Sophie Blackall Illustration

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

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...