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Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart's Just Imagine - Post a question to illustrator Nick Sharratt - ANSWERS BACK

(70 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 13-Jun-13 09:55:25

We have 50 copies of Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt's latest book Just Imagine to giveaway. If your children enjoy creating their own stories from pictures then this is the perfect book. With intricately detailed illustrations parents and children can explore together, this really is a book to share time and time again. Apply for one of 50 free copies and if you are one of the lucky 50, do come back and let us know what you and your children think.

We're delighted that illustrator Nick Sharratt is going to be taking your questions this week in a Q&A. Nick is one of the best known children's book illustrators in the UK. He has illustrated over 40 books by Jacqueline Wilson alone, including the epic Story of Tracy Beaker. When Tracy Beaker was made into a BBC series, his illustrations were brought to life as animations in the series. Nick has also collaborated with children's authors including Jeremy Strong ( My Brother's famous bottom) Kes Gray (The Daisy Series), Giles Andrae (Pants!), Julia Donaldson and Michael Rosen.

Put your questions to Nick before the end of Thursday 20th June and we'll post up his answers on 27th.

NickSharrattWebchat Tue 02-Jul-13 14:40:45


Ooh, I love Nick Sharratt - Ketchup on your cornflakes is a favourite with my boys. I'd like to know how he developed his distinctive illustrating style.

It's really my natural way of drawing. If you looked at the pictures I drew as a boy you'd see that there's not that much difference to how I draw now. I've always liked using a clear black line and bright colours and drawing in a stylised rather than realistic way. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed more objective life and location drawing when I was at college.

NickSharrattWebchat Tue 02-Jul-13 14:41:56


We have a few of his illustrations - Toddle Woddle and Goat goes to play group are so full of life! And much loved by the dc smile

What medium do you use for drawing/ illustrating? Pencil and paper or something more technical?

For most books including the two you mention the linework is drawn on cartridge paper with a very soft pencil, then I scan the drawings onto my computer, darken the lines digitally and colour in digitally too. I love using the computer to create my own textures and patterns and I'm building up a large library of them.

NickSharrattWebchat Tue 02-Jul-13 14:44:35


You Choose is a book we go back to again and again. My girls change their answers but I am always the lady engineer - in real life I have certificates for it. <proud face>

I'm also intrigued by the technical details of 'how you draw'
- have computers changed your methods
- away from the 'house style' of the childrens books do you draw in different styles or does it naturally all tend to come out 'Nick Sharratt' style.

For me the computer has been a godsend. Before I got to grips with the computer I worked manually, using charcoal to achieve the line quality I like and painting in the colour with liquid acrylic inks. But it was a rather awkward and disagreeable process what with having to 'fix' the drawings with chemicals to stop them from smudging. I don't think the change in technique has altered the look of my work particularly. If you compare my earlier and more recent books I think it's quite hard to distinguish the manual artwork for the digital.

Away from the children's books I don't actually do much drawing to be honest. Illustrating takes up all my time. But I do try to do straightforward, unstylised sketches of all the places I stay in when I'm away from home. Drawing somewhere is such good way to lodge it in the memory - much better than a photograph.

NickSharrattWebchat Tue 02-Jul-13 14:45:51


Hi Nick,

Your illustrations have helped to inspire my two budding artists and I love that they can recognise one of your illustrations by its unique style. I think it's great that the illustrator of a children's book can be as well known to the reader as it's author.

When you were growing up what children's books did you enjoy reading and what other influences inspired you to draw?

I read a quite a bit, though nowhere near as much as my nieces and nephew do. I loved reading the Roald Dahl books that I had. But it's really the pictures in my books that stay in my mind. Like a whole generation I was completely absorbed by the illustrations in Ladybird Books - they were so real if felt like you were stepping into them. But I never, ever thought I could do that kind of artwork.

In a different way I was fascinated by the stylised illustrations in books like The General, Two Can Toucan and The Happy Lion because I enjoyed examining how the artists were interpreting their subjects and I was hugely inspired by that as regards my own drawing. When I was a bit older I came across John Vernon Lord's work in The Giant Jam Sandwich and thought - That's exactly what I want to do for a living'.

NickSharrattWebchat Tue 02-Jul-13 14:46:52


Will Daisy ever eat her peas?

My 3 DC love You Choose and Just Imagine and Shark in the Park... I could go on and on....

I don't think Daisy will ever eat her peas, do you? Her poor mum!

NickSharrattWebchat Tue 02-Jul-13 14:48:07


My 8 yr old daughter Rosy loves Nick Sharrat and has asked a question: How many books have you illustrated and how old were you when you started?

I've illustrated over 200. I need to do a proper count one day! I was in my mid-twenties when I started illustrating children's books but in the years just after leaving art school I did lots of illustrations for magazines.

NickSharrattWebchat Tue 02-Jul-13 15:05:21


oh we LOVE Nick Sharratt's work. Particularly fond of Shark in the Park.

I would like to know which is HIS favourite book he has worked on?

Shark In The Park is a big favourite of mine too and possibly the one I like reading to an audience best. I'm very fond of You Choose but it was awfully hard work - chiefly because it was the first book where I was working digitally and I was having to teach myself as I went along. I remember I kept forgetting to save and then my little laptop would crash - arghhh!

NickSharrattWebchat Tue 02-Jul-13 15:13:27


And my question, you co-illustrated a few books with Sue Heap. How do you both make your illustrations look so alike? Does this mean she can draw in 'your' style?
Double act in particular always baffled me when it said you drew one twin each? And I honestly can't tell them apart!!

What is it like co-illustrating with someone? Are there any points where you secretly think you can do much of it by yourself or draw things differently?

It's so lovely to get letters from children. When I was young it never occurred to me that you could actually write to an author or illustrator. I wish it had.

I've worked with Sue Heap a few times. For Jacqueline Wilson's book Double Act she deliberately drew in a similar way to me, with the same kind of pen, because the identical twins who share the narrative delight in confusing adults about which twin is which and we wanted to do the same with the reader. It seems like we succeeded! If you look very, very closely you'll see that we do in fact have slightly different ways of drawing and mark making.

Sue and I have done a series of books for Puffin about a boy and girl called Nick and Sue (!) and in those books we share the full colour artwork fifty/fifty and revel in the differences in our styles. The books were a lot of fun to do and it made a nice change not to be working alone. But collaborations like that can only work if the two artists are really good friends who can take from each other the honest and sometimes critical feedback necessary to make such a book work. Fortunately we are great mates!

NickSharrattWebchat Tue 02-Jul-13 15:15:03


My 4 year old son LOVES 'You Choose' to the point where he's actually quite obsessed and carries it round with him! It's provided hours of happy discussions and sent us off into all sorts of wonderful imaginary worlds! Tonight he was a cowboy living on a volcano, with father Christmas for a grandpa. If he had the chance he'd like to ask Nick what he'd choose...

I'd wear an Elvis Presley outfit, live in a windmill, have a robot dog for a pet and eat bangers and mash!

NickSharrattWebchat Tue 02-Jul-13 15:18:12


Ooh, my 2.7yo is a huge fan of You Choose, Toddle Waddle and Goat goes to play group. I bought him You Choose because I wanted to help his language development, and it really has - he's picked up loads of new vocab. His hands down favourite page is the food just like dear old mum, and planning deliciously decadent menus of lollipops, jellies, special chocolate and giant hams brings back the real thrill of imaginative play from my own childhood.

My question is - where does your inspiration come from? Are you remembering your own childhood?

I do go back to my own childhood a lot when working on a book and yes, it is a source of inspiration. I remember what interested and amused me, what level of concentration I had at various ages, how developed my sense of humour was. I guess my books are all written for the young Nick.

NickSharrattWebchat Tue 02-Jul-13 15:20:05


We all have find memories of my mum and dad make me laugh, our mugs have been coordinated as spots and stripes since! I think it must be about 10 years ago? Was it based on your own experiences? Although I don't imagine you as grey given the colours you use.
Thanks for all the great books, my youngest loved Pants too, made her laugh so much every time.

I do love jolly pattern and bold colour and I think that must stem from having been a young child in the late sixties/early seventies when there was plenty of groovy imagery around that I could pick up on. But (the little boy in My Mum and Dad Make Me Laugh aside) don't all children prefer bright, fun colours to tasteful, subtle shades? I'm convinced they do, which is why my palette is anything but subtle.

NickSharrattWebchat Tue 02-Jul-13 15:21:31


'Just Imagine' sounds like a book my son would love. He loves 'You Choose' and 'I Don't Like Peas'.
I think Nick Sharret illustrates books in the way children see things as lists! My 5 year old wants to ask you, "Did you like illustrating ' I Don't Like Peas' "? and 'How do you know how you are going to illustrate the story?'

I particularly enjoyed working out how to illustrate 'Eat Your Peas' and how solve the problem of turning what was basically a mealtime dialogue between two static characters into a visually satisfying book. I think I heard the artist Ian Beck once say that illustrating a story is like directing a film and Eat Your Peas felt very much like that, as I settled on drawing bigger and bigger close-ups of the girl in the tale as she gets more and more determined not to eat her vegetables. As with nearly all my books I tried a few different approaches first and did plenty of rough drawings before finding the solution that I thought worked.

NickSharrattWebchat Tue 02-Jul-13 15:23:46


Never Use A Knife And Fork is the dogs doodahs as far as my 5 year old is concerned. grin

Nick, what messages do you think your books give out to the (young) reader and where do you find inspiration?

This is in no way related to the book I've just mentioned wink

I guess the overall message I'd like to get across with is that, looking at pictures and reading words can be a huge amount of fun as well as an activity that's great to share. It's that message I'm trying to communicate as clearly as possible in my illustrations and wordplay.

NickSharrattWebchat Tue 02-Jul-13 15:24:47


Delighted to hear we have won a copy of the new book,sounds such fun. Big favourite in our house is Shark in the Park. My question is : Nick,what was your favourite picture book as a child?

It's too hard to choose one book. The General and The Giant Jam Sandwich would both top my list

cornflakegirl Tue 02-Jul-13 16:33:38

I need to read "Eat your peas" now. This is a really interesting Q&A - thank you. (I love The Giant Jam Sandwich - but would never have picked it as Nick's inspiration!)

cornflakegirl Tue 02-Jul-13 16:58:32

(And I've just had to buy a copy of The General, as I'd never heard of it - it's by Janet Charters and Michael Foreman if anyone is interested.)

FeverAndTheFret Tue 02-Jul-13 21:56:17

Oh!! Just seen this, such a shame I didn't see it earlier! Just wanted to add, Nick Sharratt I think youy're incredibly talented!

I too think 'Shark in the Park', and 'You Choose' are fabulous.

My 5yr old daughter loves your humour & playfulness in 'What's in the Witch's Kitchen?' - She loves opening the flaps -eg the oven- one way to reveal ordinary food,(mmm, a cherry tart) and then the other way to reveal gruesome fare (ooh! Lizard's fart!).

I used to use a book you'd written and illustrated at work, can't remember its name I'm afraid but basically, a reader could change the story as they wished by slotting in different things - theycould choose for the character to ride in a pumpkin carriage, or on a broomstick, or on a horse. (I suppose a bit like 'You Choose' but with actual physical pictures to choose). Anyway, the kids loved it, as did I, cos it showed them all that they could devise stories .

Your inventiveness is, in my view, what really makes you stand out as an illustrator/author, and your willingness to try new things(whilst working in the recognisable 'Nick Sharratt' style). Anyway, sorry for rambling!
Please keep inventing!

cornflakegirl Tue 02-Jul-13 22:00:06

Fever - we've got one of those - a change the story book - ours is Pirate Pete, but I think there are different ones. DS is surprisingly conventional in his choices when we read it!

TheThickPlottens Wed 03-Jul-13 11:08:49

Very interesting Q&A. I think I'll always saluting the Elvis Suit from now on when we read You Choose.

Firewall Wed 03-Jul-13 12:19:05

Thank you for answering my question! Fab answers and very friendly as ever!

Thank you for our copy! My LO took to it immediately! Loved all the lively pictures and kept going through them saying 'I could be like a mouse or a dragon or...' For about half an hour! We love that its jam-packed with so many colours and illustrations and so neatly done.

Really really recommend

johnworf Wed 03-Jul-13 13:11:02

Wow, Nick replied to my question. I'm feel very flattered!

Is there a thread to review his new book? Ours came today.

cavylover Wed 03-Jul-13 17:58:11

Just Imagine by Pippa Goodhart with illustrations by Nick Sharratt is an extremely visual book with top rate illustrations by the excellent Nick Sharratt. It stimulates children to use their imagination and think laterally about lots of different topics in ways they may not have thought of for themselves.

My only suggestion for improvement would be to have some means of measuring one's achievement with tasks. Not all children will appreciate such open-ended activities all the time.

SalaciousBCrumb Thu 04-Jul-13 09:18:18

Ours too Johnworf, cannot see where to review it. I'm probably as excited as the children!

LaraMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 04-Jul-13 10:08:13


Wow, Nick replied to my question. I'm feel very flattered!

Is there a thread to review his new book? Ours came today.

Hi johnworf, we're keeping everything on one thread, as that's much easier. So book reviews are to be posted on here.

johnworf Thu 04-Jul-13 12:00:12

thanks Lara.

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