illustratively speaking - a quick conversation

laura quick

without giving too much away (i'm still a chapter or two away from completion), i'm currently reviewing a book in which, aside from words of wisdom, are a copious number of illustrative photographs. this is, i readily admit, not a particularly unusual state of affairs, but in this specific case, many of those images seem somewhat surplus to requirements. i cannot disagree that pictures are often every bit as important as a textual narrative, but predominantly when they pragmatically serve the latter. in the case under discussion, while the captions often pass on valuable nuggets of information, the images to which they point, frequently fail to be relevant.

laura quick

an editor i once worked with in the past was firmly of the belief that 'a picture is worth a thousand words', a belief that he often stretched to extremes, providing me with a phalanx of photos and scarcely sufficient words to accompany. those page layouts still give me nightmares.

but there is no doubt that a book of any genre is immeasurably enhanced by the inclusion of a measure of illustration. i would include even the ubiquitous novel in that assertion, though budgetary constraints probably mitigate against such revelatory thoughts. thankfully, no such restrictions were applied to the recently published and reviewed, rapha editions 'getting started in road cycling' by guy andrews, superbly illustrated by laura quick. you would probably not be wrong to assume that rapha were every bit as impressed as was i with laura's artistic flair. beginning this week they're posting a laura quick animation on the rapha website.

laura quick

but what of ms quick herself? are these illustrative skills self-curated, or the result of a formal art education? "I went to Brighton University. A great illustration course, which, back then, was a really free creative process, where none of us worried about getting a good grade!"

that shows a maturity sadly lacking in my own art education of many years ago, where the overshadowing knowledge that my four years would end with the need to find gainful employment. this knowledge squeezed me into what i surmised might be a more employable discipline. however, at the time, i was bereft of the potential benefit of being a dyed-in-the-wool cyclist, something that may well have saved my (vegetarian) bacon had i invoked a velocipedinal interest. laura's accompaniment to mr andrews' words would indicate that she's no real stranger to the ways of the saddle, so is she an experienced cyclist, or is 'getting started in road cycling' aimed squarely at her bikeshed?

laura quick

"I was born and raised in Nottingham, so obviously, being the home of the Raleigh factory, my Dad always got me Raleigh racers. I loved them. I had one called a Candice. It was, to me at the time, the Ford Capri of bikes. I loved everything about it, the colours, the font, the white handlebars with red dots. I cycled a lot on that bike. I'd go out round the boating lake on my own to clear my head, and mull over a boy I fancied, (who didn't fancy me back), or why my parents were so infuriating!

there are observed parallels between the visual and the musical arts, particularly related to inhabiting the genre of choice. for instance, it's all well and good to hold bill bruford or pat metheny in high and influential regard, but an entirely different matter to find a musical situation allowing hopefully similar talent to be expressed. i may have an unrivalled ability to percuss in a 7/8 time signature, but if i'm perfectly honest, there's not a ceilidh band on the island that has ever required me so to do.

laura quick

possessing drawing and painting skills such as those demonstrated by ms. quick are to be much envied, but it strikes me there might be a smidgeon of frustration to be endured if those skills remain as unused and unwanted as my ability to play in 7/8. with this in mind, is the recent collaboration with guy andrews her first artistic foray into the world of cycling?

"I did work with Brooks on their 'Brooks Compendium of Cycling Culture'. I provided imagery about travelling/traversing long distances with some interesting stories about carrying bikes through crocodile infested swaps and going weeks without proper food, and eating saddles."

if you will allow me to stretch the bounds of incredulity and continue my tenuous comparison between the illustrative arts and those of music, i'd be inclined to think that an artist employed in this realm is somewhat akin to that of the session musician. once again, if no-one needs the skill of playing in odd time signatures, the hapless musician is highly unlikely to be re-employed should seven over eight be force fed into a 45 second advertising jingle. thus is often the state of affairs for the illustrator, engaged to provide drawings of teddy bears when their heart pines for the inner workings of a sturmey archer hub gear.

laura quick

in their recent collaboration, did guy tell her specifically what he wanted, or was she left pretty much to her own devices? "Guy made the odd suggestion, as did Taz (Darling). However, they were great to work with and gave me masses of creative freedom. The kind that rarely comes your way when working with a big brand."

contemporary, state of the art image scanning and high resolution colour reproduction rarely mitigate against one illustrative medium or another. this can be clearly seen when observing laura's acutely observed draughtsmanship in both the animations currently featured on rapha's website and the copious number of static illustrations in the book. both demonstrate an appreciable versatility with differing media, but does laura have a favoured means of expression?

"It depends on the mood/subject. I love my fountain pens and gouache, but sometimes I use Posca Pens, gel pens, and whatever catches my eye in the art store. and I always use a leuchtturm1917 sketchbook. I can't think how to draw without one. (I should tell them this!)"

laura quick

recent posts in these pixels have paid lip-service to the ever-increasing complexity of the modern-day bicycle, more specifically the irreverent tinkering with the inners of the humble bottom bracket by those with apparently little better to do. but that is merely scratching the surface of technological advancement, often requiring more pages of explanation than would have been the case as recently as a decade ago. however, laura's illustrations for 'getting started' display a remarkable simplicity of form, describing the necessities with a minumum of pen or brush strokes. how did she approach the subject matter?

"I just try to keep it as simple as possible. Over-thinking or explaining is no use. I don't worry about creating the most obvious image that everyone will get. I make a leap and if people get it, then great. If they don't, hopefully it's a nice enough image to get by anyhow. I don't like to spoon feed the viewer too much.
laura quick "And I try to be as ordinary as possible about my experiences. Trying to pinpoint the everyday bits is a real interest of mine. I did an illustration the other day about all the nobble ends that you get in tins of pre-chopped tomatoes and how annoying it is. Ordinary stuff interests me and amuses me, because we tend not to discuss it."

cycling is, however, an active sport and activity, even when it's not being done right. even the slowest of us describes a modicum of movement and the ability of today's designers to imbue carbon fibre with a sense of movement, readily apparent should it be only resting against the rapha club window, is often difficult to encapsulate on the printed page. moving pictures are probably where it's at. but to ask a question that was pretty much answered before it was asked, is animation an area in which laura has dabbled?

"As you've already mentioned, keep an eye on the Rapha website: every day from 17 July, they are releasing one of my animations. I also do animated gifs for perfumier, Miller Harris and some for Brooks too. I aim to do this more from now on; it's fun, but it is labour intensive."

so now that our appetite for laura quick's artistic observations has been whetted, is there a chance we'll see more of her work in future rapha editions/bluetrain publications? "I'd hope so. They are great to work with, and they seem pretty happy."

laura quick | getting started in road cycling


thursday 19 july 2018

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................