Yendor and the Grabsting by Rodney Matthews

Insect Antics II

Following my last blog ‘Insect Antics’, I have been amazed to find that so many others have an interest in these prevailing, little critters and their application in my art, that I have decided to unleash another helping!

Because of their size, insects are often overlooked, but I must say that as a young kid, with eyesight better than now, I rarely missed anything, no matter how minute.  On sunny days I would watch and marvel at the tiny red mites as they scurried to unknown destinations on the warm, upper surfaces of drystone walls, and wonder what it must be like to inhabit a world where everything is so big.  I would stick my face into a grassy field and try to imagine I was insect-sized, so that a meadow flower towered up like the tallest of trees. 

If insects were enlarged to the size of, for example, cattle, us human beings would have some trouble on our hands, yet even at their current proportions insects can draw attention to themselves.  As I am writing this blog at my drawing board a ladybird with nineteen spots (I counted them) has just alighted on my left arm!  Obviously its seen my Tiger Moth painting (below) and thinks I might be up for a dance!  In the UK we have had a huge increase in the numbers of this species, to the point where their "invasion" has become newsworthy.  My studio is knee-deep in them for the second year running.

Tiger Moth by Rodney Matthews

In my previous insect blog, I mentioned that my insect illustrations were produced for diverse purposes, well, they were also painted or drawn in different art styles.  I am showing here a couple of watercolours from my children’s book Yendor, The Journey of a Junior Adventurer published in 1978 by the Big O Company, London, UK.  Little Yendor is confronted by the Grabsting: 

Yendor and Grabsting by Rodney Matthews

and the Killwing:

Yendor and Killwing by Rodney Matthews

I am currently working on an ongoing project, titled 'Oddney's Otherland'.  This fly with rider (no name as yet) makes an appearance:

Fly Rider by Rodney Matthews

The tiny goblin acts as a spy – it’s the fly on the wall sort of idea.  This is also painted in watercolours, but with a black line technique. 

In 1996 I “accidentally” got involved in video game concept design for Sony Psygnosis, Liverpool, UK.  This resulted in many pencil sketches some of which featured insect inspired fighting vehicles.  These are rough concept suggestions for the game ‘Shadow Master,’ drawn on my usual tracing pad with a Staedtler 7B pencil:

Shadow Master - Beetle Tank by Rodney Matthews

Shadow Master - Chameleon-Eyed Tank by Rodney Matthews

Shadow Master - Flea Tank by Rodney Matthews

Shadow Master - Hopping Tank by Rodney Matthews

Shadow Master - Mantis Tank by Rodney Matthews

Shadow Master - Rock Climbing Tank by Rodney Matthews

The armoured vehicles, as well as looking like insects, are designed for all-terrain purposes to suit alien worlds, except for the mantis tank which is a desert vehicle, hence the elongated wheels.

Butterflies have long been a favourite species of mine, ever since early childhood.  I was (and still am) fascinated by their amazing wing colourings, their erratic flight and most importantly the miraculous transformation from caterpillar, via chrysalis, to a “wet” butterfly that waits to pump up its wings before flying (without practice) into the wonderful wide world.  One of my early butterfly-inspired pieces was titled ‘The Last Armada’:

The Last Armada by Rodney Matthews

This ink painting was commissioned by Peter Ledeboer of Big O Posters, London, UK, having seen a rough colour sketch that I had previously presented as a record cover idea for the band Stackridge.  The image was rejected as a record cover – thankfully, because it went on to sell in hundreds of thousands worldwide in poster format!  In fact, it was this image, together with another other rejected album cover, ‘In Search of Forever’, that transformed me from unknown artist working in Park Street, Bristol, UK, to artist of international repute!  Sorry about that bit of trumpet blowing, but hey, if you are a young unknown artist, take it as an encouragement, I say, “be blessed and keep going!” 

This other butterfly piece in pencil was intended as a poster, but never finished in colour.  ‘Wonderful Land’ is the title of an instrumental single released by my favourite early 60s British band The Shadows:

Wonderful Land By Rodney Matthews

As a kid I would go to any length to catch and examine a butterfly I had not seen before (naughty again).  On one occasion I was a back-seat passenger in a car driven by my French brother-in-law.  We were somewhere near the town of Hyéres on the Southern French coast when I spotted a particularly interesting species of Swallowtail butterfly.  Straight away, I opened the car door and leapt out.  Unfortunately, the car was till moving, albeit slowly!  By the timeI had dusted myself off, the specimen had disappeared!  There followed a stiff rebuke from my sister, who was anxious to nip this bad habit in the bud, before it ended in tears. 

All the best for now,



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