I was in a Barnes & Noble bookstore with Tim Kirk, a Tolkien calendar artist, when he showed me the graphic novel adaptation of THE HOBBIT with Donato's cover. Tim asked, "Have you seen this artist?"
I hadn't but I sat down and visually drank in the cover, a panoramic painting of Gandalf, the dwarves, and Bilbo Baggins in the mountains. The cover was by Donato Giancola, a new name to me.
With that cover alone, Donato assumed his rightful position in the first rank of Tolkien illustrators, which includes (in no particular order) Alan Lee, Ted Naismith, John Howe, Tim Kirk, Michael Whelan, Kinuko Craft, Michael Kaluta, Steve Hickman, Michael Hague, and many others.
What Donato brings to his visual interpretation of Middle-earth is a rich imagination, a gorgeous color palette, and a keen artist's eye in choosing scenes that resonate.
Not surprisingly, Donato prefers portraits, which is one of his many strengths: His art inspiration is from the old masters, and this book certainly shows that. The oil paintings show a mastery by an artist who is only in his forties; I can only imagine, with delight, what else we have to look forward to from his talented pen and brush in the future!
The color paintings are gorgeous, and the toned pieces (graphite on brown paper) are exquisite studies; together, you get to see the visual story behind many of the finished pieces. (I own the original art to the toned illustration on page 9, and can attest that the reproduction in this book is exceptionally close to the original--the printing is THAT good.)
If you ever get a chance to see Donato's originals, do so. He was at the Comicon and had many of these pieces on display. And, as good as the reproduction is in this book, you haven't really seen a Donato until you've seen it in person, in the scale the artist intended. (The painting for THE HOBBIT, for instance, measures 38 x 68 inches; and the painting for THE LORD OF THE RINGS measures 33 x 55 inches.)
When I edited THE ESSENTIAL JRR TOLKIEN SOURCEBOOK, I interviewed Donato (among others: Tim Kirk, Michael Whelan, Michael Kaluta, and Tim Kirk--all calendar or book artists), and he spoke long and lovingly about his great enthusiasm for Tolkien's masterwork.
Donato's passion for art and Middle-earth combine in this wonderful, full color book that will delight, amaze, enchant, and mesmerize any Tolkien fan.
It'd make a great Christmas gift for any Tolkien fan you know, or a great gift for yourself. Either way, get a copy and make someone happy.
Kudos to Tim Underwood (SPECTRUM publisher) for publishing this, and to Arnie Fenner for a classic design. This book, simply, is one for the ages, and I look forward to more compilations of Donato's classic art.