Art in the Lord of the Rings: LCG – A. M. Sartor

The Sons of Faenor, upon hearing of the Silmaril in Elwing’s possession, attacked the Havens in pursuit of the prized jewel. Rather than be captured herself Elwing, with the Silmaril clutched tightly to her chest, threw herself into the sea. Normally this would mean a long and painful death except that Ulmo, who lorded over the seas, Elwing was raised from the waters and changed into the shape of a great white bird. In this form, with the Silmaril still close to her chest, she flew over the waters and eventually found her husband, Earandil the Mariner. Together they reached the shores of Valinor and pleaded for help, setting in motion a chain of events that would greatly effect the years (and the ages) to come.

What a story, huh? Even if you don’t read or are familiar with the works of Tolkien and his world of Middle Earth there is certainly something in the tale of Elwing and Earandil that grabs your attention. As with many stories set before the third age there is a mystical, mythical, and some might even say fairy-tale feel woven throughout. The tale of Elwing and her “resurrection” into a great white bird is nothing short of fantastical. Though we don’t get to experience much of those stories in our beloved card game I was pleased to see a fair representation of the above tail in a new Spirit Event from the Grey Havens Deluxe Expansion, Elwing’s Flight.

When I was deciding what artist to cover this time around I wanted to keep it connected to the more recent cards. I was quickly drawn to Elwing’s Flight and began to do some digging. This spirit event which depicts an event that happened in ages past was illustrated by A. M. Sartor (or Amanda), the artist that will be spotlighted this month. Amanda was kind enough to answer some questions for the blog and I have posted them below, making up the second half of this post.

elwings-flight

Elwing’s Flight is a card that does two main things, readies a questing character and gives them a boost in willpower. In essence it’s a card that provides inspiration and motivation to those who may be exhausted. As a card it fits very thematically within its sphere and as far as artwork is concerned, the scene depicted on the card is very appropriate. Elwing, in her other form, looks majestic and awe-inspiring. Behind her, off in the distance is a solitary ship (most likely belonging to Earendil).  Going further in the distance are some dark and stormy clouds that are thankfully beginning to break, revealing a bright and full moon. It’s a pretty image and one that seems straight out of a story book.

And that makes it very appropriate for Amanda Sartor’s style. In fact most of her recent work relates to covers for novels/novellas and similar mediums. Before we get into that though let’s dive into where else we’ve seen her work in our game and how her style permeates through the various cards.

silverlode-archer

Ah Silverlode Archer. In today’s card pool its a card that’s seldom used and therefore not seen very often when players peruse through their cards. It’s a shame however as the artistic approach that Amanda takes in her depiction of an Elf of Middle Earth is unique to what we are used to today. Like Elwing’s Flight, the art on Silverlode Archer seems straight out of a story. Perhaps this elf was on patrol when it noticed a goblin on the opposite bank of the river and quietly the archer attempted to eliminate the threat. For such a simple card there’s a lot to the art then just an elf with a bow.

meneldors-flight

The last card that we get to see of Ms. Sartor’s before Elwing’s Flight is, interestingly enough, Meneldor’s Flight. I find it a funny coincidence that two out of the three LOTR:LCG cards making use of Amanda’s art has something to do with someone’s flight. Funny side note aside I did some digging on who Meneldor was and sadly did not come up with too much. Simply put Meneldor was just another named Eagle that was a follower of Gwaihir the Windlord. What is note worthy about Meneldor, however, is that he was one of the Eagles that rescued Frodo near the end of the novels. So he does get some Lord of the Rings “street cred.” Amanda’s depiction of Meneldor probably stands out the most of the three as far her style goes (you’ll see her other work shortly). Though it doesn’t depict a particular scene and has a more abstract background than her other two cards it still has that storybook quality. I particularly like the lining and coloring of Meneldor’s wings and feathers.

So what has Amanda Sartor done since? Well a lot thankfully. Though she falls under the category of many artists I cover on the blog of those who don’t contribute much to the Lord of the Rings Card Game she is no less active. Before we get to hear from Amanda herself about her work and what she’s up to now I want to cover a couple of her pieces that can be found on her site.

c80e4a3341905-560474dfc6102Titled In the Company of Wolves this piece is described on Amanda’s site as an illustration for a short story by the same name. Though it’s a very abstract piece you can’t help but wonder who this woman is and whether or not she has a grasp on her humanity. The way she holds her hands is certainly a departure from the norm and the presumably dead birds to her side indicate that she has certainly taken to a wolf’s lifestyle. And of course in the back we see a strange shape filled with the heads of wolves, possibly those belonging to her pack. I may be very off the mark but again, a lot can be taken from her illustration. Also, like her Lord of the Rings cards, particularly the Silverlode Archer, you can see her style come through. I particularly like the bold outlines on the woman’s hair and hands amid the realistic brush strokes and shading. And those eyes!

af4b6d6517851-5604756cd6615Another piece that caught my attention was one titled The Phoenix Project and again is an illustration for a novel of the same name, though this one falls in the Young Adult category. And maybe this is where Amanda’s style truly shines and I don’t mean that as a negative. Though I am past that age I could see myself being drawn to these images as a teenager. Looking at this girl, her very wild red hair, the strange artifact on her wrist, and the odd smiley face around her neck, you want to know more! What is the Phoenix Project? Who is this girl, and is the Phoenix Project something good or evil? There’s also a lot of detail within the shape that is the girl, the strands of her hair stand out and her face seems very realistic. Despite that you can see the fine brush strokes on her clothes that make it seem like this is literally coming off the pages of a book and again you can see the strong outlines in certain places, chiefly her arms and face.

e815da18944013-5603f5dfe0452Lastly I just want to cover one more piece. This one titled Lymantria is described an illustration of a tree nymph. I’m not going to try and analyze too much into this piece as it may a bit beyond what I can articulate but it’s just so beautiful to behold. Even though it’s at first a very strange illustration you can really see how this would be a fair depiction of a tree nymph, especially one in a more realistic setting (perhaps even our own world). Though I just mentioned how Amanda’s work shines in a YA setting I can’t help but feel that work such as this would shine in any medium YA or Adult. I just love this one.

That’s enough from me. I’ve rambled on long enough. Below you’ll find a series of questions I sent to Amanda who was generous enough to not only let me showcase her artwork on the blog but to answer some questions as well. I’ll be saying it again at the bottom of the page but thank you, Amanda! Now onto the questions:

ebd04521094611-56043a0f0aea8First off. The easy one. What got you to work in illustration? Was it always something you wanted to do at a young age or did it come later in life?

I have always had an interest in illustration. There were times when I wanted to be a ballerina or an archaeologist, but that usually just led to me drawing ballerinas or ancient artifacts. I went to school for illustration (I have a BFA in Design/Illustration from Cornish College of the Arts), and I have been working as a creative type in the game and publishing industry for over ten years.
 
When you create a piece where do you draw inspiration? Is it from the source material or are you given some freedom when you submit work for book and album covers?
 
It really depends on the client. Some people start with a vague concept and want me to fill in the details. Others want something specific and the work is very “hired hands”. I prefer the former.

I draw my inspiration from a few different sources. Music has a huge influence on my work, what I’m listening to when creating a piece effects the emotion the work conveys. Poetry (other people’s, not my own) can be a great idea generator, as well as music. I also draw many ideas from the more psychological aspect of fairy tales, folktales, and myths.

e8597331293219-564a546dbeb80What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

I don’t have a favorite project, but there are some types of work that I enjoy more than others. I really enjoy working on book covers. They tend to be a bit of a puzzle in terms of compositions because they have to read on so many levels and incorporate type. I like that problem solving aspect of it, and that you have to sum up the feel of a novel in single illustration that is not necessarily a narrative.
As far as the Lord of the Rings: Card game goes, how did you get involved in that process? Was it because you were involved in FFG in general or did you have interest in that particular project?
 
Like many kids interested in fantasy and literature, I read The Hobbit when I was young and Lord of the Rings when I was a teenager. They had a huge influence on me, particularly the Alan Lee illustrated edition. His work was really what got me started on watercolors, and I learned many techniques by studying his paintings. So getting to work on LOTR properties is always very nostalgic. I didn’t ask to work on LOTR, I think my first cards were for a Cthulhu game. For a few years I worked on a number of different properties for FFG, but LOTR is definitely my favorite.
 
40431414383771-56282deb1c62cYou mentioned that your preferred style isn’t one commonly used in games. How did you come about that style? I see a lot of art that has a storybook quality to it, which I’d say yours definitely does as well, and yet it still stands out.

Discussing style and marketability is a complicated conversation. Painting in a storybook style with a limited pallet and descriptive linework is the way I feel most comfortable and satisfied with my work, and when I see a picture in my head it is usually how I see it. I can do a number of styles, and still take on work in those styles, but it is not really what I want to be known for. It is hard for me to say why my work would stand out, but I’m glad that it does!
 
Would you go back to CCG’s if the industry was more welcoming to your style?

I do occasionally work on CCG’s, but since I don’t really seek out work in that more painterly, realistic style I don’t do more than one or two projects a year. I think any illustrator would be thrilled to work in their own style for payed projects.
 
How much of your work is done in photoshop and how much using physical methods? Or is it sometimes a mixture?

When I am working commercially I usually use photoshop. It is faster and easier to modify than traditional media. When I am working on my own projects or projects that have a little more creative freedom I work in a mix of traditional and digital media.
 
ed21503341529-560474b7ae502
The Bloody Chamber

What is your favorite piece you’ve released so far? I had a hard time pinning down my favorite but it’s between “The Laidly Worm” and “Drift.”

The piece that was a real turning point for me was “The Bloody Chamber”. There are other pieces that are more recent that I think are engaging, but that one will always stand as a benchmark for me in terms of being able to create work that was close to what I see in my head.
 
Since this is a Lord of the Rings blog I have two quick LoTR related questions. First off, do you play the game? No worries if not but figured I’d ask!

No, I’m embarrassed to say I have not. I tend to play more video games than table top games. I have the LOTR game and a number of expansions, I am sure I will sit down and play it at some point.
 
Second, Are you a fan of Lord of the Rings (Movies, Novels, etc.)? If so, who is your favorite character?

Yes! I love the Lord of the Rings novels and movies. I rewatch the movies every couple of years and they still hold up. Seeing Alan Lee’s illustrations come to life is incredible.

I would have to say that I am an Éowyn fan, I never understood why Aragorn wasn’t into her.

 
What type of projects are you currently working on?

Right now I am working on a YA fantasy novel cover for a self publishing author, the prequel for Murder of Crows.
 

Last one. Where can people find you or your work, either online or physically (art galleries, shows, and so forth)?

My portfolio site is amsartor.com. I also have a sketch blog at http://amsartor.tumblr.com/. I have shown work at Krab Jab Gallery in Seattle, and am looking into a number of other shows that are not announced yet. I usually announce venues and works for sale on https://www.facebook.com/AMSartorIllustration.

Secondhand Took – So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed the work of A. M. Sartor (or Amanda). I for one enjoyed looking at a style that branches away from the “shiny realism” that is seen in so many forms of media in these days. Not to say that either style is better or worse than the other, but a change of pace is always refreshing. And that is easy to say for Amanda’s work. It stands out and her style, as she much more eloquently put, is one that evokes an honest storybook feel. So give her work a look and if you’re in the Seattle area go find her at a local show or gallery!

Again, thank you Amanda for taking time out of your schedule to answer my questions and allowing me the opportunity to discuss your work in the Lord of the Rings Card Game and outside of it! And to everyone else, as always, thanks for reading!

-The Secondhand Took

Links to Amanda’s Work:

Portfolio – amsartor.com

Sketch Blog – http://amsartor.tumblr.com/

Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/AMSartorIllustration

Lord of the Rings Cards – Hall of Beorn Card Search

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/amsartor/

If you would like to see the work of other artists seen in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game check out my main art page here!

 

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4 thoughts on “Art in the Lord of the Rings: LCG – A. M. Sartor

  1. Great interview. I really like the artwork for Silverlode Archer and it kind of reminds me of the videogame Bastion. It’s a shame that card has fallen out of favour. With O Lorien and Celeborn it’s probably worth at least one-of though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for introducing us to Amanda and her work! I love these kind of features and would happily read an interview with every artist in the game. I wonder what FFG’s process is for commissioning art. It’s strange to me that she would have two excellent pieces so early in the life of the game and only now years later be asked back. Was she too busy with other projects or was FFG not interested in her style?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s possible the artwork was already in their “system.” Not being familiar with the process I couldn’t say for certain and it’s a question I probably should’ve asked 😛

      But my guess would be that for many artists they are commissioned to do a few/several pieces and the ones that aren’t immediately released are saved for later use.

      Like

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