Alongside Alan Lee, Howe was lead conceptual artist of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, and his vision of the dragon Smaug has set a standard. His work has also been inspired by such legends as Beowulf and he has illustrated many other books, including A Diversity of Dragons. He also contributed to the film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Most recently, Howe has published a book exploring his own dragon artworks: John Howe, Forging Dragons.
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