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 Professor Oddney and Magnus © Rodney Matthews Studios

Oddney's Otherland - Chronicles From Beneath the Shed

August 18, 2019 3 Comments

Oddney's Otherland - Chronicles From Beneath the Shed

After a successful career as both naturalist and wildlife presenter, Professor Clive Oddney and Magnus, his pet magpie, move to the picturesque English countryside to live in the little thatched cottage inherited from his dear Uncle Cuthbert.  While clearing away his uncle's many "interesting" possessions, Oddney discovers a dusty old book.  It contains accounts and drawings of creatures from a fantasy world - a sort of field guide to the unlikely.  Leafing through the pages, he shakes his head and mutters "Spud Snuzzlers, Snort-Hogs, Bloated Hob-Goblins, Grumpy Meadow Gnomes, all very fascinating, but quite unreal." Setting it aside, he throws himself into retirement, busying himself in his flower garden.

Until, that is, one sunny day, while fetching a spade from the garden shed, he and Magnus are met with the most peculiar sight.  A small gnome, for that is what it was, scurries past them and disappears under a large upturned flowerpot.  In utter disbelief Oddney lifts the pots to find a tunnel excavated beneath.  He begins to tremble with excitement, images of his uncle's book whizzing through his mind, "Magnus, could this really be, could we have seen what I think we have seen?"  Magnus loudly shrugs his wings.

Curiosity soon gets the better of the intrepid duo.  Heading off in hot pursuit, they squeeze their way along the underground passage, eventually arriving at a small oak door that opens into ... Otherland !

Oddney's Otherland Cover © Rodney Matthews Studios

ODDNEY'S OTHERLAND PROPOSED BOOK COVER

What is the meaning of this outrage? 

It’s obviously amusing entertainment for kids and adults that never grew up, but let me explain its origins.  Oddney’s Otherland represents the imaginings and meanderings in a man’s mind – partly based upon his own experiences of life.  That man is Yours Truly. 

If you will excuse the repetition of the telling, when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, my dad, W J Matthews, wandered into the front room of our council house in Farrington Gurney, Somerset, and seeing a bored young child, whipped a carpenters pencil out of his overalls pocket and - oblivious to what my mother might of thought - drew a procession of Walt Disney characters at child-height around the room on the off-white wallpaper!  My Dad and Walt Disney immediately became joint heroes of mine.  I sat down to copy the drawings as best I could, not realising that a switch had been turned on in my little mind.  What was it?  Yes, the idiosyncratic characters that Disney had created were fascinating, but more than that, they were ANIMALS - Mickey, a mouse; Donald, a duck; Clarabell, a cow; Horace, a horse; Pluto, a dog; and so on – and I was crazy about animals. 

I started to make my own drawings of these creatures and later on at school my exercise books with brown paper covers were adorned with my own versions of cartoon critters influenced by my weekly comic.

My early childhood memories also include being fascinated with all things natural – spiders spinning intricate webs in the back garden, bees and butterflies alighting on my mother’s flowerbeds and chirpy birds going about their business.

I became a little like the Durrell kid with my obsession for keeping and studying animals and insects of all kinds.  Not surprising then, that one of my acquisitions was my friend the magpie named 'Mickey'.  He would sit on my shoulder and head respectively, whereupon he would make inconvenient deposits on a regular basis.  I had a second magpie called ‘Blacky’ but he eventually flew away leaving just ‘Mickey’.  I spent most of my childhood days rummaging about in the countryside near my home, discovering birds’ nests, squirrels, insects and every kind of fauna and flora.  I would take trips to the village sweet shop with my pockets stuffed with critters including grass snakes and toads and anything else that would put up with it.  One time as I was ordering a quarter of clove balls – a grass snake popped its head out of my pocket – freaking out a couple of old ladies in the shop! 

And so, Oddney’s Otherland  has its origins in the life and times of Rodney Clive Matthews of Somerset, England.  The format of the project, which actually commenced in 1977, has changed over the years, but now with Sarah heavily involved we are moving on a pace.  I'm currently at work on the final few images and Sarah is tidying up my story.  We are debating book publishers or whether to go down the Kickstarter route - either way we are determined that you will be able to have Oddney's Otherland as a book in your hands in the not too distant future. 

Below, I share with you, a few of the many illustrations that I've done for this project so far:

Oddney's Cottage © Rodney Matthews Studios

ODDNEY'S COTTAGE.  2018, PENCIL

The Home of the Bloated Hob-goblin © Rodney Matthews Studios

THE HOME OF THE BLOATED HOB-GOBLIN.  2019, PENCIL

"Snodrak - Someone at the Door!" © Rodney Matthews Studios

"SNODRAK - SOMEONE AT THE DOOR !" 2019, INK LINE AND WATERCOLOURS 

 The Hob-goblin Gets Angry © Rodney Matthews Studios

THE HOB-GOBLIN GETS ANGRY.  2019, PENCIL

Magnus Takes a Nap © Rodney Matthews Studios

MAGNUS TAKES A NAP.  2019, PENCIL

 The Dragoner © Rodney Matthews Studios

THE DRAGONER.  1995, INK LINE AND WATERCOLOURS

Spitfire Tucks In © Rodney Matthews Studios

SPITFIRE TUCKS IN.  2019, PENCIL

The Scree © Rodney Matthews Studios

THE SCREE.  2019, PENCIL

Mrs Beezer and PC Cuffem © Rodney Matthews Studios

MRS BEEZER AND PC CUFFEM.  2019, PENCIL

Wake Up ... Wake Up! © Rodney Matthews Studios

WAKE UP ... WAKE UP !  2019, PENCIL

A Surprise for the Wizard © Rodney Matthews Studios

A SURPRISE FOR THE WIZARD.  2019, PENCIL

"Wheneth is a door not a door?" © Rodney Matthews Studios

"WHENETH IS A DOOR NOT A DOOR ?"  2019, INK LINE AND WATERCOLOURS 



3 Responses

Michael Reid
Michael Reid

September 15, 2019

Great news, but almost too much of a tease!

Peet Ellison
Peet Ellison

August 19, 2019

I’m loving the look of this Rodney – here, take my money!

Colin Bird
Colin Bird

August 19, 2019

Excellent drawings Rodney.

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