…John Ruskin, when he launched his ambitious plan to teach factory workers to draw, had no desire to fill London’s parks with labourers toting sketchbooks and charcoal, his desire was to teach them to see. For their own sakes, not to make them better artists, but to have their vision constantly refreshed. Drawing, whether in nature or from some interior landscape, is a form of meditation, an effacing of self, a suspension of time and conscious thought. The local park or the banks of the Anduin: little difference, just a question of detail.
…There is something of the archaeological in illustrating Middle-Earth. means staking out a dig, working down through strata of meaning, explicit and implicit, layer upon layer of influence and culture. […] It is, in a sense, digging in air, which has always been the business of artists.
… [Tolkien’s] drawings are drawn out of himself not from a desire to determine once and for all the visual details of his word, but to provide something tangible to satisfy an urge to see, however imperfectly, those places of the imagination that are so hard to describe in words, but are so well depicted by describing the emotions of the protagonists. Naturally, while this means facing mundane issues of draughtsmanship, perspective and colour, it provides opportunities to distil reality on another plane.
– “From Babel to Barad-dûr” (emphasis mine),