Thurles Artist Adds Touch of Magic to ‘The Hobbit’

By Eoin Kelleher

By Eoin Kelleher

A THURLES born special effects artist and sculptor who was inspired by his local teachers to pursue art as a career, is helping to bring a touch of magic to a film version of JRR Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit.’

Mark Maher is the son of Teena and J J Maher on the Bohernamona Road, Thurles. Mark, who lives in New Zealand, is working behind the scenes on a new film version of the ‘The Hobbit’, an upcoming two-part film adaptation of the 1937 novel of the same name.

The fantasy world of Middle Earth, so beloved by generations of children and adults alike, will come to life with the help of artist, Mark Maher. Mark, who first gained a love of art in the Thurles CBS, Gairm Scoil Mhuire, and Coláiste Éile, works on ‘The Hobbit’ as a Model Maker and Sculptor.

Directed by Peter Jackson, The Hobbit will serve as a prequel to the blockbuster ‘Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy. The two parts are currently in production, and are being filmed back to back in New Zealand. Principal photography began in March.

The film will feature widespread use of special effects, make-up and animatronics. Some of Mark’s concepts and creations will be used in the film and viewed by millions across the world when the film goes to cinema. The picture may well be in line for an special effects Oscar when it finally hits the silver screen sometime in December next year.

Working under the watchful eye of Peter Jackson, Mark helps create some of the background scenes from architects’ models. He also creates miniature characters right from the concept stage, until they are later made into lifesize models of orcs, goblins, hobbits, elves, giant spiders and the many other mythical creatures who inhabit the world of Middle Earth.

For Mark, the work is a labour of love. He told the Tipperary Star that the film is “going to be brilliant.” “I am very excited to be working on such a huge film, even if it does mean getting up at 5.30am,” he joked. “I work in the Art Department and there are six other Model Makers employed along with a very strong team of designers and architects.”

Explaining his role, Mark says he works from drawings beforehand to get the ‘feel’ of the character, before bringing it to life with foam, latex, gelatin, silicone and a little bit of hobbit magic.

Mark would like to remember all the teachers back in Thurles who were such a great influence to him during his early years, especially Catherine Daly of Thurles CBS, P.J. O’Connell of Gairm Scoil Mhuire and Lorenzo Egan, of Coláiste Éile.