tree-herder in combination with The dreams of trees unfold (the full-colour version as shown below these two pieces).

The dreams of trees unfold

I hope this has been an interesting reveal into how these pieces are shaped and developed.  Time now for me to depart and begin plotting some new work...


Beyond the woodland...monochrome series collection #4

Aftermath, high towers, open country and moments of quiet reflection are the subject of this latest post. New pieces appear for the first time alongside monochrome variants of previous works that are allowed a fresh presentation when drained of colour.

A weary road far from home

Open country: feet of the westward slopes
(View towards the watchtower)

‘The hills drew nearer.  They made an undulating ridge, often rising almost to a thousand feet, and here and there falling again to low clefts or passes leading into the eastern land beyond.  Along the crest of the ridge the hobbits could see what looked to be the remains of green-grown walls and dikes, and in the clefts there still stood the ruins of old works of stone.  By night they had reached the feet of the westward slopes, and there they camped.  It was the night of the fifth of October, and they were six nights out from Bree.’

The Fellowship of the Ring Chapter 11 A Knife in the dark p.184/185
The Lord of the Rings Book I (J.R.R Tolkien)

Open country: pike from afar
Charcoal, pencil and oil

Aftermath at Isengard (a wizard's voice)

To the high tower over the trees (Beyond the woodland)

At the highest council
Of half-elven host
The Grey Pilgrim
Wise wizard
Of the
Tower of Stone
And the fate he befell

‘ the midst of that valley is a tower of stone called Orthanc.  It was not made by Saruman, but by the Men of Numenor long ago; and it is very tall and has many secrets; yet it looks not to be a work of craft.  It cannot be reached save by passing the circle of Isengard; and in that circle there is only one gate.’

The Fellowship of the Ring Chapter 2 The council of Elrond p.258
The Lord of the Rings Book II (J.R.R Tolkien)

Encounter in a woodland glade monochrome variation

This meeting couple need not be disturbed
Speak of them if you wish
For it will make a nice game of identities...


Studies of the realm of Gondor #2

The Building of Minas Tirith

(combined full and miniature-scale photographic elements)

Before not too long I hope to drop in with a post about Hobbit Con 2 that took place over Easter weekend in Bonn, Germany and the fantastic opportunity I had to have some artwork featured in the event, but in the meantime the focus falls again on Gondor...

A sense of before and after...

Ruined arch and tower Osgiliath-inspired pencil study

This pencil study was produced to accompany The ruins of Osgiliath (the monochrome version of which is included below) and was based on an even quicker sketch with accompanying photographs taken at Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland.  The site was extremely reminiscent of Osgiliath and from this small focus on the tower of the sketch sprung the idea for the remaining elements of the composition.  Many additional photographic expeditions were required before all the sources for the remaining elements were found - but this is truly the most exciting aspect of working in this way.

The ruins of Osgiliath monochrome variation

Studies of the realm of Gondor #1

On the battlefield woe remains

Creating a sense of the ruined aftermath upon the Pelennor was my main exploration of this piece (accompanied by its monochrome variation below).  I wanted to create a sense of destruction that was distant to the eye but anchored by remnants of masonary and charred detritus in the foreground; hoping that suggestion might unveil a whole manner of unspeakable horror beyond the frame.

Woe on the battlefield monochrome variation

‘Away to the eastward the distant fire flickered, and now it seemed that here and there they crept across the plain.  Houses and barns were burning.  The from many points little rivers of red flame came hurrying on, winding through the gloom, converging towards the line of the broad road that led from the City-gate to Osgiliath’
‘It drew now to evening by the hour, and the light was so dim that even far-sighted men upon the Citadel could discern little clearly out upon the fields, save only the burnings that ever multiplied, and the lines of fire that grew in length and speed.’

The Return of the King Chapter 4 The Siege of Gondor p.819
The Lord of the Rings Book V (J.R.R Tolkien)


A precious kind of treachery...Monochrome series collection #3

Pertaining to the ring, its treacherous quality and the specific ties it has to Smeagol / Gollum is the focus for the latest collection of monochrome variations of existing full-colour pieces.  The bleaker and starker monochrome presentation adds a purposely chilling dimension to these photographic works.

The Finding of the ring

A secret only fire can tell

A wretched trail variation 1

A wretched trail variation 2

Cave of the precious

Forging of the ring


For the Fall of Sauron: Artwork features in 'Mechtild'

Exactly a week back it was March 25th or Tolkien Reading Day and Tolkien-related reading, events and commemorations are entered into by Tolkienists, Tolkien enthusiasts and fanatics.  March 25th, on the calendar of events in The Lord of the Rings is the anniversary of The Fall of Sauron also known as the "day of hope" (as declared by Aragorn).

The Tolkien-focused journal Mechtild commemorated this anniversary with a potent and moving poem entitled Hope by Janet Alvarez (pen-name Jan-u-wine) along with a request to include two pieces of artwork of mine that reference Sauron's domain.

With thanks to Linda Backman aka 'Mechtild' and Janet Alvarez the full article from March 25th can be read below:

Cold country, fearful forest (inspired by Sir Gawain and the Green Knight)

A rare post here concerned not with Middle-earth but Arthurian legend, with specific focus on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  The link to Tolkien is clear on account of his translation of the legendary tale undertaken during the 1920's (published posthumously much later).  I'm forever drawn to alliterative verse and so keep returning to Sir Gawain, which will also be the case for Tolkien's The Fall of Arthur (published in 2013).  Similar to the inspiring aspects that The Lord of the Rings has on my artwork the catalyst that prompted me to embark on work inspired by this tale is the strength of the landscape writing.  My first discovery and my most favourite rendering of Sir Gawain is by Poet Simon Armitage whose presentation of the harsh natural landscape coupled with his mastery of colourful alliteration is a joy to behold.

Departing Knight

Gawain's travails in the forest


...and Orodruin reeled

The Summit of Doom

"...and Orodruin reeled.  Fire belched from its riven summit.  The skies burst into thunder seared with lightning.

The Return of the King Chapter 3 Mount Doom p.947
The Lord of the Rings Book VI (J.R.R Tolkien)

War comes to the Pelennor fields

The City besieged (enclosed in a ring of foes)

A hellish vision of the battle of Pelennor fields is presented here suggesting all manner of brutality and ruin before the gates of Minas Tirith.  The scene is bleak and the citadel is succumbing to the might of Mordor...all but for the glimmer of hope to the right of the composition and the approach of the riders of Rohan.

The City besieged colour variant

‘Ever since the middle night the great assault had gone on...There came great beasts, like moving houses in the red and fitful light...All before the walls on either side of the Gate the ground was choked with wreck and with bodies of the slain; yet still driven as by a madness more and more came up...Horns, horns, horns.  In dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed.  Great horns of the north blowing.  Rohan had come at last.’

The Return of the King Chapter 4 The Siege of Gondor p.828-29
The Lord of the Rings Book V (J.R.R Tolkien)


Artist feature on The Tolkienist

Many thanks to Marcel Aubron-Bulles for the coverage on the excellent website The Tolkienist to discuss the aspects of influence and approach that keep me charting an artistic course through J.R.R Tolkien's Middle-earth.  I had a nice opportunity to again refer to the majesty of Howard Shore's film music and Doug Adams' analysis of it as a point of influence in addition to why I choose photographic methods for this work.

Article: Introducing the art of John Cockshaw: a different path to Middle-earth

Also particularly great was the first official mention of the introduction that will be included within the upcoming book Wrath, Ruin and a Red Nightfall by Oloris Publishing.  Archaeologist Shaun Richardson, a great friend of mine and fellow Tolkien enthusiast, will be providing a fascinating and thought-provoking piece to open the art volume that touches upon archaeological aspects of Tolkien side-by-side with references to art history and our shared interest of the visual aspects of experiencing landscape.

Crummackdale in the Yorkshire Dales where I accompanied Shaun on an archaeological survey in Summer 2009.