Tolkien was an accomplished amateur artist who painted for pleasure and relaxation. He excelled at landscapes and often drew inspiration from his own stories. He illustrated many scenes from The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, sometimes drawing or painting as he was writing in order to visualize the imagined scene more clearly.

‘The Misty Mountains’


For Tolkien writing, drawing, painting, creating maps and inventing languages and scripts were all part of a cohesive creative process. His artwork might illustrate a written passage or it might precede the written description. It might be inspired by the text or become the inspiration for it.



‘I wisely started with a map, and made the story fit’, Tolkien explained to a reader of The Lord of the Rings. In fact he made over thirty maps as he wrote the story. Some were meticulously plotted on graph paper in advance but others were sketched out as he was writing, in order to clarify the scene in his mind.



Tolkien’s interest in languages and alphabets extended also to calligraphy. He experimented with different styles of handwriting and used them as integral elements in his literary work to denote different cultures and even individual characters.