John Howe (illustrator)

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For other people with the same name, see John Howe (disambiguation) and John Howe.
John Howe
John Howe 2003.jpg
Howe in 2003
Born (1960-08-21) August 21, 1960 (age 56)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Education Ecole des Arts Décoratifs
Known for Book illustration, decoration
Notable work Illustration of Fantasy literature
Conceptual design for The Lord of the Rings film series
Conceptual design for The Hobbit film series

John Howe (born August 21, 1960) is a Canadian book illustrator, living in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.[when?] One year after graduating from high school, he studied in a college in Strasbourg, France, then at the École des Arts Décoratifs.

He is best known for his work based on J. R. R. Tolkien's worlds. Howe and noted Tolkien artist Alan Lee served as chief conceptual designers for Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, and Howe also did the illustration for the "Lord of the Rings" board game created by Reiner Knizia. Howe also re-illustrated the maps of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion in 1996–2003. His work is however not limited to this, and includes images of myths such as the Anglo Saxon legend of Beowulf (he also illustrated Knizia's board game Beowulf: The Legend). Howe illustrated many other books, amongst which many belong to the fantasy genre (Robin Hobb's books for instance.) He also contributed to the film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. In 2005 a limited edition of George R. R. Martin's novel A Clash of Kings was released by Meisha Merlin, complete with numerous illustrations by Howe.

Howe has illustrated cards for the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game.[1]

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

Howe is a member of the living history group the Company of Saynt George.


John Howe was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was drawing from pre-school age, with his mother's help for his "more ambitious renderings".[citation needed] 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 Hildebrandt calendars, which showed him that the 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.[2]

A year after his high school graduation, Howe found himself in Strasbourg, France attending college. The following year, he enrolled into the École nationale supérieure 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."[2]

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.[2]

Since the earlier days of his career, Howe has managed to find his place in the profession of art. Working on such well-known projects as: 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.[2]

Selected works[edit]


  • Galerie Librairie La Marge, Lausanne, (Switzerland) December 1983
  • The Pendragon Gallery, Annapolis, Maryland, August 1991
  • Festival de la Bande Dessinée de Sierre, Sierre (Switzerland) June 1995
  • La Bibliothèque des Jeunes, Le Locle (Switzerland) Oct/Nov 1995
  • Librairie-Galerie Repères et Merveilles, Bienne (Switzerland) 1995
  • Festival du Livre de la Jeunesse, Troyes, (France) September 1996
  • Galerie Ziggourat, Brussels, 1997
  • Musee des Beaux-Arts du Locle, Le Locle (Switzerland) May 3 to June 22, 1997
  • John Howe/Images de Tolkien:
    • November 7 to December 30, 1995 - Médiathèque de Saint-Herblain (Nantes)
    • January 17 to March 9, 1996 - Les Silos, Chaumont
    • March 22 to April 21, 1996 - Maison du Boulanger, Troyes
    • September 19 to October 26, 1996 - Médiathèque d'Épernay
    • January 9 to February 7, 1997 - École des Arts Décoratifs de Strasbourg
    • February 25 to March 22, 1997 - Médiathèque de Sedan
    • April 1 to 13,1997 - Revin (Association Lire Malgré Tout)
    • April 30 to May 4, 1997 - Salon International du Livre et de la Presse, Geneva
    • September 20 to October 19 and November 19 to December 28, 1997 - La Maison d'Ailleurs, Yverdon-les- Bains (Switzerland)
    • October 24 to November 16, 1997- L'Épée d'Eowyn/Rencontres Tolkien, Sierrre (Switzerland)
  • Ecailles, Ailes, Griffes et Feu/Illustrations for A Diversity of Dragons - La Maison d'Ailleurs, Yverdon-les- Bains (Switzerland), October 21 to November 16, 1997
  • Librarie La Bulle - Fribourg (Switzerland) November 24 to December 15, 2000
  • Les Etonnants Voyageurs - Saint-Malo (France) May 2001
  • Lucca Comics and Games - Lucca (Italy) 2001
  • John HOWE/ Sur les Terres de Tolkien
    • September 27 to October 2002 - Médiathèque le l'Agglomeration Troyenne, Troyes
    • October 30 to November 3, 2002 - Utopiales (Festival International de Sciènce-Fiction de Nantes), Nantes
    • November 29 to December 1, 2002 - Festival Rifl Act Fiction, Lyon
    • December 10, 2002 to January 11, 2003 - Canadian Cultural Center, Paris
    • March 29 to April 5, 2003 - Rencontres Tolkien, Bibliothèque de l'Université Rennes 2, Campus Villejean, Rennes, Franc
    • May 6 to 31, 2003 - Bibliothèque Municipale, Charleville-Mézières, France
    • July 1 to 7, 2003 - Neuchâtel International Fantasy Film Festival, (Theatre du Passage), Neuchâtel, Switzerland
    • September 29 to November 9, 2003 - Gruyères, (Gruyères Castle), Switzerland
    • January 3 to 25, 2004 - Médiatheque, Annecy, France
    • February 7 to 28, 2004 - Médiatheque, Châlons-en-Champagne, France
    • March 9 to 27, 2004 - Médiatheque, Saint-Nazaire, France
  • Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, 14.12.2003-15.02.2004 (120 drawings by Alan Lee & John Howe).[4]
  • John Howe: Lord of the Brush / Le Seigneur des Pinceaux
    • Embassy of Canada Prince Takamado Gallery, Tokyo - February 27 to March 31, 2006
  • John Howe: Périples en Terre du Milieu, Médiathèque de Bourgoin-Jallieu, Bourgoin-Jallieu, France - April 17 to May 12, 2007
  • John Howe 2007: Saint-Ursanne La Fantastique, Saint-Ursanne, Switzerland - June 23 to September 2, 2007 (Exhibitions, concerts, conferences by Vincent Ferré, installations, etc.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Portfolio". John Howe. Retrieved 10 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Biography". John Howe. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  3. ^ "The Fisherman & his wife" (1983 edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  4. ^ "Le Seigneur des Anneaux : de l'imaginaire à l'image"

External links[edit]