• Hero5

    Nick Sharratt: The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson (crop)

Illustration

Illustration: An interview with illustrator and long-term Jacqueline Wilson collaborator, Nick Sharratt

Posted by Liv Siddall,

I knew these images would take me on a trip down memory lane, but I wasn’t quite prepared to open the little blue file of images and be hurtled back to being eight years old, with my nose in a thrice-read Jacqueline Wilson book. Anyone else who grew up obsessed with these incredibly famous children’s books will know about Nick Sharratt, the man behind the instantly-recognisable illustrations for Jacqueline’s stories. He took her tales about children facing up to the perils of adult life and invented characters with his pens that have stayed with us since, if not inspired many of us to pick up a pen and start drawing ourselves.

London’s highly-respected Museum of Childhood is about to open an incredibly exciting show about the children’s book legend Jacqueline Wilson, showing an insight into her life from a lonely girlhood to one of the UK’s most successful authors. Featuring a room decked out to be an exact replica of her childhood bedroom to “short stories and diaries written by Jacqueline as a young girl, showing the origins of her talent for writing, including annotated drafts of favourites such as Tracy Beaker,” the exhibition will also display a large amount of Nick Sharratt’s drawings that have accompanied these stories for over a decade. Since they started collaborating, Nick and Jacqueline have become firm friends, and have something of a symbiotic relationship when it comes to both their careers.

To celebrate the launch of this fantastic show, we asked Nick a few questions about being an illustrator, and he very kindly answered them.

How do you and Jacqueline go about designing a character? Is it a combined effort?

I have a completely free hand with the inside illustrations of Jacqueline’s novels though it goes without saying that how a character looks depends completely on how she has described him or her in the text. I read the manuscript very carefully and, by the time I’ve finished, I should have picked up all the information I need as Jacky will have inevitably dropped the required details into the story somewhere. I will always change anything that Jacqueline’s not happy with, although if I’ve done my job properly that shouldn’t really be necessary.

  • 1

    Nick Sharratt: Bad Girls by Jacqueline Wilson

  • 2

    Nick Sharratt: Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson

  • 3

    Nick Sharratt: Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson

You’re a middle-aged man but you’re very good at capturing the nature of little girls that Jacqueline creates – does that come quite naturally?

My method is to recall what it was like to be the same age as the character narrating the book. I’ve got a good memory for how I felt when I was school age and I try to draw in a way that would have appealed to me then. Fundamentally I don’t think my natural drawing style has changed greatly since I was about 12. Perhaps that explains why my illustrations strike a chord with lots of girls and boys of around that age and younger.

Tell us about the creation of your favourite character from Jacqueline’s books

Tracy Beaker will always be my favourite character to draw. For one thing she’s nice and easy – I just have to do the wonderfully untameable hair to sum up her exuberant character and make her instantly recognisable. I was following Tracy’s own description of herself in the text, but I decided to make her hair extra-curly.

What do you hope children take away from your drawings?

I just want my illustrations to be enjoyed by their intended audience, but I’m really delighted whenever I hear that they’ve inspired children to do their own drawings.

  • 11

    Nick Sharratt: The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson

Why do adult’s books stop having illustrations?

I don’t know. I think it would be great to have more illustrations in adult novels but you hardly ever see even tiny chapter headings. Not that long ago lots of magazines used to run a novel extract with a full page colour illustration alongside and I remember the enormous pleasure that was to be had studying that illustration.

How many times do you tend to draw a character until it’s right, and also how do you know that it is right?

I like my drawings to look pretty spontaneous but every illustration goes through at least half a dozen roughs before I get to the artwork stage. I know it’s right – or rather I know it’s not right – instinctively.

Can you give some advice to any illustrators out there who may be looking to become a children’s book illustrator?

I’m sure I once read a quote by John Vernon Lord (one of my illustrator heroes) about the need for professional illustrators to be able to convince themselves that they can draw anything at all. I think that’s the philosophy to have – of course it also means really working on your lateral thinking skills!

What is an illustrated book (aside from Jacqueline’s) that you think is essential for children to read?

I’d recommend anything by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.

How does it feel when you’re drawing?

It feels like it’s something over which I have control (even when I’m struggling hard to work out how to draw something difficult) and that’s a good feeling.

Daydreams and Diaries, the Story of Jacqueline Wilson will be exhibited at the Museum of Childhood from 5 April – 2 November 2014

  • 4

    Nick Sharratt: Girls in Love by Jacqueline Wilson

  • 5

    Nick Sharratt: The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson

  • 6

    Nick Sharratt: The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson

  • 7

    Nick Sharratt: Best Friends by Jacqueline Wilson

Ls-300

Posted by Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our editors. She oversees itsnicethat.com and has a particular interest in illustration, photography and music videos. She is also a regular guest and sometime host on our Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Illustration View Archive

  1. List

    Michael Parkin’s portfolio is a wonderful mix of commissioned work interspersed with personal projects, which is exactly what you want when looking through a creative’s website. His style is simple but well observed and whether he’s creating a poster for Little White Lies or a series of prints relating to a trip to Denmark, Michael’s work is wonderful at telling a story.

  2. List

    I love that moment when big brands start to recognise the immense talents of illustrators who had previously been making work primarily for themselves, and duly commission them to do exactly what they do best. Linda Linko is a prime example; since being signed to Agent Pekka the Finnish illustrator has been gathering speed as well as commissions, creating her characteristically bold artwork for a number of huge posters and magazine covers.

  3. List

    Lawrence Zeegen has never been one to mince his words. The illustrator, writer and dean of design at London College of Communication has recently launched his new book Fifty Years Of Illustration which he co-wrote with Grafik editor Caroline Roberts. It’s an impressively ambitious undertaking with the duo condensing five decades into 1,000 images by 240 illustrators from 30 countries. Lawrence admits it’s a “pretty personal selection” but one that aims to “represent the movers and shakers across each decade according to the work I believe was instrumental in shaping the discipline.”

  4. List

    Growing up in a family of doctors, Swedish illustrator and paper-cut artist Petra Börner secured her first commission (illustrating medical journals) through her surgeon mother, which might go some way to explaining why her work is so reminiscent of botanical diagrams in biology textbooks. Petra’s principle subject is the flora and fauna of the natural world, which she creates using paper cut techniques so intricate and painstakingly-detailed that they scarcely look like they could be real.

  5. List

    Alright, we admit it – Peter Judson has made a lot of work we’ve been really into this year, and he’s had the props on the site to prove it. But why should we be made to contain ourselves when he keeps producing illustration of this calibre? Why, we ask you?

  6. List

    If, like me, you spent many an hour in your teenage years gazing absentmindedly at Larry Carlson’s experimental website Medijate, you’ll no doubt be similarly transfixed by The Landfill from the very talented Santtu Mustonen. Stitching together a “collection of unused sketches, leftover drawings and rejected ideas from forgotten projects” to a mesmerising soundtrack by Tuomas Alatalo, Santtu created a hypnotic animation that’s a work of art in its own right.

  7. List

    As the man who gave form to the twisted genius of Hunter S. Thompson, British illustrator’s Ralph Steadman’s latest project seems like a perfect fit. Ralph has worked with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan to illustrate some limited-edition Blu-Ray covers for a special boxset of the series due out early next year.

  8. List

    Having just re-read Sammy Harkham’s 2012 anthology of short stories Everything Together I was stupidly excited to find out he’s just got himself on Tumblr and uploaded a small but growing archive of work both old and new. Included in among old covers of Kramers Ergot, book jackets for Kafka anthologies, Bonnie Prince Billy album covers and bits and pieces of rejected work are original drawings from his ongoing graphic novel (and surely future masterpiece) Blood of the Virgin, which he’s also selling to fund further work on the project. I for one cannot wait to see this project massive volume finally realised. Keep at it Sammy!

  9. List

    This top image by New York-based illustrator Karan Singh caught my eye on purely aesthetic grounds; it was only when I delved a little deeper that I discovered the interesting story behind the work. Karan was one of several artists commissioned by Ogilvy New York to work on the IBM US Open Sessions, whereby LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy created a series of tracks based on data gathered at the tennis tournament.

  10. Main2

    I came across the work of Matthias Geisler over on Booooooom the other day and was reminded that we hadn’t posted something like this in a while. Matthias’ work is a swirling blend of spirits and creatures that are created with meticulous use of pencil crayons and water-colours. Is it me or are watercolours real in at the moment? All the cool kids seem to be using them.

  11. List

    If you’re feeling a bit bleary eyed this morning, grab a cup of coffee and take a look at Goncalo Viana’s beautiful illustrations to wake yourself up. Rich with colour and charming detail his work has a wonderful texture to it, as though you could reach out and actually feel the deep pigments he’s used.

  12. List

    Before I write anything about illustrator Nicolas Delort I feel like full disclosure is necessary; between the ages of 11 and 14 I spent all of my pocket money collecting and painting Warhammer models and most of my saturdays hanging out in Games Workshop, which means I’m predisposed to LOVE epic fantasy artwork, like Frank Fazetta, Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo.

  13. Main

    It’s comforting to see the resurgence in the physical aspects of music. There was a moment a few years back when gig posters and witty, well-crafted promotional material seemed to be confined solely to the world wide web, which made every poster that was actually printed on paper something of a novelty. Not any more though: we’re receiving and finding so many illustrators now whose portfolios are chock full of variations on the humble gig poster and they are brilliant. Today we thought we’d champion this theme with Dutch illustration student Douwe Dijkstra. His visual interpretations of bands such as The Growlers and Losers are taking the stylistic qualities of early 1990s gig posters and infusing them with a modern style to make some seriously nick-able printed matter. Keep up the great work, Douwe!