• 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. Main9

    Edward Cushenberry actually wrote to me to show me a really interesting photography project he’s working on at the moment. Unfortunately that was about the millionth interesting photography project we had seen this week, but one thing we were a bit short on was brilliant, entertaining, lo-fi illustration we could relate to. Let’s give a warm welcome then to Edward’s comics in which he deals with traumatic or memorable experiences from his own memory, or borrowed from this friends. His drawings cover such life topics as How to Properly Bury A Turtle and that awkward moment when the girl you kissed says that making out with you was “like drinking a glass of water.” Classic. Edward’s got his fingers in a lot of creative pies, but I’d say these comics were our personal favourites.

  2. Sdlist

    Girls just wanna… doodle! Celebrities including Yoko Ono, Sarah Silverman, Pussy Riot and Courtney Love are backing a Kickstarter project to inspire girls to get drawing. Confidence, curiosity, courage and creativity are terms being bandied around by the School of Doodle, which will be “a free online high school for the imagination” where teen girls can take part in lessons taught by artists or peers. It might sound a little cheesy, but with brilliant creatives like artist John Baldessari, Kim Hasreiter, founder of Paper magazine, and Salman Rushdie signed up as teachers, it promises great things.

  3. List_2

    It’s not especially often that creatives flock to Cornwall en masse, but the little nook of England has been awash with activity this weekend due to Port Eliot festival, featuring musicians, artists, fashion designers and journalists. It also saw the launch of The Girl Who Fell to Earth, a story written by Luella Bartley and illustrated by Zoë Taylor, a graphic artist we make no secret of our love for.

  4. Main

    It’s not only the level of detail in Laurie Lipton’s drawings which is crazy; the illustrations are too. With charcoal and pencil she creates bonkers worlds in black and white which look like pictures for a short story written by the love child of Charles Dickens and George Orwell. The blacking factory meets Big Brother.

  5. List

    Ping Zhu is a force to be reckoned with in the world of illustration. Not only is she talented, mastering an inimitable style in every way imaginable, and then using it as very efficient bait to reel in the big clients, The Sunday Times, Pentagram and Nobrow included, but she’s also future proof – developing her style with every project she undertakes to make her as exciting as she is reliable, and delivering consistently good work to a broad spectrum of briefs.

  6. Mt101top

    There’s some schadenfreude at play in Masami Tsukishima’s illustrations. His series Life Of A Salesman follows lonely suited blokes trudging to and from work, talking on their phones and lugging their suitcases. I like how he plays with the angles of his illustrations; life is literally an uphill struggle for some of these poor office drones, as they plod along lanes slanting up and away from them. There’s also some sort of alternate universe in the series, where trains go up in flames and spread-eagled salesmen fall through the sky and run away from looming giant iPhones. One second the salesmen are sedately reading their emails, the next everything has spiralled out of control. The sentiment is a tongue-in-cheek 21st century Japanese rendering of “Slough”. I’m guessing Masami Tsukishima doesn’t wear a suit to work.

  7. Glaserlist

    We adore this article from NYT’s T Magazine today, in which a heap of creatives sing hallelujah for old school artistic tools, with brilliant illustrations to boot.

  8. List

    There are several reasons why we love Kyle Pellet and everything that comes out of his Pellet Factory, but first and foremost on the list is that his work is good, plain, unadulterated fun. There’s no need to muse on his choice of medium, or the narratives which seem to run from one image to the next, or the squishy-faced characters who pop up again and again, because why would you when you can look at them, laugh and imagine you’re running through a gallery with a pack of assorted animals? Turns out he’s been incredibly busy churning out work at an impressive rate, so here’s an update on what he’s been up to! If you’re curious, you can also check out five of his favourite books over here on his bookshelf.

  9. Gflist

    Doodling isn’t just for school kids. It’s about discovery. “It’s a healthy way to let it all out, with no restrictions or external rules,” says Guy, a designer and illustrator. “You just go for it.” Every single page of his sketchbooks is packed with faces, animals, monsters, questions and squiggles. “Sometimes you’ll draw a face or a hand or a dog in a way you’ve never seen or done before and that’s always a good feeling. And sometimes you just make yourself laugh!”

  10. Main9

    Scrolling through Marcel George’s hand-painted watercolour illustrations is like going on safari. Lipsticks hiding behind palm fronds, flamingos stalking around sunglasses, the Lacoste crocodile roaring at trainers.

  11. Dadulist

    There’s something otherworldly about Dadu Shin’s illustrations. Miniature people wander about an overgrown fairy-tale forest, an avatar-like hand reaches out into a tie-dye galaxy, a man walks a lonely path over rocks which form the silhouette of a woman’s face.

  12. List

    As far as I can tell, there will always be a place for clean, stylish, witty illustration in the pages of today’s most esteemed media outlets, and for as long as that is the case illustrator Ben Wiseman isn’t going to have any trouble finding work. He’s nailed his aesthetic, communicating funny, satirical observations in neat, stripped back images and vibrant colours, and sure enough, clients have cottoned on. His portfolio includes a TIME magazine cover alongside work the The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde and This American Life, a corker of a list which just about makes him Brooklyn’s poster boy for editorial illustration. And thank god, because the black and white pages of the aforementioned publications sure would be dull without him.

  13. Main

    It’s very exhilarating to see people taking something destructive and turning it into something creative; with that in mind please welcome the Computer Virus Catalog.