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GUEST BLOG: Behind the magic

21st November 2014 - Rob Ryan


As well as adorning his own beautiful books, Rob Ryan's beautiful paper-cut and screen-printed designs have featured on Carol Ann Duffy's The Gift, John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things and the cover for Erasure's album Nightbird; he even designed Foyles' Christmas windows a few years ago.

His new book, The Kingdom Revealed, a follow-up to The Invisible Kingdom, is a stunning illustrated fairytale about a young boy who doesn't want to grow up to be king. here we go behind the scenes with Rob to find out how he and his team convert his visions into a finished book.

You can meet Rob and get your books signed at Foyles, Charing Cross Road on Saturday 29th November: click here for details. There'll also be achance to win an exclusive Rob Ryan studio hamper.





The starting point for any project is always my sketch books. I jot ideas down as they come to me, sometimes even in the middle of the night. I hate to lose good ideas. The work develops from these scribbles. These scribbles are then progressed into a picture in my studio where I try and capture the feeling I had when I initially thought of it. For The Kingdom Revealed, it's basically hundreds of these notes tied together in a narrative. I really just need a piece of paper, a pencil and a rubber.


This book is something I have wanted to do for a while, partially for myself and partially for people who like my work. I have been thinking about the young boy for a few years. There is something about feeling out of synch with your surroundings that resonated strongly with me. I wanted a book with a bit more to it, something that says more than you normally get in a picture book and the idea of telling the story across three parts really appealed to me. In part one, The Invisible Kingdom, we began the story of the boy who became King and part two, The Kingdom Revealed, we pick his story back up. He's a young man now and we follow him growing up and see how his life develops despite his life being mapped out before him. We are all shaped by the environment we are born into, and this story is about the hunger for another life. The desire to see things differently.




One of the difficult things about creating a book, as opposed to a composite illustration, is telling the story. I can say a simple thing in one picture but over sixty pages it is hard. There are a lot of things to tie together. I love the challenge of it, bringing all the elements together.



My work is all about outline and shape. I have always worked with paper, in a flat graphic style. In college I studied print making, specialising in screen printing which is all about layering. A solid medium without a lot of detail. There was a point in my work where I was doing a lot of writing and words were the dominant feature in my pictures, it became less about the imagery and I found myself using less colour. Eventually the words came back. Essentially my work is drawing, I like to draw with a pencil and I draw figures with a line. The purpose of working this way allows me to bring in shade and a limited perspective.






With words, it is easier to weave my words and images together using this flat laid out style. I try and say simple clear things, focussing on the emotional impact of the picture. We then look at the drawing on the computer to work on the positioning. When working with so many words, far more than a lot of my other work, it's vital we get the layout right without losing that lovely cut edge feel.




I love working with my team, we're very close knit. We make a point of always sitting down and having lunch together. We photocopy a crossword and all sit there racing each other to finish it. My team are very important to me. As the business has grown, I've had to get people to help me and these brilliant people mean that I can sit at my desk all day drawing and thinking of things. I can't think of anything else I would rather do!


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