• 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

    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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. List

    Dutch illustrator and designer Eline Van Dam (Zeloot to her clients) belongs to the same circle of pals as Viktor Hachmang and Jordy van den Nieuwendijk, which goes some way to explaining why her work is so god damn beautiful. Although she’s about as versatile as image-makers come – her portfolio covers a variety of styles ranging from the niche to the commercial – it’s her posters that really stand out for their 1970s-inspired phychedelic iconography and bold, experimental use of colour; any colour she can get her hands on! Now we just need to work out what we can commission her for.

  6. List

    As our online editor Liv Siddall said, “If you like sex and you like lions, you’ll like these drawings,” and I think she’s probably right. Maria Luque illustrates naked couples hanging out with what I imagine is a pet lion. Her characters lounge around in the nude, lying across big beds in breezy looking apartments filled with luscious vases and intricate carpets, always accompanied by a big, red quizzical king of the cats. Maria is from Argentina, and she says that she likes to make people laugh with her work. We like her child-like hand and summery colours, and the fact that she’s definitely succeeded in making us giggle.

  7. Main

    Editorial horoscope illustrations tend to be a bit same-y: crabs, women holding scales, goats, fish, blah blah blah. I can’t deny I was surprised yesterday when I saw that Elle Italia had commissioned one of my favourite illustrators to bring their horoscope supplement to life, mainly because Sac Magique is a weird choice for a usually rather reserved publication. They gave him the task of illustrating the horoscopes with the theme of “beach” and my, did he deliver. How refreshing and fun to have something so ubiquitous illustrated with the most fun, summer drawings ever, especially by someone who gave us this Spice Girls image that will forever remain the best thing I have ever seen.

  8. Main

    What do we have here, then? Editorial illustration with a Cubist slant and an entirely unique style? We’ll take that, thanks. Polish illustrator Gosia Herba’s website is basically a treasure trove of projects for diverse clients, but we think her work is the most exciting when the faces are in profile, the bodies buxom and the colour palette muted, so that’s what we’re bringing you. The balance between malleability and a strong aesthetic is a difficult one to strike, but somehow Gosia has it down.

  9. List

    Though it’s been only two weeks since we wrote about Anders Nilsen’s beautiful Rage of Poseidon he’s just knocked out another brilliant piece of graphic art (albeit satirical rather than fantastical) so we felt compelled to feature him again. In this instance he’s lampooning online retail giants Amazon for their detrimental effect on publishing, using some magnificently wry visual metaphors to discuss what appears to be a quite unpleasant situation.

  10. Pk

    When Printed Pages editor James Cartwright first saw these images he said they reminded him of the Tetley Tea folk crossed with something out of The Legend of Zelda and you know what? He’s not wrong. The cloaked, hunched characters are actually sneaky-peeks of Patrick Kyle’s upcoming collaborative zine with fellow artist and publication maker Jason Murphy.

  11. Main1

    We love Jim Pluk’s work, not many illustrators openly share doodles they’ve drawn of them and their girlfriend having sex on a sofa with F.r.i.e.n.d.s on in the background. It’s an odd collection of drawings, his work travels from lo-fi paintings to crude squiggles and back to sharp, witty comics or collaged posters at an admirable speed. This is the kind of art that, personally, I’m really into – funny, odd creations made by someone who’s not afraid to try out every medium possible (even drawing on Photoshop) to get their work out into the world.

  12. List

    Do you remember Peter Judson’s bold geometric constructions from earlier on this year? He had us bowled over with his vibrant, brick-like compositions, and as his website proves he has plenty more strings to his bow. Focusing principally on Memphis-influenced design and architectural illustration, he takes familiar shapes and transforms them into something so simple that it goes full circle and becomes incredibly complex again.

  13. List

    Since we last featured Joe Cruz almost a year go to the day, we’ve commissioned him to work on editorial pieces for Printed Pages and had him into the office to check out his stunning portfolio in person. Suffice to say, in the flesh, Joe’s beautiful oil pastel creations do not disappoint – the unusual mix of deep, rich photocopier toner illuminated with oily strips of neon colour is a surefire winner online and in print. But it’s not just the colours that keep Joe’s work fresh and exciting; his constant experimentation with theme and composition means he’s just as likely to be enticing you into his portfolio with a sultry fashion illustration as he is making you leap from your skin with the needled jowls of an incensed doberman.