Artist ROB RYAN describes how he loves cycling through Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in East Sussex, and why illustrated books aren’t just for kids. Interview by Alex Reece
About four years ago, I was so busy with work I got pneumonia. So I said to my wife, Lorna, ‘Let’s try to find a little place we can rent and it will be our weekend bolthole where I can leave London and all work behind.’ So we started renting a flat in Rye, and we go down there for weekends and a week or two in the summer.
My favourite bit of coast is a path that goes quietly along the seafront from Rye Harbour to Winchelsea Beach. I suppose it’s about two miles, and I like to ride my bike there. If I’ve got my swimmers with me, I might have a dip. It’s a simple, peaceful place. You walk past people and say hello to each other, which is a novelty for a Londoner.
In half an hour, you might see three or four sets of people, and that’s about it. It’s one of those spots where the sky feels huge, like the Nevada Desert. In between the two places, there’s a boarded-up lifeboat shed and a plaque about the Mary Stanford disaster in the 1920s, where a lifeboat full of guys rode out in a rough sea and all perished. On a lovely sunny day, you’re really struck by this complete other side to the sea and how brutal it can be.
The Rye poster I designed for coast in 2010, as part of The Great Seaside Poster Revival in aid of the Marine Conservation Society, was to do with the idea of people from London having this dream about being happier somewhere else. Speaking for myself here, I’m happy being wherever I am, just doing my work.
I don’t see myself as a writer. I see myself as an artist who sometimes uses words in his pictures. But I’m doing three books in three years, and illustrating them as well. The Kingdom Revealed is the second part of the trilogy. It’s for children and adults. I think a child could read it and not feel out of their depth, and an adult could read it and get something out of it as well. Maybe they could rediscover their inner childhood they have lost along the way.
The Kingdom Revealed by Rob Ryan is published by Hutchinson (£16.99).