The Book Review: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles: Art & Design”

As tha last part of The Hobbit film is going to be released in cinemas I decided to do my first book review based on “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journet Chronicles: Art & Design”.


Firstly, I want to tell you a small story about how I’ve started being into concept art cause it has a matter with this review. About 12 years ago when I was a kid my parents bought me a book about the design for The Lord of the Rings film. It was an A4 album with beautiful photos, drawings, models, clothes, wigs and other designs. I was so amazed by it that I spent many hours just looking at this book and wondering how people can create such a great stuff. I wanted to be like them!

You can imagine how excited I was when I figured out that Weta is releasing such an album also for The Hobbit. It was just like being a kid again after all those years.

Now, I should move to the proper review. The album is hardcover and almost A4 size with the Middle Earth map and Bilbo’s contract attached to those covers. The whole book is parted for few subjects: the character design, environments and objects. As you can guess all of them are of course connected to each other. The big advantage of this book is that it contains an ENORMOUS amount of drawings. Not only ones that have been made digitally but also traditional sketches and aquarels. The quality of every one of them shows how Weta cares for details. When you are watching the film you have no time to even notice all of them. With this book – you can analise every freckle on Bilbo’s face 😉 It’s also a big advantage for other designers cause you can LEARN something. I think that’s the main reason for buying such books.

Another nice thing – every piece is signed with the initials of the author/authors so you can just go to the back of the book and find the whole names. As an artist, I can say that it really takes my heart.

 I would like to focus a little bit on the part about the character design. There are few lies in the ‘beginning people’ minds attached to the concept art reality. I’ve met a lot of people believing that concept art is just about doing nice and polished things that comes right from the mind and it’s perfect just from the beginning. It’s the biggest lie that is the result of the lack of knowledge. Companies and artists like to show the nicest stuff and probably you won’t see any crappy sketches in their portfolios. You also won’t see them in this book but it contains something else – the process drawings. It’s the proof that really good design comes from many tries and not-always-so-good-decisions. In this book you can see how Thorin, Ori or Radagast supposed to look like. 😉

 Other lie that is often said – using photos and photobashing is BAD. The truth is in the film and game industry there is no time for DRAWING EVERYTHING BY HAND. In such a big process as designing a film you have to be fast and as realistic in your work as you can. It means that concepting a haircut for an actor on his photo is totally correct and fine. It has to fit him perfectly. The same is with clothes. Want to see more of matte painting for The Hobbit? Just find this book and dig into it. As I’ve already said – you will LEARN a lot.

It’s hard to describe a 200 pages book just in the one review. It turned a little into a speech about concept art, but I hope it give you a glance of this book. If you are a Hobbit fan, concept artis, illustrator, student or art teacher it’s worth to have it on your shelf.

You can find this book on Amazon here.

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