Temple of Morgoth by Mark Melnikov

Mark Melnikov is an artist who successfully combines traditional and digital mediums in order to precisely depict fantasy worlds with the highest level of realism. Using modern computer software he creates 3D scenes and turns them into digital illustrations, with an opportunity to zoom in and explore small details, masterly rendered by the power of machine.

Mark has spent more than 10 years working on his own depiction of Tolkien’s world. Since hand-made crafts are the mirror of any populated environment, he pays extra attention to architectural landmarks, armour, costumes and other objects of material culture which has to be designed from scratch. Despite the fact that Mark does not intend to oppose himself to the entrenched Middle-Earth visual appearance masterly created by Peter Jackson and his team, he has his own unique style.

The journey begins

Gates of Angband by Mark Melnikov

Mark believes that it is nothing wrong with being inspired by other artists. His own journey began with reading “The Lord of the Rings” with Alan Lee’s illustrations, and a little bit later he discovered a series of calendars by John Howe which made an incalculable impression on the young artist. Mark started using his imagination to expand the world he saw in those paintings, surrounded himself with his visions, striving to escape from the world he did not belong. After the first film of the trilogy was released in 2001, Mark decided to fully devote himself to Middle-Earth. He started working on a big art project named “The Path to Mordor”, where he tried to visualize every environment or creature which the hobbits saw on their way to Mount Doom.

As a mature artist, Mark continued to dig deeper into the history of Arda. His interest was now piqued by “The Silmarillion”, and he was mainly focused on the dark forces of Morgoth. During the period between 2009 and 2015, Mark created a collection of illustrations dedicated to “The War of Wrath”, in which he visualized the fortress of Angband and Utumno in the most detailed way. Those were not just paintings but real projects, which could be used as plans for making models and decorations. At this point it became evident that Mark’s artworks could not exist in the space of canvas only, they needed to be brought into 3D space. So he started sculpting and modelling, and his ideas gained a new dimension, figuratively and literally.

Tools and techniques

Angband by Mark Melnikov

At the present time Mark is developing a new methodology for his working process. His main purpose is to decrease the amount of routine work and save time for experimenting and creativity, so he relies more and more on computer software and artificial intelligence. Although it is usually argued that digital art is devoid of soul in comparison to the traditional technique, Mark has proved that not only does it allow to achieve much more convincing results in no time, but also provides an artist with a vast range of tools helping him to conjure the right emotions. Undoubtedly, there are so many opportunities for experimenting without fear of ruining a painting – you can just make a backup copy and carry on, focusing solely on being creative.

When it comes to his further plans, Mark is going to continue working on “The Silmarillion” and probably take on “Unfinished Tales”, but he is not against the idea of turning back to “The Lord of The Rings”. Mark says, “It never hurts to do some revision, and there will always be something missed and unfinished, something that needs to be perfected.”