It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, admittedly since October actually. The last artist I spotlighted was Joel Hustak, an artist who appears about midway in the game’s history and has become rather prevalent in this latest cycle. Ironically, the artist for this post is almost the opposite. His cards herald back to the early days of the game, only going so far as Return to Mirkwood. Strangely enough, however, he does show up for an instant in the much more recent Nin-in-Eilph. I’ll go over that in more detail but I imagine, given the subject matter of that particular card, his art may have been pulled from an early submission back in the day.
Let’s jump into the work of Tom Garden, this month’s artist featured in “Art in the Lord of the Rings: LCG.”
The card that caught my attention was the Leadership Hero, Gloin. Being #3 of the Core Set, this card is one of the first we see as players. The use of brush strokes, muted color tones, and the sorrowful tone to the piece reminds me of many of the cards that come from those days. There’s an old, antiquated feel to these illustrations, and many give me the feeling that no matter how positive the image may be, there are dark days on the horizon. Gloin’s depiction is no exception.
This piece reminds me of Lucas Graciano’s depiction of the Core Set Gandalf. Like that illustration, this portrayal of Gloin isn’t absent of color by any means. There are strong greens, a hint of gold, and Gloin’s axe, albeit silver/gray, gleams in the sunlight. And yet the picture isn’t altogether a happy one. There is a pale light permeating through the work, feeling like a fog that can’t quite be seen. It appears to me as Gloin is prepping himself for a harrowing battle, or is recovering from one. Given his card ability, which triggers off of taking damage, I’d say this approach is spot on on several accounts.
The same pale light shows up in other works from Mr. Garden, especially those that he illustrated for this card game. Where Gloin’s piece was a little subtle in tone, Gollum’s Anguish from Return to Mirkwood is more on the nose. The same pale light takes on a sickly tone and though one can argue that the source of light is coming from the gap in the trees in the background there still seems to be a ghostly light coming from Gollum. He looks just barely translucent to me. It’s not a pleasant picture, which is thankfully the point of the card, but it’s a wonderful piece of art.
This next piece stands out from nearly all of Tom Garden’s other LOTR contributions. The colors are exceedingly vibrant, the motion present in the image is more drastic than others, and the lighting is harsh. Yet even so, there appears to be a glow from the Ancient Marsh-Dweller. It’s an odd creature, ancient and probably appears otherworldly to whatever traveller may be unfortunate enough to stumble upon it. This card, again unlike the others, comes from a much more recent Adventure Pack: The Nin-in-Eilph which was released in 2014. Given how much time these sets take to make, it’s possible that the art was chosen about at least a year before its release, though I can’t say for sure of course. Given that it’s depicting a terrible swamp monster, and there were similar enemies in the Return to Mirkwood/Core Set cycle of encounter cards, it’s possible that this card was submitted way before this particular AP came out. Again, this is all speculation.
Let’s go over some of his Non-Lotr:LCG work.
Looking at his portfolio, dated 2009, a couple pieces stuck out to me. The one I’d like to focus on is one titled Priestess Headshot (at least that’s the file name). It’s nice to see Mr. Garden use other colors not altogether prevalent in Middle Earth, for instance the red that makes up most of the Priestess’s headpiece. Not only is this piece fun to look at because of the colors and the wonderful attention to detail (the gold trim on the mask and the patterns on the cloth) but it reminds me of something you’d see in an RPG book. This picture has enough detail that you could easily pull out and create a story about who this priestess is, where she came from, the purpose of the mask, her religion, etc.
Going back to a more recent blog I found, this depiction of a waterfall from June 2011 stuck out to me. From the thumbnail, it almost looks photo realistic, yet when you look at the enlarged image the brush strokes are broad and abound. Despite the strokes, there’s still an abundance of detail, from the leaves on the branches to the individual streams of water coming from the more shallow waterfalls closer to the background. The post does mention that this is a reference piece from a google image search, but it’s no less fun to appreciate. Again, Mr. Garden shows an expert understanding of lighting and detail though the style in this piece is quite different from his other ones.
Some of my favorite works of art are those that really show off a sense of scale. It’s part of the reason why the game, Shadow of the Colossus, is one of my favorites and has stuck with me since I first played it many many years ago. This piece, also from Tom Garden’s 2011 blog, strikes the same chord with me. It’s neat to see what Mr. Garden can do when he’s not bound to something like Middle Earth, where such an image would not exist. What is this village? Who is the strange man with a back loaded with pots and pans and a sleeping sack? How did this tendril-ridden monster come to confront this man and why? Like I’ve mentioned in nearly every piece of Mr. Garden’s thus far, the detail in the image is immense, though the brush strokes are more abstract.
When I set out to write this post I’ll admit I had a hard time confirming if Mr. Garden fell off the grid or not. Thankfully, I noticed that some of his blogs were labeled TomGardenConceptArt and some were labeled just TomGarden. He is still very active and has been doing work for Ubisoft it seems for the past few years. Though his pieces seem less character oriented and more focused on environment there is still a wealth of detail and therefore story, to glean from his work. The one that exemplified this very well is one he calls Altar.
Where Mr. Garden is, as far as the Internet is concerned, is a bit scattered, but this could be mostly due to his joining Ubisoft and any potential changes he had to make about what he can and cannot showcase. Happy to say though that his blogs, both old and new, are easily available. This blog I found is from 2011 and this one is from 2009. He also has a DeviantArt page which also seems outdated, with images from 2009 being some of his most recent. Then there is his ArtStation Profile which came about, it looks like, after he joined Ubisoft.
I hope you enjoyed this post and Mr. Garden’s work. If you have any questions, comments, or have an artist you’d like to see covered on the blog then let me know below.
As always, thanks for reading!
-The Secondhand Took
If you’d like to see more LOTR: LCG art then check out my Art Page!