With a career spanning over 50 years, Rodney Matthews is one of the world’s foremost illustrators of the fantasy genre. His rich creations, featuring strange creatures, exotic plants, lavish landscapes, as well as fantastical cities and machines, have come to life on posters and record covers and in books, computer games and animation since the 1970s.
Fantasy artist Rodney Matthews | Rodney Matthews Studios
Born in 1945, in Paulton, North Somerset, Matthews was fascinated by nature from an early age. He spent most of his time outdoors studying the local flora and fauna, picking flowers and bringing home squirrels, magpies, snakes, frogs and toads! He enjoyed art and related subjects at school, but had little interest in academic subjects, such as mathematics and English.
Upon leaving school, he worked briefly with his father Jack, helping with light engineering and wrought ironwork, but soon found himself to be too accident prone for the position.
Encouraged by his father, he applied for a commercial design course at the West of England College of Art, Bristol. He was accepted upon presentation of a small portfolio of bird drawings in pencil. His tutor was Anthony Rossiter, painter of English, in particular North Somerset, landscapes.
Upon leaving college, Matthews worked for an advertising agency, before turning freelance in 1970. His images soon became recognised worldwide: selling millions in poster format with the legendary Big O poster company; appearing on the pages of Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga; and adorning the record covers of rock artists such as Asia, Magnum, Nazareth, Praying Mantis and Rick Wakeman.
In the 1990s, Matthews’ passion for animation saw him, along with the late Gerry Anderson of Thunderbirds fame, completing Lavender Castle, a 26 episode major children's series, incorporating stop-motion model animation and CGI. In 2005 he contributed concept designs to the creators of movie The Magic Roundabout, that would fire the imaginations of their animators and story boarders. Matthews has even broken into the field of computer game animation, supplying concept designs for computer games by Sony Psygnosis and Midway.
His creative talents do not stop at art. Matthews is also an accomplished drummer and is currently working on his own album Trinity, alongside Jeff Scheetz on guitar, where each track is inspired by one of his own images. The pair are joined by a host of renowned musicians including Tony Clarkin (Magnum), Pete Coleman, John Payne (Asia), Oliver Wakeman (Yes) and Rick Wakeman (Yes).