25 JUN 2013 BY THE JOURNAL
BY day, Jay Johnstone is the managing director of Newcastle-based marketing agency, Hunter Johnstone. But, after his children have gone to bed, he picks up his paintbrush and creates ornate pictures of characters from the fantastic world of JRR Tolkien. Just a few years ago, the online team at onering.net displayed some of Johnstone’s work on their website, and now the graphic designer has been asked to exhibit for the first time as a guest of the Tolkien Society’s conference Return of the Ring at Loughborough University. The Hobbit movie, due to be released in cinemas this December, has led to a great deal of interest in Johnstone’s work, and the German-born artist is waiting in anticipation to see if his paintings will take off in a big way. “This exhibition could either be a huge success and a life-changing move, or a big disaster,” he said. “The comforting thing is, I’m not doing it for the money. I already run a successful agency that employs 12 people with a £1m annual turnover, so this has been, and always will be, a private and personal passion. “People will either get the paintings or they wont. The concept for the style came from the Tolkien story that The Hobbit was originally translated from the Red Book of Westmarch. “The idea that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings had been transcribed from ancient manuscripts quite appealed to me. “The Halls of Theoden was my first adventure into Tolkien art and I then started to read up on religious manuscripts, icon and fresco illustration from the medieval periods. The resulting illustrations are the result of that exploration. “Some might view my work as sacrilegious, but one thing I can be sure of: it will create an impact.” Johnstone has been an avid collector of Tolkien’s books since reading the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit when he was an art student at Newcastle College. Before the end of his fourth year of study, he went to work at a design agency and, at 22, set up his first design business. Hunter Johnstone was set up by Johnstone alongside Neil Hunter in 2000, and has a client list that includes high-profile names such as Subway and Coca Cola, as well as Carlisle Tourism Partnership.