Grantham designer and artist impresses National Trust with illustrations for children

Richard Coppin with a copy of the booklet A Trail of Tales which he illustrated for Dunster Castle.
Richard Coppin with a copy of the booklet A Trail of Tales which he illustrated for Dunster Castle.
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An artist and illustrator has impressed the National Trust with his illustrations for one of its children’s booklets.

Richard Coppin was approached by the trust in April to provide illustrations for the Trail of Tales booklet which would lead youngsters around Dunster Castle in Somerset, telling them of its history in an entertaining way.

Guarding a grisly end! - One of Richard Coppin's illustrations for The Trail of Tales at Dunster Castle.

Guarding a grisly end! - One of Richard Coppin's illustrations for The Trail of Tales at Dunster Castle.

Richard suggested that the illustrations could have a Horrible Histories kind of theme and sent off some examples.

Richard, a father-of-three who lives in Westerdale Road, Grantham, said: “What eventually emerged was a request for me to draw in a style similar to Quentin Blake, the famous illustrator for the Roald Dahl children’s books. I studied his work, adjusted it to my own style and offered a couple of draft ideas which they loved. At this point I was commissioned to come up with 15 separate illustrations for the booklet called ‘A Trail of Tales’, with only a week to spare!”

The tales in the booklet include the stories of a Saxon chief expelling the Vikings, Mike the miller who runs the double-wheeled water mill under the castle hill, and a surgeon treating a soldier whose musket had backfired in his face. These all had to have a witty and humorous twist.

The final illustration is of all the characters in the stories assembled under the ‘tor’ on which the castle stands, ‘almost like a concert party ready to amuse its audience’, said Richard.

One of Richard Coppin's illustrations for the Trail of Tales booklet at Dunster Castle.

One of Richard Coppin's illustrations for the Trail of Tales booklet at Dunster Castle.

The illustrations were drawn in pencil on 50 per cent cotton board, then firmed up with a special permanent marker and finally given a rough water colour wash.

Richard, who was born in Balderton in 1957, added: “I then submitted the scanned illustrations to the publishers who designed, printed and delivered several thousands of the booklets to the castle.

“Dunster Castle is visited by a huge volume of people and at this time of year a great many of them are children.

“The booklet ‘A Trail of Tales’ has proven very popular.

“In fact, so pleased were the management team at Dunster Castle that they put me on their internal register, making me a National Trust approved illustrator. This is the register which the National Trust uses as a ‘first port of call’ when looking for the various professionals and tradespeople they require whenever the need arises.”

Richard’s work is familiar to the people of Grantham as he designed and drew the information boards that can be seen around the town.

He also publishes the Grantham Now magazine which is delivered to thousands of homes in the area.

For more information on Richard and his work go to www.richardcoppin.co.uk