• Hero

    Rob Ryan: The Invisible Kingdom

Publication

Publication: We speak to Rob Ryan on his charming new book The Invisible Kingdom

Posted by Rob Alderson,

Many people will be familiar with Rob Ryan’s work with his whimsical paper-cuts and charming single-scene narratives much-heralded over the years. But with his new book The Invisible Kingdom – the first in a trilogy– Rob is breaking new ground in terms of the scope and ambition of his practice.

The story tells of a young prince whose eyes are opened to the world after a boatman in the palace gives him a magical pen. We spoke to Rob about how this superb new title car about…

When did the idea for this book first surface? What were the initial inspirations?

The basic themes of this story were based on some things that I’d been thinking about for quite a few years. Thoughts on feeling as if you didn’t fit in, thoughts on forging your own path in life and surviving alone in the world. I’d drawn and written little parts of this story over the years as mini stories in their own right but I always felt as if they were connected to the same big story. It was just a matter of sitting and thinking and drawing it through.

As a teenager the thrilling adventure survivalist story Rogue Male truly fascinated me (it was written by Geoffrey Household, such a domestic name for the most undomestic book!) as do films and stories of castaways on distant islands. Stories of survival in extreme situations are fascinating and exciting, but in our own city these stories happen everyday.

I always felt everyday life was as incredible as the remote and exotic; it was just a matter of appreciating it and being able to see it.

Creatively do you approach a book like this as you do your other work or do you work in a different way?

No, it’s a unique and mammoth task and the work on it is quite intense. It requires at least six months devoted solely to it, a luxury of time I can’t really afford; as such I gave it four days a week over six months.

I clear a wall in my studio and create a space for 60 pages to be laid out and pinned up as the ideas are sketched out and improved on and added too; this way I can see how the whole book is looking as work on it progresses.

Like most things, the hardest part is getting started. The first ten pages are the hardest, very, very slowly beginning to feel happy with the tone you are setting until you begin to feel more comfortable and more confident with the story.

  • Main

    Rob Ryan: The Invisible Kingdom

Creatively do you approach a book like this as you do your other work or do you work in a different way?

No, it’s a unique and mammoth task and the work on it is quite intense. I clear a wall in my studio and create a space for 60 pages to be laid out and pinned up as the ideas are sketched out and improved on and added too; this way I can see how the whole book is looking as work on it progresses.

Like most things, the hardest part is getting started. The first ten pages are the hardest, very, very slowly beginning to feel happy with the tone you are setting until you begin to feel more comfortable and more confident with the story.

Did you know the whole story when you start or does it come together as you write? At what point do the visuals come in, after the story or at the same time? 

I know how it starts and how it ends but a lot of it in between is a big question mark! I prefer to keep it quite loose so that new ideas and images that occur to me as I work can be fitted in as it develops. Also I have a list of some specific scenes and mini themes I want to fit into the story but I’m not really sure where or when until I really get cracking on it.

I keep a record of images in sketch books that I can imagine being in the book and weave the words around them; other times it’s the other way around.

Also as the pictures pinned up on the studio wall grow, they get swapped around and some words that were written for one picture end up living with a different unintended picture entirely.

“I know how it starts and how it ends but a lot of it in between is a big question mark!”

Rob Ryan

With a book like this who do you show it to while you’re working on it? Whose advice do you seek?

It’s quite a solitary task in general but I do work with the visuals very closely with my studio designer Libby Wright on every page as it’s drawn for layout only and we share thoughts and opinions on how it looks.For the writing I send some pages to a friend Eileen Daley to see what she thinks of how it reads grammatically and gives me her feedback.

I find writing long bits of prose quite hard. I didn’t pass my English language O Level until the fourth attempt! As an artist that uses words in my work, I’m usually happy to be unrestrained by the laws of grammar in my pictures but unfortunately a long narrative story has to read more clearly.

After I’ve written a few pages out I read and record them into my iPhone, then play them back to myself no sooner than 24 hours later; you can live too closely to things sometimes and putting some time and space between work can help get a better overview.

Finally I sit down with Jocasta Hamilton (the book’s editor) and we go through the whole story together. Some pages stay untouched others need a bit more work on them, like a lot of work you’re never quite totally happy with it; but you have to call it a day at some point or nothing would ever get finished. What can you do ?

  • Full-spreads.-the-invisible-kingdom_page_05

    Rob Ryan: The Invisible Kingdom

  • Full-spreads.-the-invisible-kingdom_page_08

    Rob Ryan: The Invisible Kingdom

  • Full-spreads.-the-invisible-kingdom_page_12

    Rob Ryan: The Invisible Kingdom

  • Invisible-kingdom-packshots-2
  • The-invisible-kingdom-jacket
  • Full-spreads.-the-invisible-kingdom_page_07

    Rob Ryan: The Invisible Kingdom

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Publication View Archive

  1. List-2

    Circular is the members magazine of the Typographic Circle, a not-for-profit organisation that unites type designers and enthusiasts the world over. Included in its members’ list are names like Ken Garland, Angus Hyland and Jonathan Barnbrook, so the design of each issue HAS to be up to scratch. For its 18th edition the mighty Pentagram have continued their design duties, with Dominic Lippa and Jeremy Kunze overseeing the project.

  2. List

    I am a big believer that every magazine should be able to sum up what it does in a few words. New title The-Art-Form does just that with the pithy statement that it’s “a limited edition publication about art and artists.” Issue one features six artists – Ian Davenport, Peter Liversidge, Rana Begum, Dan Baldwin, Michael Reisch and Paul Insect – and each has been asked 13 questions ranging from why they make art to their favourite place. The answers vary not only in tone and subject matter (as you’d expect) but also in form, so while Ian has provided handwritten answers, Michael, Dan and Rana have created paintings, drawings and sketches in response to the questionnaire.

  3. List

    Nourished Journal is a new bi-annual lifestyle magazine from MADE Publishers, the same stable who bring us MADE Quarterly and The Process Journal. Beyond that it’s quite hard to pinpoint what it’s about, and that’s kind of the point, as it aims to reflect “a holistic view of life.”

  4. List

    Back in 2012, New York-based “computer programmer, composer and artist” (the order is his) Cory Arcangel started a Twitter feed called Working On My Novel. It Retweets people who use that phrase, and now Cory has published a book which brings together a selection of some of those Tweets (all with the permission of the authors it should be noted).

  5. List

    One day news might reach us of a Unit Editions publication that doesn’t knock our socks off but to paraphrase Gladiator “not yet…not yet.” Type Plus is the latest title from Adrian Shaughnessy and Tony Brook’s imprint and it sets out “to investigate the practice of combining typography with images to increase effectiveness, potency and visual impact.”

  6. Main9

    Thomas Rousset and Raphaël Verona’s Waska Tatay is fairly ambiguous at first glance. The cover is a simple yellow-to-blue fade with the title placed inconspicuously on the spine; but the content is altogether more arresting. Using a mixture of reportage and staged portraiture the photo book documents the pair’s trip to the Altiplano region of Bolivia and their encounters with witch doctors, spiritual healers and medicine men; uncovering the rites and rituals of these ancient orders and illuminating some of their extraordinary mythologies.

  7. List

    The ongoing success of the Plant Journal has re-engaged readers with the botanical world through an art and design lens; now a new book plans to take this exploration even further.

  8. List2

    Food passages in books have always been some of my favourites in terms of creating flavoursome texture and setting a scene. There’s something so delicious about reading what your favourite characters are eating and drinking, and food descriptions really bring a setting alive. That chowder scene in Moby Dick has remained in my mind as being one of the cosiest and scrumptiously rustic meals, and all of my winter soups aspire to Melville’s hearty description.

  9. List

    I’m loathe to use the term “coffee table book” for a publication which seems to demand to be read anywhere and everywhere, rather than sitting untouched next to a selection of coasters. Still, the new tome by photographer Kenny Braun necessitates it; Surf Texas is a book so good that you’ll be desperate to keep it where it can be seen by anyone who might be passing idly through your living room.

  10. List

    There’s no end to illustration projects that revolve around the observation of daily life – in fact that’s the main skill an illustrator needs to possess in order to communicate visually. And yet there’s surprisingly few that result in work as lovingly scathing as Grace Wilson’s. Her latest publication Eyes Peeled details the trials and tribulations of studying abroad, travelling the world and returning home to mundane conversations with parents huddled around pints in a pub.

  11. List

    The difficult second album is a widely recognised cultural phenomenon – bursting onto the scene is all well and good but staying there is not for the faint-hearted. The first look at the second issue of Intern magazine suggests there’s no such concerns here. Continuing its mission to “delve deeper into the intern culture in the creative industries while showcasing work from some of the precocious talent that make up this burgeoning workforce,” Alec Dudson and his team have once again found unusual, innovative and considered ways to address this most divisive topic.

  12. Main

    Remember that amazing book about people in Jamaica wearing Clarks shoes? Well the makers of that spectacular publication are back with another subculture study, this time looking at the sound systems created in Huddersfield by the migrant Jamaicans who had recently arrived after World War Two. “The market town of Huddersfield, nestled within the Pennine Hills of West Yorkshire, has made a remarkable contribution to UK sound system culture,” the press release states. “From Armagideon to Zion InnaVision, the Arawak club to Venn Street, Matamp to Valv-a-tron, this unlikely location has been a stronghold of the British scene, yet has remained largely overlooked.”

  13. List

    We’re used to seeing publications about food and publications that play with the book/magazine format, but Cookbook combines these two forms into something very special. The second issue of the annual Madrid-based title reached us recently, resplendent in its smart blue cover which Albert Folch – designer, surfer and subject of numero #2 – describes as “a colour that has accompanied me since I was a kid.”