Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Rodney Matthews & Aureola Rococo Elves

Perusing Imagine Magazine #1 I came across an advert for Minifigs "High Elfs". Immediately struck by the fact that I don't recall ever having seen them before. A quick scour through some early White Dwarf magazines shows them to be  completely absent, strange considering earlier ranges from Minifigs were heavily advertised. The second thing that struck me was they look brilliant, and owe something of a debt to the artwork of Rodney Mathews.

Warriors from the Sky | Rodney Matthews | 1974

Aureola Rococo | Tunnel Elfs
Have to apologise for the low-res images - The original poster print of Matthews Warriors of the Sky is a meter wide, a few measly pixels can't really communicate it. Similarly the Minifigs catalogue, through black and white photography, offset printing and scanning  doesn't really translate the models either.

Twelve Towers at Dawn | Rodney Matthews | 1975

Aureola Rococo | High Elfs | Undercoated | Ms. Delaney King

Aureola Rococo | High Elfs

The Court of the Crimson King | Mr. Springfield
I think it's reasonably obvious by now that the range was somewhat inspired by Matthews work, but the details are not exact - Matthews goblins tend towards scale mail, whereas Aurelo Roccoco Elfs tend towards plate mail.

Rodney Mathews | People of the Pines | 1977

Aureola Rococo | High Elf Cavalry

The stylised alien horses are one of the more striking of the direct resemblances between the art and sculpt.

Rodney Mathews | Dragonlord (1976)
Aureola Rococo | Large Dragons with Elvin Dragon Masters

Aureola Rococo || Large Dragons | Mr. Goblin Lee
The Roccoco Large Dragon is clearly based on the Matthews original image - the horns, mouth, neck segmentation. Incidentally this painting of Elric, entitled the Dragon Lord also appeared on Citadel Miniatures "Eternal Champion" boxed set.

Citadel Miniatures Eternal Champion Box Set | via

The Aureola Rococo range also appears in the 1985 Minifigs Catalogue (via Henry's Wargaming) so undoubtedly they were in production, maybe earlier. Most likely they sculpted by Richard Higgs who ran Minifigs - and also did the Valley of the Four Winds range. More detailed photographs can be seen on the excellent Lost Minis Wiki.

Meanwhile the moulds have been aquired by Cavalier / Matchlock minis and they are slowly getting all the old Minifigs back into production  - so far fromthe Aureola Rococo range the Mounted Knights of the Silver Rose  and Aureola Rococo and the Neaderthals  but no Elfs. If they're dedicated to getting the whole lot into production including all the 15mm historicals it might take a while!

Matthews Elfin designs do have precedent in fairy illustrations, and we can trace many of the motifs to earlier works, not to deny him his stunning originality in style, but to draw his work, and that of Higgs into a wider traditional community of depictions of the little people.

pine fairy | The Sun Egg | Elsa Berskow | 1932

People of the Pine | Hat | Ms. Anabel Sousa Moss

Cicely Mary Barker | 1923 (?)

Froud & Lee | Fairies | 1979 | N.B Freddy Mercury comment.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Imagine Dragons

I was browsing through Rodney Matthews book In Search of Forever - a gift from the beautiful Mrs. Zhu. It's a veritable treasure trove of imagery, a wonderful thing to behold. I'd seen several of the images on Rodneys website and other art-sites before, but there is nothing like seeing them here in high quality, large format print.

In search of Forever

Anyway, yes, I was browsing this weighty tome when I came across Rodneys cover artwork for Imagine #12 (one of the few issues I don't have) in the section of work he did for TSR -

Rodney Matthews | 1984

The version in In Search of Forever doesn't have the masthead or other type on it, it's just the art. It's interesting that TSR UK were commissioning original artwork for their covers, whereas GW with the arguably better distributed White Dwarf had developed the habit of using images from the morguefile of the Young Artists illustration agency, reporducing art originally destined for SF&F books, often with zero relevance to the content of the issue. Incidentally there is a pencil sketch from Rodney of what looks like a proto Eldar Farseer done for a TSR catalogue in the section for all you Oldhammererers as well.

Anyway, daydreaming about that dragon, One of those eerie feeling of familiarity hit me, and rather than considering it the usual bout of indigestion, actually recalled what it reminded me of. Rodneys cover is an almost precise mirror image of Chris 'Fangorn' Bakers illustration from the Fiend Folio, albeit rendered in Matthews style.

Chris 'Fangorn' Baker | 1981 | via
Which itself was something of a re-imagining of Dave Sutherlands cover for the 1977 D&D Basic Set. - the elements dragon / treasure / light-bearing magic user and fighter.

Dave Sutherland | D&D | 1977

Again we see these same elements, but in a radically different composition in the 1977 UK edition by John Blanche, which we can see establishes the dragon on the left, wizard nearest the dragon and the fighter on the right. Mr Zenopus, speculates that the Fangorn art from the Fiend Folio may have been originally intended for the UK D&D cover. - for which he did all the interior illustrations.

John Blanche | D&D | 1977 via

It's interesting to see John has returned to a similar mark-making technique in his recent personal work as the sublime chaos of the Voodoo Forest documents, although the underlying drawing is stronger in his newer work. Again all the hallmark elements are there - the treasure, Magic User, carrying the light, the archway, the fighter and Dragon. These same elements is a composition closer to Fangorns also appears on the 1981 Basic Set by the Erol Otus:

Erol Otus | D&D | 1981| via
Fangorns Fiend Folio image does also carry strong compositional resemblance to  Erol Otus' 1981 cover, which makes me question whether Fangorns peice was composed for the 1977 UK D&D cover, or a re-drawing of Otus. Otus' cover is notable not only for his stunning stylisation and use of colour,  but the only one approaching gender equality in terms of representation, although through the traditional gender role of the female magic user. The image also seems to be laden with acid soaked psychosexual Freudian undertones which give such a mythical richness and phantasmagorical depth to the work.

I'm not sure if Fangorn, John or Otus had line of sight of each others work (the horns on the warriors helmet suggests, perhaps they did), rolled for initiative or were working from the same brief, but the details of motifs and compositional similarities are interesting.

Saint George and the Dragon | Paolo Uccello | 1470

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

quick, lads! run!

It's Diana Rigg!
This months Miniatures Wargaming magazine has a lovely little introduction to all things Oldhammer - spreading the word to the wider gaming community.

Miniatures Wargaming #381 | via

The article starts with a really good definition of Oldhammer that manages to be both to the point and inclusive (no mean feat!) and then goes on to list a handful of sites and blogs of interest. Several of these are run by net-buddies and hugely talented miniatures gamers - well worth having a dig through if you don't already:

But wait, what's this? ? Shome mishtake shurely ? What is our humble old Realm doing listed in amongst these worthy sites? According to the author...
"More fantasy focussed than most of the other blogs on this list . Mr Zhu spends his time writing about British Industrial Relations of the early 1980s as represented in Warhammer Fantasy Battle Scenario Packs as well as a 2nd Edition Amazon Army List, feminism and Diana Rigg. Normally that stuff I would run a mile from - it is a credit to Mr Zhu that he manages to make this material interesting. Recommended."

The rest I can kind of see, but I'm not sure why anyone would run a mile from Diana Rigg! Thank you Mr. Kinch I'm glad you found my ramblings interesting enough to write about. Cheers!