Out of Line asks illustrators around the world to visualise their experience of sexuality during lockdown

The project peeps into the intimate thoughts of 49 of the world’s best illustrators and it’s now available as a beautifully designed colouring book, with all profits going to charity Akt.

20 May 2020


To quote his online dating profile, Valerio Oliveri is “a dog dad, a decent vegan chef, a morning person and a calisthenics enthusiast”. And while that profile hasn’t been put to good use recently for obvious reasons, clearly, getting some action has still been on the brain…

About five weeks into lockdown, Valerio, who comes from a design background but has spent the past few years predominantly working as a creative director across content and experiential projects, realised he wanted to use creativity to “support people going through a tough time”. He explains: “I wanted to do it in a way that was as meaningful as entertaining – so I started snooping around for inspiration. That’s when I realised how many of my friends were complaining about being both hopelessly bored and helplessly horny.” Many of them were falling into a host of millennial tropes, baking sourdough and doing puzzles – “It was tragic,” he says – then someone mentioned colouring books. “I can’t bake and I don’t have enough patience for puzzles, but colouring books – I can probably do something with that, I thought,” Valerio recalls, adding, “How do you make colouring books more entertaining? Sex – obviously.”

The result is Out of Line, a mammoth book that sees 49 illustrators from five continents contribute artworks to form a soothing, frustration-calming, boredom-killing colouring book visualising each contributor’s experience of sexuality during lockdown. All the profits from the book will be going to Akt, a charity supporting young LGBTQ+ people in the UK who are facing or experiencing homelessness, or living in a hostile environment.

It’s an incredible line-up of creatives featuring everyone from Simon Landrein, Marylou Faure, Alva Skog and Mariano Pascual to Kate Prior, Sofie Birkin and Daiana Ruiz (we really could go on and on with this list, so make sure you check out the full roster on Out of Line’s website). “I still can’t believe that list of contributors. I’m so incredibly grateful for everyone’s involvement,” Valerio says.

With a few people in mind, some based on their style, others on their humour or the content of their work, he started emailing creatives he had worked with in the past and the line-up grew organically from there. “Their enthusiasm towards the idea eventually gave me the confidence to cold call all the others; which for the introvert I am was a massive challenge,” he adds.


Out of Line spread by Haein Kim

As more and more contributors came on board, Valerio kept the brief the same for each, simply asking them to “create an image to reflect their situation – whether it was about their experiences, fantasies or frustrations,” in relation to their sexuality during lockdown. “The idea was to portray a candid, honest picture of the breadth of experiences across genders, orientations and cultural backgrounds,” he continues. “It wasn’t necessarily about the brief but more about curation in this case. I was happy to give everyone full creative freedom, provided the work was in line with the idea behind the project and not offensive.” As a result, Out of Line feels intimate but not scandalous – there’s a sense of community across the pages of the book, as each illustrator opens up about their own experience, be it a positive or a negative one.

The book itself is beautifully designed, with each spread featuring the blank artwork next to a full-colour version and the artist’s description of their submission. This side of things, from the book itself to the visual identity and the website was handled by art director and designer Max Spencer. The illustrations take centre stage, embracing the diversity of styles throughout alongside “nicely crafted, simple typography [Chapter and Adieu by Good Type Foundry, who kindly donated the typefaces] and a bold use of colour”.

After testing out a “purist, black and white approach”, Valerio and Max eventually went in the opposite direction, incorporating ample colour instead, a choice which injects a positive and light-hearted feeling into the project, reflecting not only its diversity but also its approach to sexuality. It’s an inherently uplifting project, although it doesn’t shy away from reflecting the nuances, and therefore the negatives, of the past few months. What’s more, it’s neither didactic nor mocking in terms of how you should feel; instead, it simply gives space for each experience to be aired.

Funny, touching, and a downright visual feast, Out of Line is not only a peep into the intimate thoughts of some of the world’s top creatives, but it will hopefully have a tangible impact in its support of Akt. “The nature of the project also made me reflect on how lucky most of us are for being able to freely and safely express our sexuality, both in and out of our homes,” Valerio concludes. So, as he and Max put it, do some good while being a perv and pre-order your copy here.

GalleryOut of Line


Cover, illustrated by Max Spencer


Spread by Egle Zvirblyte


Spread by Alva Skog


Spread by Marylou Faure


Spread by Mariano Pascual


Spread by Kate Prior


Spread by Zeloot


Spread by Sofie Birkin


Spread by Simon Landrien


Spread by Ian Moore

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.


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