John Howe (illustrator)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
John Howe
Howe in 2017
Born (1957-08-21) August 21, 1957 (age 66)
EducationEcole des arts décoratifs, Strasbourg
Known forBook illustration, decoration
Notable workIllustration of Fantasy literature
Concept design for The Lord of the Rings film series
Conceptual design for The Hobbit film series

John Howe (born August 21, 1957) is a Canadian book illustrator and concept designer, best-known for his artwork of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth.[1] One year after graduating from high school, he studied in a college in Strasbourg, France, then at the École des arts décoratifs in the same town.

Howe and the Tolkien artist Alan Lee served as chief conceptual designers for Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Howe illustrated the Lord of the Rings board game created by Reiner Knizia, and re-illustrated the maps of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion in 1996–2003. His work includes images of mythological material such as the Old English epic poem Beowulf (including Knizia's board game Beowulf: The Legend). Howe illustrated many books in the fantasy genre, such as those by Robin Hobb. He also contributed to the film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia.[1] In 2005 a limited edition of George R. R. Martin's novel A Clash of Kings was released by Meisha Merlin, with numerous illustrations by Howe.

Howe has illustrated cards for the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game.[2]

For The Hobbit films, original director Guillermo del Toro and replacement director Peter Jackson consulted with both Howe and fellow concept artist Alan Lee to ensure continuity of design.

Howe is a member of the living history group the Company of Saynt George, and has expertise in ancient and medieval armour and armaments.

Howe served as a concept designer for Amazon's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, which premiered on Prime Video on September 2, 2022.[3]


John Howe was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was drawing from pre-school age, with his mother's help. Around primary school age he found his mother's ability no longer living up to his expectations, and even got frustrated once at both his mother and himself at not being able to draw a cow to his expectations. Howe's school years were complicated by moves which took place with a timing that left the art classes full, and left him in classes like power mechanics. He did find his ability as a draughtsman to be profitable in biology class though, where he and a friend would produce renderings of microscopic organisms for classmates at fifty cents each. As a child, he collected the covers of paperbacks. His collection included items from Frank Frazetta, Barry Smith, and Bernie Wrightson. In his adolescence, Howe read The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien. He said he got "a real spark" from the Tolkien Calendars of paintings by the Brothers Hildebrandt, which showed him that Tolkien's books could be illustrated. Howe made drawings of his own versions of the scenes depicted in the calendar. These drawings, according to Howe, may not have survived.[4]

With Alexis Metzinger during filming, 2014
In Strasbourg, 2022

A year after his high school graduation, Howe moved to Strasbourg, France to attend college. The following year, he enrolled into the École des arts décoratifs. He cites his experience of this period as follows:

The first year was spent not understanding much, the second at odds with what I did manage to understand, and the third eager to get out, although in retrospect I certainly owe whatever clarity of thought I possess to the patience of the professor of Illustration.[4]

Throughout his first years in Europe, Howe was taking in as much as he could in the way of art, architecture and everything that was "simultaneously ancient and novel." He says the only piece of his art work that survived from this period is his "The Lieutenant of the Black Tower of Barad-dûr", a piece inspired by Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. He says if this is not his first published piece, it must certainly be the earliest. Howe's earliest commissions included political cartoons, magazine illustrations, comics, animated films, advertising, of which he says were nightmares. He said that he would end up redoing sketches so many times that there was nothing left of "his" in them. This frustrated him, and he wondered how he would ever make it in the profession.[4]

Projects in which Howe worked include The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien's Books and Merchandise, Beowulf, Robin Hobb's books, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Cards for Magic: The Gathering, The Hobbit, Pan's Labyrinth. Howe has also written and illustrated children's books.[4]

Selected works[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Di Lieto, Darren (1 October 2012) [2009]. "LCS Interview: John Howe". LCS. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  2. ^ "Portfolio". John Howe. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
  3. ^ "Showrunners and John Howe reveal more of Rings of Power". 2022-06-10. Retrieved 2022-07-27.
  4. ^ a b c d "Biography". John Howe. Archived from the original on 6 January 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  5. ^ "The Fisherman & his wife" Archived 2016-01-17 at the Wayback Machine (1983 edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2013-08-15.

External links[edit]