Frank Herbert’s Dune has always sustained a climate hospitable to bizarre visual interpretation. From Mobius’ and H.R. Giger’s unused concept art for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unfinished movie adaption to David Lynch’s moody art deco version, a book series about warrior-zealots living on a desert planet infused with space-bending worm poop just seems to invite strange visions.
Concept artist Matt Rhodes continues the tradition of bizarre interpretations of Dune’s major characters with a series of illustrations inspired by the operatic sensibilities of director Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall). Over at Tor, Rhodes discusses his thought process behind his designs. Incorporating Tarsem’s visual style into his approach was a deliberate move to avoid duplicating Lynch’s look. The director’s distinct style can be seen in outfits made of cascading metal tiles or winding layers of richly dyed fabrics. Rhodes provides a synopsis for each character, explaining his thought process behind his work. In describing the series’ iconic stillsuits—skintight suits the desert-dwelling Fremen wear to retain water, Rhodes says: “I wanted to design a suit that didn’t shy away from its vulgar processes. It’s designed to process piss, shit, and sweat into drinkable water. Seeing a person in their stillsuit should almost feel like seeing them naked.”
The stillsuits are unsettling looking, an intimate exaggeration of anatomy that gives the viewer the sense of seeing something they shouldn’t.
Rhodes is the current lead concept designer for Bioware and worked extensively on Dragon Age series. His personal portfolio page has larger images of his Dune illustrations, as well as some great Dragon Age concept work.