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Nasmith was born in the mid-1950s in Goderich, Ontario, Canada. As the son of a Royal Canadian Air Force officer, Nasmith's childhood was characterized by a series of moves, chiefly when his father was stationed in eastern France when Ted was 2 years old, until the family returned to Ontario 3 years later. By the time Nasmith became a teenager, they had settled in Don Mills, a suburb of Toronto (he now resides in nearby Newmarket.)
Nasmith's public school guidance counselor encouraged him to enter a high school which featured a 4-year commercial art program. During his third year of high school, however, Nasmith's sister introduced him to The Lord of the Rings, and it quickly became a huge inspiration and focus in his life. Nasmith writes:
"It opened up in me a dormant love of lost and misty times, myth and legend. Not since childhood had I felt such a sense of 'home', unaware of the effects the intervening years had had in displacing it. I began immediately to draw scenes inspired by this magical, nostalgic realm, becoming absorbed for many hours at a time." (Nasmith 2002)
In 1972, Nasmith mailed photographs of some of his paintings to J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien responded by letter a few weeks later, both praising the work and making the comment that the rendition of Bilbo Baggins seemed a little too childlike. Still a teenager at the time, this early feedback from Tolkien encouraged Nasmith to strive for a more literal interpretation of Tolkien's works.
After graduation, Nasmith aspired to follow in the footsteps of automotive illustrator Art Fitzpatrick. However, since photography was replacing illustration in the business of car advertising, he instead found employment as an architectural renderer, showing a particular flair for the intense realism such illustrations often demand.
Nasmith's Tolkien artwork, which echoes the luminist landscapes and Victorian neoclassical styles, eventually caught the attention of Tolkien's publishers, who included four of his paintings in the 1987 Tolkien Calendar. His artwork continued to appear in these beloved calendars over the years, including several where he is the sole featured artist (1987, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010).
In October 1996, Nasmith was asked by Tolkien's publishers to provide the artwork for the first illustrated edition of The Silmarillion, during which time Ted developed a strong working relationship with Christopher Tolkien. The illustrated edition was published in 1998; in 2004, a second edition (ISBN 0-618-39111-8) was published featuring many more paintings by Nasmith.
In early 1999, representatives for Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema invited Ted Nasmith to join John Howe and Alan Lee to work on conceptual art for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. According to Nasmith,
"They invited me to be there with the others in New Zealand to help with conceptual art, and made me a nice offer. However, I was going through a personal crisis unrelated to my art, and in the end, being that it would also force me to abandon my freelance obligations and be away indefinitely, I reluctantly declined, settling the question in my mind after very careful deliberation." (Nasmith 2004)
Nasmith is also considered a Tolkien scholar, well-read in ancient history, religion, and other areas. He has been a prominent member of two Tolkien-related organizations; the Tolkien Society, and the Mythopoeic Society, and has long subscribed to Mensa's Tolkien journal, Beyond Bree).
Nasmith is a songwriter, guitarist and tenor. Much of his musical work is likewise inspired by Tolkien's writings. His first commercial album, The Hidden Door: Songs in the Key of Enchantment, was released in 2007. He has also worked on a musical project entitled Beren and Lúthien: A Song Cycle, with his friend Alex Lewis, and has a close friendship with one of the founders of The Tolkien Ensemble.
In latter years, he has illustrated a deluxe 2-volume limited edition of George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones novel. It took about three years to complete the set of over 80 illustrations, most in pencil, with six in colour. He also is among the illustrators of the book The World of Ice and Fire, an encyclopedia of the fantasy realms featured in George R.R. Martin's epic novels. Ted worked closely with the Ice and Fire author to design castles according to the author's specifications. They were featured in the 2011 Song of Ice and Fire Calendar, too.
- Nasmith, Ted. (September, 2002). "About Me". TedNasmith.com.
- Nasmith, Ted. (February 3, 2004). "Interview with Ted Nasmith, Tolkien Artist". Dreamish.com.
- Official website
- Ted Nasmith Uncredited - a site on the alleged use of Ted Nasmith's artwork in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films.
- Hoyt, Randy (January 1, 2009). "Illustrating Tolkien: Ted Nasmith Interview". Journey to the Sea.
- Shepherd, Wendy (February 3, 2004). "Interview With Ted Nasmith, Tolkien Artist". Dreamish.com. Archived from the original on 9 February 2004.