Monday, December 10, 2012

WORKS: Nazgul

As anyone who has been visiting this blog recently knows, I am cautiously excited about this Friday's U.S. premiere of the new film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I have been an admirer of Tolkien's writing for a very long time and, despite the liberties that they took, I quite liked Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movies.

Almost since my earliest days reading his work, I have been fascinated by the Nazgul. True, they are rather one-dimensional villains, but something about the fact that each was once a human being and once a king or warrior or sorcerer who had been twisted and hollowed out and changed and ultimately enslaved by a combination of Sauron's malice and their own lusts for power intrigues me. I know, it's a simple concept, but seeing that idea of a dark side made so explicitly and overtly real is very powerful to me.

So, in anticipation of The Hobbit and to keep myself at least partially sane and give myself some kind of safety valve from the venom and futility and hopelessness of the Heart of Darkness illustrations, I've been enjoying working on a few Nazgul pieces of my own. For now, as large as these are, they are really just studies. Rather raw, but pointing the way toward something more polished and realized that will hopefully be created some time in 2013. I've completed four so far, and I work on a fifth as I have time. Additionally, I have a few sketches to share, exploring other visual techniques. I will christen this week Nazgul Week! Enjoy the art and, as always, I would truly like to know your thoughts on these.

Title: Nazgul Study #001

11 inches by 14 inches
acrylic paint, ink, metallic ink and pencil on watercolor paper
November 22, 2012

A few things I wanted to add. First, three of the Nazgul are Black Numenoreans. I thought about that, and for now, I am looking at representing these through the visual element of winged helmets. I don't believe that specific idea has any real precedence in Tolkien's writing, but it somehow seemed appropriate to me. So this would be one of the Black Numenoreans. There is one more, and the Witch-King of Angmar, the Chief of the Nazgul, is also one. Second, to give these pieces some additional visual appeal, the ring of each Nazgul will be painted in metallic gold ink. I've taken a lot of liberties with the rings, as you will soon see. And Tolkien himself is inconsistent on the issue, writing both that the Nazgul wore their rings and that Sauron held each of their rings in order to control them. Interesting. Anyway, here is a close-up photo to try and show the metallic ink of the ring.

Thanks for taking a look. More all week long.


  1. I should add that a big part of my inspiration for doing these studies is my general dissatisfaction and boredom with most Nazgul / Tolkien-related art I see. Almost all of it, some of which I posted in my two Black Friday diversions: Nazgul posts, seems to me to be very high on technical skill and very low on imagination and originality. I feel like my pieces are probably the inverse of that...lower on technical skill but very high in terms of originality and imagination.

  2. The blood running from the eyes is riveting.

  3. i thought those hands rang a bell - scrawling back to my last comment, there they are on the wealthy man in sketchbook - those hands are IN PAIN!
    your drawings are so wonderfully evocative, it's always a thrill

  4. Buck, I love that comment. I believe my wife said something like "It looks like it is weeping blood, which is horrifying" as soon as I showed her. That's what I'm looking for!

  5. Lizzy, very perceptive. To me, the Nazgul are so centered on the concept of greed and lust...for power, for wealth, for things. So I wanted to show that sense of unquenchable hunger and thwarted desire. They want and want and want and yet they can never find or be satisfied. The painful, twisted broken hands are such a big part of that.

  6. What Buck said; those eyes!

    Also, the winged helmet-- there were some Middle-Earth Role Playing books back in the day, & one of the Nazgul-- they gave the ones that weren't the Witch-King or Khamul fictionalized identities-- had a crazy bat-helm. Actually, maybe it was Khamul; I don't remember & I don't have the book anymore.

  7. Mordicai, I think I vaguely remember seeing those Middle-Earth RPG books. Or at least seeing ads for them on the back cover of Dragon Magazine. Or maybe White Dwarf? I read on the Wikipedia article a bit about all of those non-canonical names for the remaining 7 Nazgul. Some of them seemed kind of cool, although the Dwimmerlaik seemed a bit weak since they basically just stole a Rohirrim term for wraith.

    I actually think my concept for the winged helmets may have come from my great love for Elric, especially P. Craig Russell's comic adaptations showing him with his dragon helm.


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