Sophie Blackall Illustration

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

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.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ilustratour, part 3

This morning on our side of the "claustro" in the Museo Patio Herreriano (as opposed to Satoshi Kitamura's side...we sit in the wing just behind the giant king and queen), we dissected a 193os coloring book with glee.
Then we each made a picture around our scrap, of whatever came to mind. (I am still obsessed with the storks. Have I mentioned the storks?) It was fine fun. During morning break some people went outside for a "smoke and meat picnic"... nothing like a hunk of salami and a cigarette to get you going. Apparently.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ilustratour (one 'l') part 2

Day one of our week long workshop. We played exquisite corpse straight away and the results were stupendous. Then we introduced ourselves and the students showed me some of their work, (fantastically diverse and so good, I threw my hands in the air and told them to go home), then we stopped for coffee, all crowded in a nearby bar, then because many of them had said they were afraid of color, we all painted feathers and fish scales, and we made one bird and one fish and their feathers were so varied and beautiful... There are twenty one women in the group and they naturally separated into fish and bird and arranged the feathers and scales lovingly by hue and then in an extraordinary feat of cooperative glueing, stuck them all onto the respective backgrounds. I admit I was almost teary with the results. My battery faltered so the bird dominates in the video, but you'll get the idea...

They also named their colors. Some of my favorites were: Dust of the Wings of the Dragonfly, Oxidized Maize, and He Ate Something Bad Earlier.

Class finishes at 7, and it's so hot that you can't emerge for dinner until at least 10. I am enjoying drifting along behind a group of extraordinarily kind Spaniards who know how to order tapas and who feed me revuelto de morcilla and force to me to agree to its deliciousness before telling me it's a concoction of eggs, blood and pine nuts.
Oh and when I returned to the hotel the restaurant next door was on fire! It's all go in Valladolid.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Illustratour, part 1

For the next week I am in Valladolid which is a small town North of Madrid, for Illustratour, an international children's book illustration workshop. I will be teaching 20 Spanish students. I sincerely hope they speak English because my Spanish is "flojo". I am in excellent company; there are illustrators from Spain and France and Argentina and Japan, and last night over dinner, when language failed us, we resorted to pencils and paper napkins and found our common tongue.
So this is my course description:
Foxes, Handkerchiefs and Storm Clouds"
In this workshop we will explore Style and Character and Setting in Children's Books. We'll play games like "Exquisite Corpse" and "Beast, Bird, Fish" and "Foxes, Handkerchiefs and Storm Clouds" and we'll make big drawings together and then cut them up and share the pieces. We'll tell stories and draw pictures from them and share techniques and cake. We'll describe things from our lives and laugh a lot, (hopefully), and draw a lot, (definitely), and be surprised by all sorts of things in ourselves and each other (almost certainly) and at the end we will each make one beautiful, serious painting, and take home the seeds of a hundred more.
I am going to try and document the week because I think it's going to be quite...well...amazing.
Here is my first view of Spain...
and this is my first calamari with aioli and first tinto de verano which is my new favourite drink.

I'll get to drawing soon. And storks! I mustn't forget to tell you about the storks.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Long Time, No Blog

I'm sorry it's been such a long time between drinks, and you might be forgiven for thinking I'd gone all lazy, but in fact I have been at my desk night and day for the last several weeks. I have a callous the size of Gibraltar on my middle finger to prove it, and two finished picture books. The first (above) is Edwin Speaks Up, written by April Stevens for Schwartz and Wade. It has the two things I'm terrified of drawing: cars and supermarkets. The story is hilarious and despite my illustraphobia where cars and aisles of groceries are concerned, I had so much fun with it. And those are ferrets. Not dogs. Or racoons.
This was my inspiration:

The second book I just handed in was a Once in a Lifetime kind of project... Aldous Huxley's only children's book, The Crows of Pearblossom, for Abrams. I still can't quite believe they let me do this. It was an honor and a joy and worth sacrificing my career prospects as a hand model.
Chad Beckerman, self-confessed mild-mannered art director, documented the art handover very nicely on his blog.