The Art of the Gathering of the Fellowship - Middle Earth Comes Alive to Next Month's Gathering of the Fellowship Convention in Toronto!
There are many exciting dimensions to the upcoming Gathering of the Fellowship convention in Toronto; one of the most exciting, and one that has always been closely linked with JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth, is the world of visual representation. The artworks of Ted Nasmith, Pauline Baynes, and even JRR Tolkien himself have all become well known to legions of Tolkien fans; indeed, their interpretations of the Professor's words are almost as famous as the books themselves!
The Gathering of the Fellowship certainly wanted these visual interpretations of Middle Earth to become an integral part of the convention itself. Chuck and Cathleen Thayer, longtime Tolkien fans and huge fans of the Peter Jackson movies, immediately knew that they wanted the Art of the Gathering of the Fellowship to be their "baby".
"Shortly after the release of Peter Jackson's first film, FOTR, we were reading about the Gathering of the Fellowship idea on TORC. The committee was in its beginning stages and still forming. We communicated with Paulina and Ed, GOTF's founders, and expressed our great enthusiasm for the idea, practically begging them to put us on the committee. Okay, so we did beg," says Cathleen.
Cathleen is an artist and designer professionally, and Chuck's hobby is digital photography. Both feel that Tolkien's writings have inspired a tremendous amount of creativity in fine art, music, writing, theatre, and beyond. The move to want to see a celebration of Tolkien-inspired art at the Gathering was a natural one.
But, even though the move might have been a natural one, it wasn't without its bumps along the way, Cathleen told us, "Getting started was difficult. We realized we'd probably get more entries than we could show at a Gallery, so we had to come up with a way to choose the best entries for the live show."
How many entries did they get? "The Gallery of Imladris Fan Art Contest currently has over 200 entries, which include every kind of painting medium, drawing, photography, sculpture, pottery, computer generated images (CGI), and poster/collage," Cathleen is obviously, and rightfully, proud of the extensive Imladris Art Gallery.
The Gallery will not only host the many works of art, it will also sponsor a contest for all of these aspiring Tolkien inspired artists. Cathleen explains, "Within a couple months we were told that prizes would be possible. That's when we decided to make this a contest. The prizes that have been donated are wonderful, all Tolkien-related and valued at $40.00 to $119.00 each. There will be 1st and 2nd prizes in each art category as well as a gift certificate to the Gathering Store for a third prize in some of the categories with a large amount of entries."
What can the Gathering members expect to see in Imladris? "The gallery will be decorated with an Elvish green-garden theme. Everyone who visits will be given a voting ballot and will be asked to drop it in the ballot box on their way out. They will be able to vote for their favorite art submission in each category," Cathleen explains, "We are also thrilled to have Ted Nasmith, a well-known illustrator of Tolkien's books as a special guest at the Gathering. Ted's Gallery, Amon Hen, will be in a separate room from Imladris. We are told by his representative, Suhana Gibson, that he will have 3 originals and 8 framed prints on display, as well as many unframed prints. Any of these may be purchased."
**NOTE: Ted Nasmith will be signing autographs during the Gathering of the Fellowship
Hey, what's all this about Imladris and Amon Hen? An art gallery itself decorated? As an Elvish green-garden theme?
Ah, we're back to the crazy dream of GOTF President, Ed Rodrigues, where he wanted to have the entire convention decorated as some region of Middle Earth. Each room, in the vision of Guru Rodrigues, was to have its own Middle Earth theme.
Enter Catherine Sparsidis, Artist and Decoration Coordinator for the Gathering of the Fellowship.
"When I started working at a Barnes and Noble in Manhattan, NY I had NO idea that I would meet a friend that would have SUCH an impact on my future," Catherine told us, "Anthony Burdge, Chairman of the NYC Tolkien Society, Heren Istarion, and I worked on the same floor. After a trip that he and Heren Istarion's Co-Chair, Jessica Burke, took to Toronto, he approached me with the opportunity of turning a convention center into my version of Middle Earth. Until this time, I had been illustrating Heren Istarion's newsletter, Parma Nole, but here was a chance to do something bigger. I said yes immediately and got started developing ideas."
An ambitious project, to be sure, right? I mean, turn an entire convention INTO Middle Earth? How to even begin such an enormous project?
"They began as larger than life backdrops," explains Sparsidis, "until I saw the venue and realized- wow- this event is going to be HUGE!!! Taking a step back and looking at the space, it took a few weeks to develop the design that I felt would suit the hotel, the convention and the budget the best."
So, IS the Gathering of the Fellowship truly going to be decorated on such a large scale?
Catherine nods, "Walking around the hotel I began to see here and there a glimmer of what could be. 'Some lights and drapes here, and we have Bilbo's Birthday party!' and the theme was set for the Shire room. 'What if we had an interior hobbit hole there, with some cozy chairs?' and Bag End was designed. Little by little the themes came to me and I began to work on the details."
What shall be the regions visited by GOTF members? Lothlorien, Imladris, Amon Hen, Mirkwood, The Pelennor Fields....and Fangorn, which is especially close to Catherine's heart.
"As an artist, I know that everyone has their own view of what something should look like. When you read a book, if it's a good book you're flooded with millions of images. Wanting to capture that feeling, I set up a contest for all Tolkien fans who wanted to be a part of this event: The Entmoot of Fangorn. The premise is simple, you send me an Ent, and I hang him in Fangorn. I've received many different versions of Ents and not two of them are the same in any way!"
What is her favorite room design so far?
"It would be impossible to determine which of these rooms would be my favorite. I love them all so much...you could call me biased," Catherine laughs, "My greatest hope through this all is my hope to make all the guests for this Gathering feel as if they are walking into Middle Earth, or at least catching a glimpse of it."
Catherine's artwork will also be featured in the GOTF Official Program as well as at the Medieval Times Castle, which will be transformed into Meduseld for two nights during the Gathering of the Fellowship.