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Adnams in spotlight at London exhibition

PUBLISHED: 16:45 22 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:39 06 July 2010

PICTURE a boy in 1960s London who could only dream of the countryside and the coast, since holidays were out of the question. Then he had a stroke of luck which we can all now savour.

PICTURE a boy in 1960s London who could only dream of the countryside and the coast, since holidays were out of the question. Then he had a stroke of luck which we can all now savour.

Chris Wormell was one of nine children of a city-bound art lecturer, who got to know a Bohemian writer called Francesca Wilson. She owned an old pottery beside the harbour in Walberswick which became a haven for waifs, strays, refugees and cash-strapped artists.

“That's how my family came to catch the train from Liverpool Street, and to cram into the only two taxis from Darsham,” says Chris. “We were taken to East Point, a heavenly place on stilts for the most magical summer I can remember.”

A creative child ran wild. And he was to draw on those recollected scenes when plotting one of the most attractive advertising campaigns of our times, for Adnams, now celebrated in a London exhibition.

While tackling numerous temporary jobs after leaving school, Chris taught himself print-making - “which is probably why I hold the tools wrongly.”

But with persistence, and with practical advice from his father, he became so skilled in lino-cuts and wood-engraving, as well as in watercolour that, 25 years ago, he was launched as a full-time illustrator.

Although influenced by the great illustrators of Victorian children's books he managed to combine a line in nostalgia with a distinctly modern style.

“Making up stories for my younger siblings and then reading to my own children later on, made me acutely aware of the requirements of a good storybook - inspiring illustrations,” he says.

So a decade ago be began his own range of picture books - popular titles which have been in the running for several awards, including this year's coveted Kate Greenaway prize.

George and the Dragon has alone sold over 100,000 copies and The Big Ugly Monster and the Little Stone Rabbit was staged in London after being adapted as a play for the Edinburgh Festival.

Chris Wormell's Rare Breeds farm animal stamp designs were among Royal Mail's millennium issues, and the graphic artist has produced Neighbourhood Watch images for the Metropolitan Police and packaging for Waitrose.

Since 2005 he has poured out dozens of striking images for a Beer from the Coast adverting series for Adnams of Southwold - and a golden poster bearing a profile of the beloved brewing town and port-resort which graces a fleet of delivery lorries.

Cards and coasters show, for instance, an avocet guarding a nest of beer tops, which also merge with limpets on breakwater posts as a sail-shaped Adnams logo joins a flotilla of yachts or a flight of kites.

A selection of these witty designs has now been extended into limited-edition prints. They can be seen at the Illustration Cupboard gallery in London until September 12, viewed online and bought at prices from £650.

The show is also a creative response to the fact that beer mats spirited from Adnams pubs are now regularly posted to the artist for signing.

The Illustration Cupboard (www.illustrationcupboard.com) is at 22 Bury Street, SW1. Open Monday to Friday 10am-6pm and Saturday noon-5pm. Tube: Green Park.

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