Sophie Blackall Illustration

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you joyful, festive times in the company of people you love, and all sorts of good things to look forward to in 2011: creative endeavors and unexpected adventures and surprising collaborations and old friends and new friends and feasts and gripping books and intriguing plays and songs that haven't been written yet and pictures to paint and ideas to discuss and streams to explore and maybe even a garden to plant.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


From the Bookmaker's Dozen:
"Please come out and join us at our first little shindig at Powerhouse Arena
Where: Powerhouse Arena, 37 Main St. Dumbo, Brooklyn NY
When: December 2nd from 7pm-9pm
What: Art exhibition, print sale, informal panel discussion, wine drinking and mild mayhem with 13, count em, THIRTEEN children's book illustrators..."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Events in Brooklyn This Weekend

Two events this weekend where I will be signing, reading, chatting, drawing, blowing up balloons...hang on, I vowed not to do that ever again...handing out limp balloons...
Saturday, November 13, from 12-4pm I will be with a whole slurry of other illustrators and authors at the Brooklyn Museum for their Children's Book Fair.
Sunday, November 14, at 11am I will be with Jacqueline Woodson at Bookcourt in Cobble Hill, talking about our Pecan Pie Baby.
Hope to see some of you there!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Book Makers Dozen

Being an illustrator is a wonderful thing. You get to draw wild boars and rocket ships and petticoats and harpoons. You get to spend most of the day on the internet and call it research. You get to choose your hours (which is often most hours, but still, you're still the one choosing least you try your best to put that spin on it), you can wear whatever you like (today I am wearing a peacock feather cloak), listen to songs which include a whistling coda, (which might not be to everyone's taste), and talk back to Leonard Lopate as though he's in the room. All this isolation can be good for productivity. It can also lead to an atrophied palette, compulsive blogging and beginning to think of Lenny as your friend.
Just in the nick of time the Book Makers Dozen comes to the rescue!
"Book Maker’s Dozen is a group of children’s book illustrators who also happen to be friends. We have banded together to make high quality reproductions of our art and facilitate group exhibitions.
At least that is our excuse.
The real reason we have joined at the hip is because creating art for children’s books can be a very solitary experience. Together, we provide each other moral support, general camaraderie and possibly a bit of mayhem."
Check the Book Makers Dozen blog for news and events in the tri-state area. We are a many-limbed drawing machine coming soon to a bookstore near you. Possibly in a gypsy wagon.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

More Excitement.

Big Red Lollipop is in the New York Times Top Ten Best illustrated Children's Books of 2010. I have been a bit heavy handed with the exclamation marks lately, so I'm exercising restraint, but I am not remotely matter-of-fact about this. It is very exciting indeed.
Please click on the link for the entire list which is eclectic and wonderful.
Lawrence Downes also wrote a very kind review alongside Busing Brewster (By Richard Michelson, illustrated by R. G. Roth), "Another fine picture book about siblings braving new surroundings".
The last paragraph is especially optimistic:
"Recent news accounts suggest that some parents have lost faith in the picture book. “Big Red Lollipop” and “Busing Brewster” could change their minds. To say these books offer timely insights on immigration and segregation is accurate, but that loads them down with off-putting significance. The stories of Rubina and Brewster, told with simplicity and subtlety, ring bright and true."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Surprise Islands on a Gloomy Day

I was about half way through a gloomy day just now, when the doorbell rang and a dripping UPS man handed me a package. I thought it might have been some hoofs, or some 1940s teenage girl's scrap book I'd bought on eBay, but it was a surprise package. A little while ago I signed up for the Book Club With One Member at Crawford-Doyle. A member of their staff will carefully select a book just for you once a month and send it out. "The books will be paperback or hardcover, fiction or nonfiction, just released or classic. The goal is a book chosen with one recipient in mind that will enlighten, delight and entertain – a gift to a booklover throughout the year." I sent them a list of things I'm interested in, you know, like shadows, and indexes, faded wallpaper, Moby Dick, cabinet cards, microscope slides, turn-of-the-century comic strips and old tattoos... lost, found and mended things. Other people's letters, from famous people or ordinary people. Paris, especially old Paris. William Blake. Volcanoes. Hoofs. I don't know, that kind of thing.
This is what arrived.
Atlas of Remote Islands, Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will, by Judith Schalansky. There are beautiful maps and stories and information about fifty remote islands bearing names like Possession Island and Deception Island and Lonely Island. There are stories of fainting sailors and curses on newborns and skeleton ships and forgotten prisoners.
This book has made me unbelievably happy. It is an uncommon size. The paper feels nice. There is a cloth bound spine. And it was handpicked for me. I feel like I'm back in the 19th century. I will be expecting a bespoke suit next. Show me a kindle that can do that.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pecan Pie Baby

Pecan Pie Baby, written by Jacqueline Woodson is out in the stores. There are lots of pictures and sketches from the book over at the fabulous Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.
And two starred reviews already. Hooray!

*Blackall’s apt watercolor-and-ink pictures capture the grounded serenity of a multiracial family (and community) with its priorities on straight. Beloved Gia’s got corn rows and a sweet gap between her front teeth. The fact that a dad or other mom doesn’t figure in renders her conflict more poignant. Cleverly, the story arc spans autumn’s slide into winter—a welcome alternative to all those ding-dang spring-baby plots. Fresh and wise.
Kirkus Reviews

*Gia's narrative voice is prime Woodson-lyrical, colloquial, and imbued with the authentic feelings of a child who might be as old as eight or as young as five, and Blackall's smooth-edged, Chinese ink and watercolor illustrations show the little family of two thriving in their simple, cozy home. Gently, the art clarifies and dramatizes the truth that change may feel threatening even in the most wholesome and loving environment-a familiar message, but a comforting one, delivered here with unusual warmth and grace.
Horn Book

Jackie and I will be reading, drawing, chatting and signing at Bookcourt in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn on Sunday, November 14th at 11am. Hope to see some of you there!

Monday, November 1, 2010

How to Wear a Horse as a Hat

I know Halloween is meant to be for the kiddies, but this year our children preferred not to be seen with us so we were forced to make our own fun. My friends had a cardboard party on their block, so we made ourselves some enormous disguises. Nick, Ann and Flavio, (who was the gigantic and incredible, ghostly, cardboard Don Quixote) helped make the horse and we all went for a ride.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Best American Non-Required Reading 2010

I am thrilled to my core to have my Missed Connections illustrations included in this year's Best American Non-Required Reading. Edited by Dave Eggers, with an introduction by David Sedaris and a cover by Maurice Sendak, I'm brushing pages with heroes. (If you know what I mean.) I have to go and lie down now.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Illustrators' Festival Saturday, October 16th

See that big empty space above in front of the Brooklyn Public Library? Tomorrow it's going to be teeming with illustrators and authors and children and their guardians. There will be reading and drawing and balloon manipulation. There will be signing and singing and a suggestions box. I'm not 100% sure on the suggestions box, but I'm optimistic. I love a good suggestion.
Part of the ongoing Drawn in Brooklyn, tomorrow's event is a family festival to be held in front of the library from 10:30am until 3pm. There are events all day, and Aileen Leiften is doing a drawing demonstration, and Sergio Ruzzier is reading but I will be playing Mr. Squiggle, as promised, from 2:15pm until 3pm. You will provide me with a squiggle and I will do my best to turn it into something vaguely recognizable.
Here is an example.
Sometimes it helps to turn it upside down....
and see if it resembles anything.... there seem to be mathematical symbols in this one...
But I'm going to ignore them...
I'm just reminding you, in red, where the squiggle has gone....


I'm expecting some good squiggles. And I might share my pen if the children agree
not to show me up with their superior drawing skills.
Can't wait.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Subway Poster

A poster for Drawn in Brooklyn with the cover image from Big Red Lollipop is on my local subway platform. For some reason I am enormously excited about this. I may not be in The New Yorker, but I'm on the subway!! I am also quite certain it is only a matter of time before the poster is defaced... I can't wait. I think fangs and a moustache would work nicely. Also, a few feet along was this companion piece. Note the recurring lollipop motif?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ivy and Bean: What's the Big Idea?

For everyone waiting with bated breath, Ivy and Bean: What's the Big Idea is in book stores now!
It's really funny, at least Annie and I think so. There's a nice review here.
The second boxed set (books 4,5 and 6) is also out and includes paper dolls with stick on (repositionable!) clothes and extra body parts and worms. I had fun with those...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Drawn in Brooklyn

Drawn in Brooklyn opens this week at the Brooklyn Public Library! There is an exhibition of artwork from children's books by over 30 Brooklyn illustrators, including Paul O. Zelinsky, Brian Selznick, Sergio Ruzzier, John Rocco, Sean Qualls, Brett Helquist, Brian Floca, Pat Cummings, R. Gregory Christie, Lauren Castillo, Peter Brown and Selina Alko among others.
There are window cases in the youth wing showing artists' processes and I have two on the mezzanine which are about scrap books and are loosely tied to a Panel Discussion: My Inspiration, in which I will talk about stuffed penguins and mermaids' purses and baby teeth and lost shoes and shadows and indexes and firework labels, with John Bemelmans Marciano, John Rocco and R. Gregory Christie. The panel discussion is Sunday, September 26 at 2pm at the Central Library, Dweck Center.
There is also Family Day: Illustrators' Festival, which will be a fair with workshops and book readings and signings and I think I'm going to play Mr. Squiggle. (I'll try to keep it clean.) That takes place on Saturday, October 16, 10:30am - 3pm at the Central Library Plaza.
On Tuesday, October 12, at 10 am I'll be reading from Big Red Lollipop, also at the Dweck Center.
There's more, but that'll do you for now. Hope to see some of you at the library this Fall!
x Sophie
ps If for no other reason, come and visit Floyd. (I think it's Floyd... the name seems to have stuck.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

I Have a New Penguin

He is going to take pride of place in a window case I'm installing this afternoon at the Brooklyn Public Library as part of Drawn in Brooklyn, an exhibition of art from children's books. (More on that soon.) Only problem is he needs a name. And a top hat. But I have the latter covered. As for names we have Percival, Floyd, Cuthbert, Napoleon and Wiley on the table. He will be in residence until January and I have no doubt people will come in flocks and droves and rabbles to see him (on the mezzanine, towards Science and Technology), so we have to get this right. All suggestions entertained.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Being obsessed with the stork population of Valladolid (did I mention the storks?) I decided to make everyone a stork picture to take home.
While I was busy with that I was oblivious to the conspiring and whispering and secret production of the most beautiful book of paintings; each student contributing a page. I love it to bits and will treasure it always. And if that wasn't enough, it was presented with musical accompaniment; Mila sang the stork song and clacked her spoons and the acoustics in the museum were amazing and it was an unforgettable end to a very memorable week.

Last Day of Ilustratour

It all feels a bit like a dream now, our week together in Valladolid. We had so much fun drawing and sharing ideas and pencil sharpeners and strange tapas. (Strange to me at least.)
Apart from our daily morning drawing games and collaborations, we also worked hard in the afternoons on individual children's book projects. I offered up my 99 cent Easy Spanish Phrase Book (published in 1958) for inspiration. We plucked about a dozen phrases:
Quiero comprar un paraguas = I want to buy an umbrella
Busco a mis amigos = I have lost my friends
Tengo hambre = I am hungry
Tengo prisa = I am in a hurry
And from these incredibly simple sentences sprang 22 unbelievably imaginative stories.
I finished the week exhausted and happy and sad to leave and enormously inspired by working alongside such a wonderful group of people. Together we sprouted hundreds of beautiful images and hopefully we have all taken home the seeds of a hundred more.
Thank you Natalia for the flowers and Maria for the photo!
The sad empty room after everyone went home.
(Except when I went around the tables I saw the history of our week in doodles and color tests and Spanish/English translations and thumbnail sketches.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ilustratour, part 4

On Wednesday we considered patterns and clothing (amongst other things) and each made a paper garment or two, which we cut out and attached to la cuerda with las pinzas which Ellen (from Norway) was kind enough to procure (from the Chinese shop).
I brought in cookies for the afternoon, having failed to find a cake shop (I promised cake in the course description). The problem here is that all the shops open at 10 (when we begin class), close at 1:45 (we finish at 2), reopen at 5:30 and close at 8 (we finish around 7:30, which leaves half an hour to rush to a shop). The only place I could find that sold anything close to cake was a bizarre marshmallow shop with boxes of decorative but dry looking, nut encrusted biscuits. I had a feeling it might be like presenting the crowd with an old box of Nilla wafers. Instead they were greeted with joy, and Ainara told me they were regional delicacies made in her own village, and she described the process of painting the white ones with an icing coated brush, and the game you must play when eating them, of putting an entire cookie in your mouth and then attempting to recite some Spanish tongue twister, to the delight of your audience who is sprayed with biscuit crumbs.