by Dexter Sear
As an individual sharing the mission of helping people to really see what lies around them, I am honored to introduce the formidable fantasy illustrator, Rodney Matthews. The front cover of this third issue contained a detail of Rodney Matthew’s 1985 illustration entitled “The Hop.” Rodney is an extraordinary, prolific, contemporary fantasy illustrator, living in the United Kingdom, whose work includes numerous insect subjects and references. Insect themes run rampant within his illustration: one find tarsal claws on twig ends and orthopteroid spikes on everything from space ships to guitars. His insect related themes include insect musician bands, giant robotic-insect machines, and huge warrior saddled insect steeds. Rather than reviewing all of his illustrations here, I will save that for a fuller article on his work in a future issue of CED.
Matthews noted that “The Hop” provided him an opportunity to exercise his fascination with the minute and largely unnoticed life of insects which he often finds as dramatic and puzzling as any human drama. He goes on to explain that the world as viewed from an insect perspective is as vast and perilous as any fantasy scenario.
Rodney Mathews’ illustrations display a refreshing affinity and sympathy for nature. Defining nature as his single greatest influence, Rodney anchors his illustrations in the realism of his photographic reference collection containing numerous insects. He then applies his unique style of exaggeration and enhancement of form and color to successfully ‘morph’ the insects into their new, anthropomorphic, fantasy roles. Using this winning technique, Matthews creates truly inspirational insect fantasy illustrations. Matthews comments there are enough good illustrators of people and thus directs his energy and observations to the natural world. He believes, “the wildest flights of the imagination are usually triggered by what would be considered quite commonplace or even boring features of the countryside.”
During his natural observations Rodney has developed and cultivated a fascination towards insects. He notes the juxtaposition between the often violent aspects of insect behavior and the striking beauty of their form and color. He also finds it strange that many humans are often shocked by the horrific realities of the insect world yet fail to recognize themselves as the ultimate dangerous animal. Rodney’s love of nature causes him to fear for the environment as he witnesses the human rape of the planet. Sound spiritual and environmental beliefs often form the underlying themes of his illustrations. Matthew’s achieves a powerful imagery that reminisces viewers back to childhood years; before they learned about the unfortunate contemporary realities of nuclear weaponry, environmental destruction, and holes in the ozone layer. Fantasy insects are perfect manifestations of this age of innocence and imagination.
For a complete overview of Rodney Matthew’s illustrations, I highly recommend his first two books entitled “In Search of Forever”, and “Last Ship Home”, (ISBN: 1 85028 003 7 & ISBN: 1 85028 095 9) published by Paper Tiger.