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Start with a squiggle: an interview with Laurie King

As soon as we started to chat to Laurie King on Instagram, we knew he was something of a kindred spirit. His deep affection for the Isle of Purbeck is immediately apparent in the lines and contours of his beautiful illustrations, each one informed by an adventure in nature. We wanted to find out more...

A fine liner sketch by Laurie King of the chapel at St Aldhelm's Head, on Dorset's Jurassic Coast
A 'doodle' of the chapel at St Aldhelm's Head

What's your background? I grew up in Surrey, where I also studied for a degree in graphic design. I found school hard, and in secondary school discovered I was dyslexic, which turned out to be a super power. It helped me to understand that words don’t come easily to me, but drawing does. A doodle here, a scribble there and I can flesh out something quite complex. But it took until I found this out to appreciate how I can use drawing.

A colourful cow painted by Dorset artist Laurie King
Laurie's painted cow, a project with Openhouse Creative

After a couple of in-house jobs, I founded Openhouse Creative. Being a little, nimble business allowed for a variety of design work, from brand identities and websites to painting a cow. This was also a time of experimenting with hand-pulled screen printing and I began to produce my first pieces of cycling art celebrating the 2012 Olympic route through the local Box Hill, which led to me hand painting a sofa for ITV's Cycle Show.

A sofa hand painted by Dorset artist Laurie King for ITV's Cycle Show
A sofa painted for ITV's Cycle Show

Our move to Swanage came with a change of pace of life; being close to the beach with hills and land to explore in all directions has been so inspirational to my current work. Throughout everything I have always loved to ride a bike, and later in life added running and the occasional swim. I’m often compared to our dog: if I don’t get out I get a bit grumpy. And we don’t want that!

Laurie King's dog, Stanley, running next to a drystone wall in Purbeck, Dorset
Studio companion Stanley

How do you like to work? The ideal work space is always accompanied with regular cups of tea, great music and calm. I take everything I need to create the next piece of work from a ride, run or walk, returning with sketch studies, photographs and notes about the locations I visit. With everything I need I get into the studio, fill the table to the left with all my findings, to my right my weapons of choice and, under the table, a curled up dog.

Do you have a preferred medium? I find I tend to pick up different tools depending on the subject and the time and space I have. The last six months I have purposefully been trialling new things: gouache has made an appearance, dipping acrylic ink as opposed to fine liners. While sitting with the family it is always quick and easy to pick up a black pen and sketch book or an iPad and Apple pencil and get creating.

A digital illustration of Old Harry Rocks in Dorset, taken from an aerial perspective
"Maps as I would like to see them": one of Laurie's striking aerial views of the Purbeck Coast

Your aerial views of the Purbeck coast are particularly striking. How do you go about creating these? Thank you very much. The three locations I have drawn - Old Harry Rocks, Dancing Ledge and Winspit - are all very meaningful to me. I spend time organising my next adventures with a trusty OS map. I find the lines fascinating: by tightening them up they can provide ready knowledge of depth. But in my eye there is still so much detail missing; okay, they tell me where the local public house is, which is important, but I’d much prefer to understand how the environments relate to one another. Take Dancing Ledge: the sea hits the rocks, the rocks start pale grey and get deeper and deeper in colour and gradually transition into green, curvy hills, all over a 50 metre distance. Amazing, isn’t it? So these are maps how I would like to see them, full of the soul, character and detail that they emit.

How does your love of running and cycling influence your work? It is everything. I am not sure one would work without the other. The connection of spending time with nature has always grounded me, the change of season affecting whether I should add or remove another layer, or whether the first few miles of a ride will be in pitch darkness. It’s all about adapting to the conditions of nature. Give it respect and it’ll pay you back with all its glory. I just need to work out a way to draw whilst riding along. Any ideas?

If you could choose one place in Dorset to draw again and again, what would it be? Ohhh, great question. I think life is too short to focus on one thing and I have a very busy mind with new ideas and focus all the time so, rather than drawing anything again and again, I’d really like to do a narrative of a journey of my local area. A slow and detailed work, ideally in a concertina sketchbook, beginning with Peveril Point on the left page, then turn the page and continue past the RNLI station to the pier, the beach, the cliffs and eventually end up with Old Harry. Whilst it's not repeating an illustration, it would make a lovely narrative of different parts of one place.

About Laurie Laurie King is an illustrator and graphic designer living in Swanage Bay who takes his inspiration from the outdoors. Through his love of cycling and running, he finds beautiful landscapes and routes that he captures with his distinctive use of line work and detail.

www.laurieking.co.uk Instagram: @iamlaurie

A selection of Laurie's work is available to buy in The FOLDE Collection

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