First Im­pres­sions

Rod­ney Matthews talks prog rock.

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Contents - Rod­ney Matthews

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

Pray­ing Man­tis.”

The Heavy Metal Hero “This one will be in­cluded on my al­bum. I al­ready have the record­ing fin­ished.”

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