And welcome to my newsletter for November, 2010! Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested in keeping up with me! To receive these newsletters regularly, please drop me an email or subscribe online from my website (http://www.JefMurray.com
) or at: http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms
. Notices of events and items of interest are at the bottom of this email.
I have posted three new painting images on my website. These "The House of Tom Bombadil", "Círdan", and "The Fair Valley of Rivendell". You can see all of these by going to http://www.JefMurray.com
and clicking on the "Newest Works" button on the top of the page.
As always, these and all of the works in my online galleries are available as signed and numbered limited-edition Giclee prints.
Do let me know how these new images strike you!
We are sitting on the back deck when we hear their call: strange, stricken, somewhat strangled. Dusk is falling and no birds should be out, but these are; and they are flying fast just above the treetops.
"Sandhill cranes?" I asked Lorraine. She nodded.
And so they must be. But their voices aren't joyous as we'd remembered them from their other faint, high-flung flights across north Georgia skies. These were furtive, fleeting, frightened.
And so is this season: this season of changing light, of rent leaves and wind-fallen branches; this time of treats and of tricks, of glitzed-up graves and sugar-skull snacks.
This is the time of year when we all look death in the face.
In this season, Halloween night's frivolity is quickly followed by the feast of All Saints on November 1, then the feast of All Souls on November 2. All Saints celebrates those who have gone before us and who are, we now believe, standing in the presence of the Almighty. All Souls is a more solemn day, when we pray for those who have died, but who have not yet found their way to God. By going from celebrations of life to prayerful reflections on death, we spiral down into darkness. We, in a way, traverse the three days of the Easter Triduum, but backwards.
So right now, death is foremost in our minds, as it was in the mind of J.R.R. Tolkien when he wrote his masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings. For death is the one absolute, the one thing that all of us will experience one day. And we fear it because we do not understand it. Simone de Beauvoir declared it thus: "There is no such thing as a natural death: nothing that happens to a man is ever natural, since his presence calls the world into question. All men must die: but for every man his death is an accident and, even if he knows it and consents to it, an unjustifiable violation."
And yet, death _is_ natural if one trusts that the One who gave us life did not do so simply for sport, but rather for some greater earthshaking purpose. In that case, not only birth but all facets of our lives, including death, fit into that larger plan; we are all connected in this way
we are all living out our own portion of the same epic tale.
Tolkien believed this, and even though he thought that the history of humankind on this earth would ultimately prove to be a "long defeat", that is, a progressive slide into greater and greater acts of evil and causes for grief and sorrow, he nevertheless believed that only more glory, honor, love, and wonder would result from that protracted struggle.
But we have trouble understanding and accepting all of this
As with making sense of myriad other mysteries of this magnificent universe, what is called for is at least a mustard seed's worth of trust. With that tiniest blossoming forth of faith, we can see the mirth of the Almighty in every leaf and `round every bend in the road; without it, all we are left with is the desperate attempt to create meaning for ourselves, or to become embittered diversionists
seeking solace in pleasure, or in created causes, or, as Flannery O'Connor suggests through the voice of the Misfit in "A Good Man is Hard to Find", in just plain meanness.
But at this time of year, we are not celebrating meanness; we are celebrating the fleeting nature of life, and the need to come to grips with it.
And that's really the problem for all of us, isn't it? We don't want all of what we know to ever end. We see loved ones pass through the gates of death, never, apparently, to return. And unlike learning to trust a doctor because he's healed us in the past, or trusting in our mom because she was always there to comfort us when we had a bad dream, we've never experienced death ourselves, so we don't know if things will really be alright on the other side.
And yet, all throughout our lives, we find that when we have faith, all is usually well. With prayer, we get through the tough stuff. And if we're paying attention, we can often catch glimpses of Someone greater than us helping us through the rough patches. Death, in this context, simply represents a graduation ceremony
a final chance to tell the One who has ever proven Himself faithful to us that we do, indeed, trust Him.
My sister, Lisa, passed away this past August. Lisa hated the heat of Georgia summers. And she didn't live to see the flush of leaves turning golden, red, and orange, even though she longed for autumn's chill to swoop down on the north Georgia hills and blast the buzzing blazes of summer away. She didn't get to hear the frightened call of the sandhill cranes as they sought refuge on a dusky evening in October
but they somehow reminded me of her, and of her passing out of this realm and into the next.
I continue to pray for Lisa now that she is gone, just as I did when she was alive. And at this time of year, especially, my prayer is that her flight will not be one of fear, but of hope, love, and joy; and I will trust that she is, even now, and on a cool autumn breeze, returning home.
The folks who brought you the Festival in the Shire in Wales this last August (see www.FestivalintheShire.com) will be holding a new exhibit of Middle-earth themed paintings and prints in Leiden, Holland this month. This event will be held from Thursday, November 11 at 10:00am - November 14 at 4:00pm at Utrechtse Jaagpad 2, Leiden, Holland, this exhibition will features works by Rodney Matthews, Paul Raymond Gregory, Roger Garland, Ruth Lacon, Steve Walsh, Sue Wookey, Ivan Cavini and myself. You can find more information on Facebook by searching on "Festival in the Shire- Free Preview Exhibition".
It is apparently going to be a big media autumn for me, as I will have a lot of my work appearing in two upcoming magazine issues:
First, the November/December 2010 issue of the St. Austin Review (StAR) features one of my paintings ("Melkor") on its cover, plus a two-page spread of some of my latest paintings and a short article of mine within. The issue in general focuses on apocalyptic visions, particularly as seen in science fiction. Please check out the latest issue by going to the StAR website at http://www.staustinreview.com/
Second, the next issue of Gilbert Magazine (see http://www.gilbertmagazine.com/
) is the art issue, and in addition to including a couple of my dragonish paintings ("The Repentant Dragon" and "Pensive Dragon"), there will be an interview with me and fellow artist Tim Jones, plus (possibly!) a short humorous tale of mine.
There are two new Tolkien-themed calendars that are either now available or soon will be. Both feature some of my work, as well as that of many other notable artists:
The 30th Anniversary 2011 Beyond Bree calendar is available at http://www.cep.unt.edu/bree/Flyer02.pdf
. This special calendar features work by Sylvia Hunnewell, Ted Nasmith, and many others; it focuses on the Istari
the wizards of Middle-earth.
The 10th Anniversary 2011 Northeaster Tolkien Society calendar is available from http://herenistarionnets.blogspot.com/p/nets-calendar.html
. This calendar features the art of Anke Eissman, Sue Wookey, and myself.
The online SF Fanzine "Starship Sofa", Volume 1 of which was a winner of a 2010 Hugo Award, has released Volume 2 on October 10, 2010. I was privileged to illustrate a tale that will be included, written by Jason Sanford, entitled " Into the Depths of Illuminated Seas". It is a surpassingly strange tale about pirates (!) and a lass who can foretell the deaths of all of the sailors in her port town. You can learn more about this Fanzine at http://www.starshipsofa.com/
Illustrator-signed editions of The Magic Ring: Deluxe Illustrated Edition, by the Baron de la Motte Fouqué, is now available to folks in the U.S., Canada, and the UK. You can purchase directly from my website at www.JefMurray.com (click on the "Books" button on the left of the page). I was privileged to have been asked to develop the cover and interior illustrations for this new edition, and it is one that finally presents this tale in a format in keeping with its magical and epic themes. Described as a cross between "The Lord of the Rings" and "Ivanhoe", this is a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and one that will appeal to all ages of folk who love chivalry, epic battles, enchantment, and romance. You can keep up to date on the book's reception on the Facebook page entitled "The Magic Ring", or at Valancourt's website.
A new EWTN TV special is being prepared on J.R.R. Tolkien. Featuring Joseph Pearce, this production will also include dozens of my illustrations of Tolkien's world. Stay tuned for details on when this will air
For folks interested in my original paintings and sketches, please take a look at the ADC Art and Books online catalog at www.adcbooks.co.uk. It features Tolkien-themed works by Ted Nasmith, Peter Pracownik, and myself. In addition, you'll find collectible items (e.g. Black & White Ogre Country: The Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien) and rare books featured in the catalog and on the website.