In conversation with White One Sugar

Nigel Wallace from White One Sugar uses recognisable images from local places to create modern travel posters. It’s the distinctive style and bright familiar imagery, that has earned White One Sugar such popularity. Their designs can be seen all over Kent and in other areas of the country.

We spoke to Nigel, about his love for drawing and the idea behind his modern travel posters.

What’s your background?

I went to art college for a couple of years, it was a technical subject but we had artists there who taught us to paint and draw. I actually learned some of my techniques from a guy who used to do the old cinema posters, he used to hand paint them. Then I started doing technical illustrations nuts and bolts, for an aircraft company in Rochester. I worked alongside a lot of artists, there was always new things to learn all the time.

How did White One Sugar come about?

I used to do pencil drawings all around Kent, of towns and villages I’ve got hundreds of them. Then I was doing photography, but you could buy photography on every street corner. So I went back to illustrating and wondered what could be the next big thing. I thought about railway posters and that kind of design. I started doing those and they really took off.

The actual name, my daughter came up with it because it’s how she takes her tea, and she thought that sounds like a good name so we just went with it. I works well, people love it and it’s a known brand now within the gift industry

What’s the process of turning an idea it into a print or product?

I’ve got to see the picture in my head first. Someone might say can you do a picture of Deal seafront, it’s not until I work the image out in my head that I can start doing the drawing. Then you can play around with it. All my pictures I sell in different sizes, canvas ones, mounted ones. A4, A3, A2 size so everything works within those sizes. Then I’ve got two or three companies who use my stuff to put on mugs, keyrings, tea towels all sorts.

I like the sale of the picture just as much as having done the drawing, its nice that people like what you do. And sometimes I’ll tailor them to suit what someone wants.

Do You take inspiration from designs of the past?

The idea came from doing past posters, I did look at doing the French style art posters. You get a picture and underneath it says what art gallery it’s from, I did think about doing that but we haven't got that sort of culture in this county. I thought about travel posters from the 50s and 60s, looking at those and the flat block colour they used to use. Flat blue skies, and flat colored trees. I went along with that sort of style. I think I did 2 designs when I first started, we do the hop festival every year in Faversham, I put those three on the stall and I sold 70 in one weekend. I thought wow this is gonna work, so I went from there on and the photography went out the window.

Family seems to be a big part of White One Sugar

They all do their own thing, my wife helps with a lot of the administration and putting things together and my daughter has done some drawing. She’s a photographer and she helps with the Twitter side. My son has done some of the drawing and helps now and then when we have stalls in places. It’s my baby really, I’ve got other artists that work with me who do some of the drawings but it’s mainly me.

Your style is quite consistent despite different artists working with you, how do you make sure of that?

Its consistent in that I do give a template and say this is what I want, but if you look through the catalogue you’ll see there are different styles there. They’ve all got their own style but they keep within the style of travel poster design.

Do you visit somewhere before drawing it?

Yeah I like to have gone somewhere, I’m really popular in Norfolk at the moment, we go up there a couple of times a year and take some photos. It gives you a feel for the place, if you just draw from someone else's photos, you don't really know what a place is like, you can't put that feeling into the drawing. You always find the best pictures are the ones we’ve been to and put some thought into.

I love travelling round, it’s a good excuse to travel round the country seeing different towns and things.

What have been some of the best places to illustrate?

Over the last few years Thanet has been great, I hadn't gone into Thanet at all. I’d just done Faversham across to Deal and Rochester. A gallery in Margate called up and said can you do us some pictures around here. There's some beaches round there that some people don't even know exist, from Margate right round to Broadstairs, some beautiful beaches, I’ve drawn nearly all of them now. I like going down there and walking on the beach with the dogs

How do you find new places to draw that will sell?

You never know really, for me it’s the shops. I can go to a really nice area but if I can't find any shops that will sell my stuff what’s the point. But I like dealing with local people, especially being the artist I can go in anywhere and talk to people about the my work.

Deal is one of your best selling areas, why do you think that is?

It’s a popular place. I first took a long thin photograph of all the houses lit up in the night sky, I put that in a gallery in Deal. They couldn't believe how many they’d sold. They closed down so I looked for another shop to put my stuff in the window and I went to a place called Zoom Photos where they did really well. I don't know why, it’s just a popular place, people seem to like their area. They’ll buy pictures of it, and any time you talk about it you always get other people joining in on the conversation.

We did try one image of the town hall and the row of shops next to it. We hardly sold any because it didn't mean Deal to anyone, when you looked at it, it could have been anywhere. When you do a picture you’ve got to do something that says, thats Deal. And include something like the Time Ball Tower, or the boats- Something that they recognise.


Nigel's local picks


The Yard, a cafe in Faversham, they do really great food.


Find somewhere to park and walk along all the beaches in Thanet, Botany Bay and Kingsgate all along there. Especially if you’ve got a dog, they make for fantastic walks.

Surething Studio