Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Return of the Geek

Fifteen birds in five fir trees
Virtual biscuit if you know which scene in The Hobbit this is from!

Exhibit A: Chibi Gandalf!
I'm dedicating this painting and this post to the most surreal few days I think I've ever had.  In part this was facilitated by amaretto, but mostly it was facilitated by the Tolkien Society who had their seven-year convention on our campus!  I found about this very last minute and rushed straight up there.  I was one of those kids who read The Lord of the Rings at age 12 and immediately began teaching themselves elvish, but since going to uni this little corner of my geek-dom has lain largely untouched and un-exercised.  (I do own a LotR Trivial Pursuit game but no one will play it with me because i keep winning!)  Last month I re-read The Hobbit in preparation for this December's movie release, hence the picture above.  I'd forgotten just how good a story it was but it worked it's magic all over again.  Going into that convention was like throwing the blinds open in a long-abandoned library.  Oh the things I have seen!!

I arrived in the afternoon and bust into the public-access area (shoes off as it happened, hobbit style.  I'm trying something new) which was a large gallery.  It was all fanart in some sense or another, but for me as an illustrator the variety of styles was pretty breath-taking.  There were famous (and internet-famous) names in there such as Ted Nasmith and Jenny Dolfen, and others that were new to me like the intricately patterned work of Ruth Lacon and Jay Johnstone, who has re-envisioned characters as icon art that would not look out of place in a Gondorian hallway.  I spent over ninety minutes discussing the display of Cor Blok's work with the enthusiastic Becky who was manning it for him.  His work was Tolkien's preferred style for illustrating LotR, which was interesting as it's so different from everything else I saw.  The illustrations are deceptively simple, flat shapes and planes, minimal characterisation, and yet the placement of characters tells you everything you need to know and they somehow capture the right 'feeling' for their scene.

Black Rider at the Ferry by Cor Blok.
If I had to pick one, this would be it.  The more you look at it, the cleverer it gets.
In some ways it mirrors Tolkien's writing as well, as he leaves out certain details and allows the reader's imagination to fill in that framework - we noted that Cor's figures never seem to have any arms, and yet from their hands alone you're in no doubt as to what gestures they're making.  I need to get hold of a book of prints I think, mainly because there were just too many that I loved to begin trying to buy them all!  I took my friends back the next day and actually met Cor Blok, at which point I became unaccountably bashful and really couldn't form a sentence :)


After perusing the crafts and book stalls I accidentally ended up in a lecture (usually meant for paying Society members) by 'Agent Green' in her sparkly coat, listening to a story about dragons.  I love the way that fans at a convention are able to completely enter into their chosen world and treat it with a straight face and a light heart.  When discussing the riding of dragons, our speaker turned to an elderly gentleman who'd arrived late and asked him "Have you ever ridden a dragons?"  Without missing a beat he replied "Oh yes, but you have to be awfully careful when they barrel-roll."

After that I wandered outside and found myself in the company of La Compagnie de Dragon Vert, a re-enactment group from France who combine Tolkien's work with knowledge of medieval history.  They were sitting around playing folk songs when I arrived, and one of them let me join tentatively in with his Irish whistle.  Although I'm still not as consistent as I'd like to be with remembering the tunes without the aid of sheet music they were very forgiving about it and it was interesting to sit there and share songs with them that often sounded very familiar.  Probably a lot of our folk tunes share common ancestries - one girl from France surprised me when she sang 'The Sally Gardens'.

I took my friends back the following afternoon for more browsing and stories, and then a showing of a fan-made film 'The Fellows Hip'.  It's a parody on Lord of the Rings, gaming culture, and all things geeky, and like so many labours of love the production values were extremely high.  If there's any criticisms I can make it's that the story is a tad slow to get going and the villains are somewhat heavy-handed, but all the other characters are a lot of fun and the spoofs are great.  Even my friends who didn't understand as many of the in-jokes as me found it very funny and we sat cackling away in the auditorium.  Off the back of this my housemate Katie is now getting a full education on Geek-dom, and all it's popular culture offshoots.  We're making her a blog, 'Geek for Noobs'.

Going back to work the next day, I really felt as though I'd been in another world and maybe it hadn't really happened at all.  I haven't had the opportunity to plumb the depths of my LotR fandom for some time, and the convention just reminded me of how much these stories -and the relationships that came out of them- still mean to me, and how much they've affected who I am.  So thanks, Tolkien Society; this one's for you.  Who knows, maybe I'll see you in again in 7 years time.  In the meantime, the Geek goes on.

No comments:

Post a Comment