Sextet by Rodney Matthews

Insect Antics

Reminiscing on our recent Birmingham (Electric Rock) exhibition at which Praying Mantis played their socks off, it occurred to me that I must have something of an obsession with insects (sorry Tino!) Further reflecting on my art career I recalled a considerable insect repertoire which goes back to my childhood days in the village of Farrington Gurney, UK, where I (just like most other kids in the days when video games were something from Mars) collected insects and shoved them in jam jars with a ventilated cover (naughty!) 

Unlike the other kids however, I just had to draw insects and marvel at their intricate construction.  The lace wings that moved at the speed of sound, the hydraulic-powered legs that propelled a grasshopper many, many times its own length, and the rippling leg movements of the millipede. 

I am no expert entomologist, but I know enough to realise the special importance that insects have in our wonderful natural world.  On excursions to warmer climes I found that many of the UK resident insects were replicated there in much larger format and exaggerated to a fantasy genre.  The camouflage and change of both colour and shape to suit an environment of the praying mantis for example is beyond belief. 

So, where am I going with this?  I started to use stock insect design as a springboard for fantasy creatures that were sometimes endowed with human characteristics enabling, for example, the earwig to play a guitar, the spider a drum kit and the weevil the keys:

Earwig, Spider and Weevil playing instruments

They appear of course on Tiger Moth's album cover Howling Moth.  The artwork is titled 'Sextet':

Sextet for Tiger Moth's Howling Moth album cover

Then there was the temptation to enlarge the creature out of all proportion, an example of which is the mantis eating planet Earth as seen on Praying Mantis' album cover Gravity:

Gravity album art by Rodney Matthews for Praying Mantis

Furthermore, insects could be used as steeds for dark warriors, as seen in the private commission 'Conflict in the Grass':

Conflict in the Grass by Rodney Matthews

or as a fundamental blueprint for metallic war machines, for example the scorpion tank in 'Peace … At Last!':

Peace ... at Last! by Rodney Matthews

To display all of my insect-influenced artworks within this one blog, could take me quite some time, so I'll leave you with a select few of my lesser known pieces.

The drawing below was suggested to Child's Play International for a series of board books titled Insect Antics:

Insect Antics by Rodney Matthews

This one is an alternative logo design proposed to the computer game company Traveller's Tales:

Traveller's Tales alternative logo by Rodney Matthews

The computer games I have been involved with have been littered with my insect machines.  Here is one of them:

Game design by Rodney Matthews

Below is 'The Battlefield of Chaos', illustrated for Michael Moorcock's short story Elric at the End of Time:

The Battlefield of Chaos by Rodney Matthews

'Inter-Galactic Games (Number Three)', a poster design from 1986, features a boxing fly - what he lacks in size, he makes up for with extra arms and faster movements:

Inter-Galactic Games (Number Three) by Rodney Matthews

'The Firewagon', an image for the project The Moth and the Moon, which sadly never came into being:

The Firewagon by Rodney Matthews

Finally, I'll leave you with a little anecdote about the following image, 'AR-CE-EM 242', a cover for Dutch magazine Orbit.  I remember being stuck for a title for some time, in the end I chose to name it after the invoice number for the job - RCM242 -  at that time my invoices always started with my initials.  

AR-CE-EM 242 by Rodney Matthews

 If you made it this far, thanks for reading.  I'll try not to leave it so long before my next blog.




That’s me, that twanging earwig! Small swell of pride!

Ian A Anderson

Your insect work is stunning, but I must declare a conflict of interest, as the earwig stares down at me every day 😀


Fascinating,, did you by any chance see David Attenborough’s TV piece about Dung Beetles last night on BBC. (22/3/19)

Stuart Stickler

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