Nick Sharratt to bring his acclaimed illustrations to Whitehaven

Our editor, Rachael Grealish, gets to know the man behind the famous characters of her youth as she speaks to world-renowned illustrator Nick Sharratt before he heads to Whitehaven, on Saturday, February 24, with his exhibition Pirates, Pants and Wellyphants.

Get creative: Nick Sharratt is set to bring all his famous characters to Whitehaven.

WHEN I think of the books of my youth Jacqueline Wilson automatically springs to mind.

The Suitcase Kid, Sleepovers and, of course, Tracy Beaker, but it’s not just the moral-filled tales and stories I devoured book by book, it’s the characters that really stayed with me.

Her stories covered difficult topics; death, adoption, mental health and relationships, but with every plot there was character I could really imagine when I saw her image on the page.

The characters weren’t glamorous leggy girls, they were average, normal, and a bit quirky – ‘like me’ 11-year-old me would make the comparison – something I could relate to.

And their unique style has stayed with me into adulthood – even if my drawing skills never really improved from age 11.

So talking to man who brought all those characters to life, in picture, I was taken right back down memory lane – his characters helped me bring the stories to life in my head and now I was interviewing him ahead of him and his exhibition heading to The Beacon, in Whitehaven, this month.

‘Tracy Beaker will always be my favourite’

Nick Sharratt has illustrated over 200 books and worked with Jacqueline Wilson for over 25 years and it all started with one little girl in the “The Dumping Ground” – Tracy Beaker.

Nick said: “When I was asked to do Tracy Beaker I had no idea what lay ahead – I thought it was just a one-off job – but it’s been an amazing time working with Jacqueline Wilson and it was a fantastic opportunity for me.”

He has illustrated more than 40 of Jacqueline Wilson’s books, including Tracy Beaker, which sold over 35 million copies worldwide.

“I think Tracy Beaker will always be my favourite, because that’s where it all started, it was very exciting to be a part of that and she’s so fun to draw with her curly hair.” he explained.

All Nick’s cherished characters are featured in his touring exhibition, Pirates, Pants and Wellyphants, on display at The Beacon Museum from February 24 to April 15.

The exhibition will also explore some of Nick’s other characters, creations and takes you through his life’s work – from his boyhood, when he decided he would be an artist, to present day.

“I’ve always wanted to be an artist,” Nick explained, “I loved art at school, it was my favourite hobby too, I was drawing all the time – I kind of made up my mind I was going to be an artist when I was still at primary school.”

‘My books are completely different to Jacqueline Wilson’s’

Nick is more than an illustrator – he has penned many of his own books, he said: “I’d always liked creative writing when I was a youngster, though I wasn’t quite as confident at it as I was at drawing, and I could never quite focus fully, or get the story sorted in my head.

“But when I became a children’s book illustrator, my editor encouraged me a lot to have a go, because they could see I had lots of ideas, and they gradually coaxed me to having a go myself.”

From one-line-a-page picture books, Nick is now worker on much more complex chapter books – but they’re not going to mirror any of his colleague’s, Jacqueline Wilson, books at all.

“My chapter books are completely different to hers [Jacqueline Wilson] – I think it’s very nice to have the contrast for the different areas of my work, so Jacqueline Wilson’s are about real-life, my books are completely silly and ridiculous and hopefully, funny and really daft.”

‘The best ideas come from talking to kids’

Though he was inspired by his childhood favourite books, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Nick said the best ideas come from kids.

“I get my best ideas from things that interested me when I was young or from talking to children,” he added, “I get some really good book ideas when I do events and or go into schools, I always come away with ideas just from speaking to children and seeing what excites and entertains them – as a writer I don’t think you’re ever sure where your ides are going to come from.”

The exhibition will show Nick’s work from various points in his life and show how he has experimented with different artistic styles such as using: pencil, wax crayon, collage, paint and coloured pencils – but Nick says, his drawing style hasn’t really changed that much.

“My style really hasn’t changed that much since I was a boy, I always like drawing in quite a graphic way, with a black line and bright clear colours” he added, “I mean I went to art college and trained to be a professional artist, but essentially my style is quite similar to how I drew as a youngster.”

Though Nick Sharratt is a world-renowned children’s book illustrator he, like this editor, thinks picture books are not only for children to enjoy, he said: “Older children, teenagers and adults, I think, can get a huge amount from looking at picture books.”

‘I’m delighted my exhibition is coming to Whitehaven’

Nick Sharratt will be at the launch of his event, Pirates, Pants and Wellyphants, at The Beacon, on Saturday, February 24.

He said: “I’m really delighted my exhibition is coming to Whitehaven. Cumbria is somewhere I enjoyed many wonderful childhood holidays.

“It’s brilliant that Pirates, Pants and Wellyphants is going to be at The Beacon Museum and I’m looking forward to meeting fans at the launch event.”

The launch event (10am to 4pm) gives the chance for visitors to join Nick in a big draw activity, and he will also be signing books throughout the day.

He added: “I’m hoping that it will stimulate children’s imaginations and hopefully they will come away wanting to do lots of reading, drawing and creative thinking.”

  • The Nick Sharratt exhibition, Pirates, Pants and Wellyphants runs from February 24 until April 15, at The Beacon Museum, in Whitehaven.