Born in 1947 in Middlesex, at an early age Alan Lee became interested in myths and fairytales. He attended the Ealing School of Art to study graphic design, and during his years there concentrated on the depiction of Celtic and Norse myths. Graduating in 1979, Alan Lee went straight into freelance illustration where his first commissions were mainly book covers.
Wishing to live closer to inspiring landscapes, Alan Lee moved to Dartmoor in 1975. Three years later, in collaboration with Brian Froud, he illustrated a large volume of fairy lore entitled Faeries. This became very popular, and established Alan Lee's reputation as an outstanding painter and illustrator. This success enabled him to fulfil a long-standing ambition to illustrate the collection of Welsh legends called The Mabinogion and Alan Lee's depictions of Olwen and Blodeuedd are particularly beautiful paintings (both available as prints).
In 1984 Alan Lee illustrated the book Castles, with David Day and in 1985 Alan lee illustrated The Mirrorstone by Michael Palin - the first book to use holograms, winning the Smarties Prize for Innovation. Alan Lee went on to do The Moon's Revenge by Joan Aitken in 1986 and Merlin Dreams by Peter Dickinson in 1988. In 1989 Alan Lee was asked to create the conceptual design for Terry Jones' film Eric the Viking.
One of Alan Lee's greatest achievements is the illustration of the centenary edition of The Lord of The Rings, for which Alan Lee produced fifty paintings. Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliffe (1993), which he illustrated, won the Kate Greenaway Medal for children's book illustration. In 1994 Alan Lee was back with Tolkien as he illustrated Tolkien's Ring by David Day. From there Alan Lee moved on to The Wanderings of Odysseus, then back again to Tolkien illustration when in 1996 he was commissioned to undertake a fully illustrated edition of The Hobbit for publication in late 1997. A fine-art print of Alan Lee's beautiful painting of Rivendell for the centenary edition of Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien was published by Artists UK. This was followed by two more with digital imaging used for their production - Frodo & Gandalf and Battle of Pelennor Fields - two of Alan Lee's finest paintings.
I don't think we need to say much else since you really had to be living on Mars for the following years not to know about Alan Lee's involvement in the Peter Jackson epic production of the three Tolkien 'Lord of the Rings' films. As main artistic consultant you can see Alan Lee's influence in so many of the scenes and characters. For instance, the Entrance to Moria scene looks just like Alan Lee's painting come to life!
Alan Lee won an Oscar for his design work on the Lord of the Rings films and after working on King Kong and other film projects was asked to work on the film of JJR Tolkien's 'The Hoobit'. Alan Lee continues to be a sought-after illustrator and designer although we should perhaps bear in mind that in actual fact Alan Lee is one of the very best watercolour artists around and so not just an illustrator. The rising prices that Alan Lee originals sell for is a stark testament to this truth.
Alan Lee's work on the Web
Frodo & Gandalf by Alan Lee
Battle of Pelennor Field by Alan Lee
Rivendell by Alan Lee
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Alan Lee profile - Copyright © 2004 Artists UK