We talk to British Columbia-based illustrator and artist, Sarah King, about the importance of words in her work and the fascinating new techniques she’s using. You can find more of her art at www.sarahaking.com and @sarahkingart.
Could you tell us a little bit about your background – where you trained, how you learned and what inspired you to become an artist and an illustrator when you were younger?
I have always loved to draw and make things. I was part of a book-making group with friends when I was five where we wrote, illustrated, printed and bound small books. That was probably the start of me wanting to be an illustrator.
When it came to university it was between marine biology/zoology illustration, animation or graphic design. I didn’t get great grades for the marine biology/zoology side, but I had a full portfolio of artwork to get in to Brighton for Graphic Design. Brighton was an amazing experience, with talented and inspiring class mates and tutors who were great designers and illustrators themselves.
When did you make the move from London to Canada? What drew you to British Columbia?
I moved to Canada in 2010. Initially the plan was just for 6 months to snowboard and explore but as soon as I arrived I knew I wanted to stay. BC has an incredible landscape – winter is amazing when you have mountains to play in, and summer opens up even more to see. The hiking, surfing, mountain biking and snowboarding made me fall in love with the country.
You’ve travelled to some interesting locations, and produced work relating to travel – have your travels influenced you significantly? Do you have a favourite country that you’ve visited?
Yes, travelling has influenced a lot of my work. I visited Canada 5 years ago and never left, so I would have to say BC is one of my favourite places. I also worked as a scuba diving instructor in Asia on coral reef conservation projects. Spending time observing the underwater world was an incredibly special experience, and something everyone should try.
What subjects or themes do you feel have been a draw for your work?
Nature, history, literature, travel, music.
You’ve worked across a number of different mediums and techniques – can you explain a little about the mediums/ techniques you use? Do you have a particular favourite? Do you find that working in one medium/ technique helps, or feeds into working with another?
Pen and ink is what I use most often – I love incorporating objects into my work, such as the type on fruit. It’s a tricky technical element to get right: the texture of the fruit skin, trying hard not to bruise the fruit, photography and editing.
Pyrography is quite a recent technique I picked up after seeing some beautiful etched leather shoes. Burning wood is very satisfying, you are limited with the tools, and the way the wood burns, so this dictates some of the style of the artwork. I love the permanence and solidity of the pieces.
You’ve worked for an impressive number of publications, and also produced some beautiful personal projects – do you have a favourite piece?
The snowboards for GNU are a personal favourite. Having the opportunity to work for a great company, on a design for an Olympian, Jamie Anderson, on a product that I get to use and enjoy, and see other people using on the mountain, is pretty special.
Your work frequently combines text with art – how do the text and art work together to form parts of the whole illustration?
I use the words as a texture – you can create different flows and shades with different sizes and styles of text. People viewing the work always try to read and piece together the words, so what is written adds a whole new element to the image.
Do you write all the text for your pictures? Where does the inspiration for the words come from?
Not always, commissions often provide text. Some personal projects are taken from poems and books. On some pieces I come up with the words myself, relating to the artwork.
A lot of your work features the natural world – how do you feel about the environment and the preservation of the environment?
I love nature and the outdoors, and spend as much time as possible exploring it. Hopefully we humans figure it out, and preserve as much as possible.