The different characteristics of the sentient races (humans, dwarves, elves and hobbits) are reflected in the different forms of art they perform.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that humans practice the same art forms they do in the real world today.
As a race, dwarves are big on sculpture, architecture and metalworking. When it comes to sculptures they tend towards geometrical shapes and patterns rather than depictions of events or people. They also pay great attention to the shadows cast by their sculptures when lit from certain angles. This applies specifically to sculptures exposed to moving light-sources like the sun or passing trains.
Dwarves also greatly appreciate the artistic aspects of architecture. Having a history of mainly living underground they are not much inclined to building or designing actual houses. Their underground homes are often beautifully designed and laid out though.
Dwarves also have a particular affinity for bridges in all forms and shapes. Their underground chambers are filled with them. However, as space is limited under the mountain enterprising dwarven architects and engineers often venture out into the world to build bridges across rivers and chasms, between islands and across marshlands.
A relatively recent addition to the dwarven school of bridge building is the aqueduct. Dwarves have never been big on seafaring or sailing and don’t have much experience with boats but the idea of it intrigues them for some reason.
In the last hundred or so year several very ambitious projects centered on this were started. The common idea was to allow riverboats to sail into the mountains and halls using series of locks and aqueducts. Some of these projects have been finished with varying degrees of success but the majority of them have been abandoned. The production methods still need some refining.
As is traditional dwarves also work metal. They create both weapons and jewelry as objects of art.
Dwarves very rarely have any kind of talent with music.
The hobbits are generally chose painting, arts and crafts, music and dance as their artistic expression of choice.
Their paintings strive for realism and often depict everyday situations or incidents. Homes, trees and people are common motifs. An exception to this is religious art in which the artist often tries to replicate their psychedelic experiences (more on dwarven religion some other time).
Many hobbits also enjoy arts and crafts, both as an art form and as a way to spend time. Most hobbit homes will proudly display tablecloths or bowls crafted by the inhabitant.
Hobbits have a talent for music and while most don’t learn to play an instrument they are often good vocalists. Singing, both solo and in choirs is a highly respected form of art and entertainment. Every respectable hobbit settlement will have a choir or solo singer performing at one of the local pubs most days of the week (exceptions would be Mondays and Tuesdays).
With music comes dancing. If a hobbit is not inclined to any other art form they will still be able to express themselves through dance. They have a way of making their feelings show in their movement that is unique to their species.
Elven art is a bit different from that of the other species. Elves live forever and this gives them a very different mindset, which is often reflected in their art.
Young elves often dabble in all kinds of different art forms, much like the humans. When they’re past their first few centuries though they’ll often start focusing on the more eccentric forms of art available to the truly long lived. Being immortal they are able to set in motion artistic projects spanning hundreds or even thousands of years.
One of the more popular “art forms” is breeding. This is the process of enhancing or creating certain traits in animals through selective breeding or crossbreeding. Despite being actively directed and assisted, evolution is still a very slow process and as an art form would only be suitable for those expecting to be alive long enough to see the fruits of their labor
Within the elven breeders scene there are two different schools of thought; the purists and the creationists. The purist school of thought holds that breeding is only about choosing the best specimen for mating and evolving the breed in that way. The creationists are actively, through magical means, altering the bred species between generations, thus greatly speeding up the evolutionary process.
The purist school has produced some of the most beautiful flowers and animals on the planet, as well as the fastest racehorses and strongest elephants.
The creationist school has created entirely new species such as hippogriffs, hydras, wolpertingers and a whole host of other fantastic animals and plants.
I plan on describing the art of breeding in greater detail at some other point.
Another example of elven art spanning millennia is the arranging of stalagmites and stalactites. As with breeding there are two different schools within this art form; those who use magic to enhance the process and those who do not.
Those who chose not to use magic are restricted to the caves where this kind of phenomenon occurs naturally while those who use magic are able to place their art almost anywhere.
Within both schools it is accepted and common practice to direct the growth of stalagmites and stalactites through setting up threads and wires for the water drops to follow, thus shaping how the stone grows. It is also considered acceptable within the non-magical school to add minerals or pigment to the ground above the cave in order to influence the coloration of the stalagmites. Within the magical school the same effect is achieved by periodically enchant the sources the water comes from.
The ultimate achievement within both schools is to arrange a number of stalagmites and stalactites in such a way that musical chords are heard when the wind blows through them.
Another popular art form among elves is landscaping. Arranging areas of land, including lakes, rivers and forests, in pleasing ways. This is often assisted by magic. After all, moving five hundred tons of rocks five meters to the left is too much like manual labor to be art.
Lately dwarven architects have enlisted the assistance of elven landscapers to improve the views of and from the bridges they build.
Traditional art forms
Of the more traditional art forms elves practice are writing (poetry), weaving, music and to a lesser extent embroidery. Elven poetry is similar to haikus in that it often follows certain very strict rules about theme and verse.
The elven weaving is an integral part in storing and handling the threads of volcanic glass that elves use to store information. Sleeping on an elven mat can make you dream about what is stored in the threads of volcanic glass woven into it. The same goes for sleeping on pillows or in garments embroidered with threads of volcanic glass. This makes such items stupidly expensive.