Ted Nasmith is a Canadian artist, illustrator and architectural renderer. He is best known as one of the world's most prominent illustrators of J. R. R. Tolkien's works The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Ted Nasmith was born in the mid-1950s in Goderich, Ontario, Canada. As the son of a Canadian Forces Air Command officer, Nasmith's early life was characterized by a series of moves as his father was re-stationed during his military career — sometimes within Canada, sometimes to other countries, such as France. By the time Nasmith became a teenager, they had settled in Toronto (he now resides in nearby Markham.)
Noting his early artistic abilities, Nasmith's family and friends encouraged him to enter a high school which featured a commercial art program, where he was able to hone his skills in various art subjects. 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:
- "Discovering Tolkien, meanwhile, had a very profound effect on me and helped lead to much that I now count most significant in life. 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 Ted's 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 (a feature which distinguishes Nasmith's work from other Tolkien illustrators to this day).
After graduation, Nasmith originally 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 demand. Although the architectural work was very successful and served as a good source of steady income, Nasmith's true love remained illustrating Tolkien's works.
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 (1990, 2002, 2003, 2004).
In October 1996, Nasmith was asked by Tolkien's publishers to provide the artwork for the first-ever illustrated edition of The Silmarillion, during which time Ted developed a strong working relationship with Christopher Tolkien. The illustrated edition was first published in 1998, and, in 2004, a second edition (ISBN 0618391118) 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 in New Zealand to work on conceptual art for the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Unfortunately, Nasmith was going through a personal crisis at the time (unrelated to his work), and was forced to make the difficult decision to reluctantly decline the offer to work on the films.
More than just an artist, Nasmith is also considered a Tolkien scholar who is well-read in ancient history, Religion, and other areas. His talent and knowledge makes Nasmith a highly sought-after guest speaker at Tolkien-related gatherings and conventions and he is a prominent member of several Tolkien-related organizations (such as the Tolkien Society, the Mythopoeic Society, and Mensa's Beyond Bree).
Nasmith is also an accomplished musician, guitarist and tenor. Much of his musical work is likewise inspired by Tolkien's writings, and he has a close friendship with the founders of The Tolkien Ensemble.