Rodney Matthews talks prog rock.
I portray nature in my art as it appears to me: beautiful, yet dangerous Rodney worked in an advertising agency before turning freelance in 1970 and breaking into the fields for which he became famous: sci-fi and fantasy posters, record covers and book covers. www.rodneymatthews.com
How did you catch the fantasy art bug?
It was my dad’s fault. He passed on his artistic, musical genes to me – I had no choice! The fantasy inclination developed in the swinging sixties.
Did your upbringing influence your distinctive ‘spiky’ painting style?
My early years were spent wandering around the garden observing flora and fauna; watching insects, birds and small furry critters. I had such passion for flowers that at age three, I went into our neighbour’s garden and picked all the tops off Mrs Rogers’ prized tulips! I also noticed that many life forms were endowed with self-defence systems or mechanisms that included spikes and thorns. Picking Mrs Rogers’ roses was a hazardous undertaking. In short, I portray nature in my art as it appears to me: beautiful, yet dangerous.
Did anyone help or hinder your career?
I don’t want to dwell on the hinderers, but on the positive side there have been many who have furthered my career, by encouragement and practical commitment. First up would be my dad as I have already mentioned, and later the painter Anthony Rossiter, my tutor at The West of England College of Art. Then there was Peter Ledeboer, the proprietor of the Big O poster company in the 1970s, who took me on and marketed tons of my posters. Michael Moorcock, who recommended me to his publishers, and later we did several projects together. Gerry Anderson was another highly talented man who took to my work and became a good friend.
How has your art style evolved?
Working in an advertising agency as an illustrator from 1962 to 1970, I was required to work in many different styles. I’ve retained some of these to this day; however, the most enduring is the ‘spiky’ fantasy style mentioned earlier.
How would you describe your working relationship with fantasy and sci-fi author Michael Moorcock?
I’ve not worked directly with Michael for many years, but have very fond memories of doing so in the 1970s. Michael seemed to be on a similar artistic wavelength to myself, in that he made very few alterations to the designs that I presented, and was most complimentary.
What’s been the highlight of your career to date? Any low points?
If I had to single out a highlight, it would most likely be working with the late, great Gerry Anderson on my (long in the gestation) idea for children’s TV: Lavender Castle. Among the low points would be the way in which the owners and copyright-holders of this show messed up, resulting in its demise.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Why not get a proper job?!
What’s your most recent project or exhibition?
I’m still knocking out a few album covers, such as last year: ones for Praying Mantis, Nazareth and Magnum. I’m also holding an exhibition, ‘Ionawr’, at The Bishop’s Palace, Wells, England, endorsed recently by John Cleese, one of my heroes, who also happens to be a collector of my work.
In addition to my art, I’m also a keen drummer. At the end of 2015 I released the track I Saw Three Ships on CD, accompanied by a Christmas card featuring my artwork. You could say that it’s a taster of the album I’m working on, where each tune is influenced by 12 of my images. I’m fortunate to be working alongside Jeff Scheetz on guitar, John Payne of Asia on bass, former Yes keyboard player Oliver Wakeman and multi-instrumentalist Pete Coleman … more names to follow.
Legacy “My most recent of the album cover artworks I’ve done for
The Heavy Metal Hero “This one will be included on my album. I already have the recording finished.”