Sophie Blackall Illustration

Drawings and Snippets and Breaking News, (but more snippets than breaking news).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Brain is an Unwieldy Mass of Dryer Lint

I think I might be mad. I have three (or is it five?) picture books now officially overdue, I'm moving house in ten days time, I haven't given a thought to the impending "holidays" and yet somehow I find myself volunteering to draw five minute portraits all day this coming Saturday to raise money for my son's elementary school. So if anyone is in Brooklyn this weekend, and wants to come by PS29 in Cobble Hill, and sit for a five minute portrait for $15 (a bargain!) it's for a good cause. I'd come early in the day though. I have a feeling the quality might decline as the day wears on.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Doomed to Dance

The new Ivy and Bean is out, book 6, Doomed to Dance. If anyone is in New York this Saturday, in the vicinity of the Brooklyn Museum, between 12 and 4pm, I will be signing copies. And hands. And foreheads. I will be in the rousing company of at least thirty other Brooklyn authors and illustrators. We have all promised craft activities for the wee children, and in return they have promised us coffee. It will be spectacular!

ps I know there must be a way of showing this clip without the right hand side being lopped off, but I'm stymied as to how. If you'd like to see the unclipped clip, you can here. Don't laugh. I really did try.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Oh dear, sorry.

It's been rather a long time. I've been a bit consumed with the other blog, and this one has become the overlooked sibling. The homely one, just quietly getting on with its algebra homework, hoping that maybe if it perfects that little curlicue on its letter Y, that someone might one day notice. And be really impressed.
Anyway, I don't have much to offer, except photographs of my apartment on Design Sponge which most people are finding really, really creepy. But the picture of the unforgivable pile of shoes is making everyone feel a lot better about themselves. I consider it a Community Service.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Collyer Brothers

This is an illustration which accompanied a review in yesterday's Boston Globe of E. L. Doctorow's Homer and Langley. I don't remember when I first read about the Collyer brothers, whose Harlem home was a bulging receptacle for their hoarded belongings: tons of newspapers, literally, broken umbrellas and perambulators, at least nine pianos and an entire Model T Ford... Trapped by their possessions, in 1947 they met their grisly demise and their story has always captivated me.
I think of them particularly when I come home from holidays weighed down with a pincushion made from the hoof of an indeterminate animal, say, or a jar of doll limbs, or a Victorian child's orphaned shoe. I don't need these things, not really. And yet, I find it hard to walk away from that shoe which has survived over a hundred years, separated from its pair, no longer useful (for the purpose it was designed at least), with hundreds of secret journeys imprinted on its sole.
At the same time my desk, where I am trying to illustrate three picture books, is a mess of teetering piles and my work space is less than 15% of the available surface. I can't help feeling I'd be more efficient without all the hooves and boots and miniature limbs.
But you should see that pincushion...

Thursday, July 30, 2009


In response to a truckload of requests (or a snoodful at least), I have made prints available for purchase. I have started with images from the Missed Connections project, but now that the machinery is in place, anything is possible. You have only to ask, provide an address and part with a modest sum.

Monday, July 27, 2009

When You Reach Me

This is the cover for Rebecca Stead's new novel, When You Reach Me, and a couple of the alternative early stage sketches. I'm always curious about the ones that were left on the floor... Gone With the Wind, for instance, was nearly called Tote the Weary Load. The Great Gatsby was almost Incident at West Egg, and my brother narrowly escaped being named Peregrine.
All that aside, this is a really, really good book.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Here are two posters I illustrated recently for Piper Theatre productions of Hamlet (top) and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (above). If you live in traveling distance of Brooklyn, the performances are free! and the schedule is here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

From Yesterday's Observer

Many Observer-reading friends sent me a link to this article about pop star Mika last night, with the following fantastic tidbit:
"Waiting outside afterwards is a gaggle of 100 fans, including two who have dressed up as Lollipop girls, after the song. That sort of dedication is apparently typical of his hardcore followers. On his website, Mika recently started a dialogue with the illustrator Sophie Blackall, who posted a drawing of a girl in an ingeniously designed dress. Last night in Berlin, one fan - a man - turned up dressed exactly as the girl in the drawing. "I don't know if other artists get that sort of attention," he says, "because they laugh when I speak to them about it." "
I haven't felt so honoured since a Mexican fellow had a full back tattoo done of my drawing for Tim Burton's Big Fish. Sadly I never got a photo of that.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Here is Our Surreal Scroll

More than twenty surreal children turned up at the library yesterday to shuffle nouns and verbs and adjectives and elbow each other (ever so politely) for their bit of the scroll to embellish. It was SUCH FUN! Some of my favorite lines were:
The noisy trumpet laughs at fire
You gave an elegant ribbon
[to] A running confident monkey
The jumping round ear
is stealing a tiny moon
in embarrassing pointed waters.

Please excuse the bumpy video...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Exquisite Corpse in the Library

If you happen to be in New York this Saturday, in the vicinity of the Mulberry Street branch of the Public Library, around 2pm, I'm going to be playing a version of my favorite game with thirty feet of paper, a bunch of Surrealist children and fistfuls of nouns, verbs and adjectives. It should be fun. Click on the picture for more info. (Incidentally I found this picture in my desk along with sheaves of others, from many late nights, with many (obviously) talented friends. Unfortunately I can't remember whose work this is. Feel free to claim credit if you recognize your limbs.)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Book Expo America

Yesterday, at BEA in the cavernous Javits Center in New York, Annie Barrows and I handed out hundreds of these Ivy and Bean cookies. I was rather hoping they'd be Ivy and Bean shaped cookies, and possibly Ivy and Bean flavoured, but at least they'd have mutant icing cross eyes and wayward smiles. But they were professional cookies and looked almost like... books. Mm. Tasty.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Whales and Ships and Swallows and Eyes

New things in the Etsy shop! Click on any picture to take you there...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Big Red Lollipop

I've just finished a picture book for Viking, called Big Red Lollipop, written by Rukhsana Khan. I guess it will be out next Spring? I never know these things. I'm waiting to hear from the people with the magnifying glasses whether everything is good to go, (incidentally today I found out that in the wombat book there's a sad little faceless fellow, without eyes or nose, just a sort of wombatty blob. I have to go and fix him with a number three pen for the second print run. If you want the special face-less wombat edition ACT NOW), and then I'll wrap it up and take it in on the subway on my lap, like a child to its first day of kindergarten.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wombat Walkabout

Wombat Walkabout is out today I believe.
The Common Wombat was described by William T. Hornaday, Sc. D.(I promise that was his name), in the 1925 companion guide to the newly opened Bronx zoo, as "the most nearly shapeless of all mammals". He went on to say, "Having few thoughts, and seldom using one, it is content to lie around all day and is aroused only with difficulty. We are tempted to ask. "Why is a Wombat?". I mention this not because it is hilarious, but to illustrate why I didn't put many clothes on the wombats, settling for fetching accessories. (Any tailor would agree with Hornaday, the wombat's form presents a challenge.) You might wonder why wombats need either clothes or accessories. Yes, you might.
Anyway, as I was saying the book comes out today. To celebrate this with the author, (Carol Diggory Shields) and editors at Dutton, I made little bundles of accessories as you can see above. The keen observer will note the colors (colours) of the beads match the original, and that I had to hand print the fabric for the shorts. Hmm.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Missed Connections

I have started a new blog here, of drawings based on Missed Connections. I'm staying local for now, and in typical, overly ambitious fashion, am going to try to post one a day.
I'm fascinated by these snippets of interaction, the way people remember and describe one another from their fleeting encounters, and the butterfly lifespan of hope. Or perhaps it's more enduring? Maybe I'll find out.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Drawing Game Part Eight

So if you are just tuning in, this drawing game has been an unfolding visual conversation with the singer-songwriter Mika. We began with his note, which read, How about we start with a drawing of a girl?, and we are now deep in a surreal land of jungle sets and dapper millipedes. (By way of a burning house of words, an irresponsible baby, a smoky elephant and a dubious contraption.)
Put into words, I think we started out with Yes!, then went through Oh? and Hmm... and Whoa! and then we got to the contraption which was me going Mumble, mumble, mumble, blah, blah, blah, and Mika snuck away, tiptoed around behind and jumped out with HA! on the other side. I think my response is !AH; a face-to-face staring match.
Then again, it's just a drawing.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Making Fun

Sometimes, on a day filled with fires and plane crashes and lost jobs and suicide bombs, not to mention loathsome Valentine's motifs, the only recourse is to amuse oneself at the expense of a long dead stranger. Some might argue Forrest Gump would do the trick. To each, his own.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Inky Forests

As Mika was painting his vibrant jungle, I've been fixating on inky rainforests. The initial inspiration was an early 19th century botanist's drawing of the Australian bush. These drawings above were done over the last few weeks, and evoke, for me at least, the damp smell of moss and fungi, the rustle of millipedes in leaf litter, the snuffle of a bandicoot, the call and response of a whipbird. (Some people find rainforests a bit overwhelming and need to sit with a hanky over their head.)
As wildfires rage in Australia I now can't help seeing a correlation between these damp inky drawings and the charcoal swathe of the ravaged bush.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Drawing Game Part Seven

So here is the latest addition from Mika. I'll just give you a moment to collect yourselves.
I'll admit that it was a surprise. I had to sit down for a while. Make a cup of tea and sit with my back to the drawing, turning now and then to see if there really was a menacing, indigenous gentleman making scary hands at our girl. And then of course I remembered that she's just made of paper, as is he. Paper which can be folded and torn, cut and stained and punctured, embellished and decorated.
I told Mika that he'd painted me into a corner, literally and metaphorically, and he very kindly offered to come up with some ideas and I very politely said, "HANDS OFF, this one's mine!" Because, after all, this is where the fun lies...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Guilty Quilts

Every now and then somebody sends me a calico square and a polite request to draw something on it for a storybook quilt; a quilt of squares illustrated by children's book artists to be auctioned for charity or circulated around regional libraries or thrown over the backs of retired donkeys to keep them warm in winter. Despite my best intentions, (honestly!), the calico squares often get separated from the polite requests in the piles on my desk and before I know it, it's Summer, the donkeys have given up hope, and I'm wracked with guilt. Which is why, when I opened the envelope today with the nicely ironed square of calico, I taped it straight down on my desk and painted an owl on it. Now if I can just track down the letter, and find the envelope, there's a good chance I might even make it to the post office.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Playing Shop

I have been playing shop at It's been very good fun, making things and arranging them on the shelves and sweeping and dusting, and clearing my throat decisively, but I keep forgetting to actually tell people it's open for business. So here it is. I'll be putting lots more things up this month. Come back often! Tell your friends!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Creepy Christmas

My friends Mary Harron and John Walsh made a short film for the online film festival, Creepy Christmas, for which I contributed a few props. I know it's well past the season and there's nothing bleaker than tinsel in January, but this was never meant to be jolly. Click on the image above to go to the site, and our film is December 24, The Night Before Christmas. Ho.