Sophie Blackall Illustration

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Missed Connections Party in Boston

From the Brookline Booksmith:
"Australian artist and kids' book illustrator Sophie Blackall breathes new and wondrous life into the Missed Connections section of with whimsical, funny, and achingly beautiful paintings based on the short descriptions of strangers who would be more. This book is the perfect gift for the one you love (whether they know it or not).
Judy Rosenberg, owner of classic Cambridge-cakery Rosie's Bakery and author of The Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed Baking Book will be joining us as well. There will be cake, beautiful illustrations, and so much fun.
Also, please join us for refreshments at the after-reading party at Finale here in Coolidge Corner sponsored by Meredith Goldstein of the Boston Globe's Love Letters. To attend the afterparty, please RSVP by emailing Who knows what connections you'll make? Have your own missed connection story you'd be willing to share at the event? Send it to"

Friday, November 4, 2011

New York Times Best Illustrated

It was a thrill and a huge honor recently, to be one of the judges for the New York Times 10 Best illustrated Books of 2011. My wise and thoughtful companions, Jeanne Lamb and Lucy Calkins, and I spent the day poring over a room full of books, a treat in itself, and wished several times we could choose 20 Best, or 15 best, or even 11 Best.
Congratulations Frank Viva, Chris Raschka, Pamela Dalton, Lane Smith, Arthur Geisert, Jon Klassen, Patrick McDonnell, Isabelle Arsenault, Kadir Nelson and Zhu Cheng-Liang for illustrating ten beautiful, inventive, funny, endearing, clever, moving, memorable books.

From the NY Times:
The New York Times Book Review has announced its list of the 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2011. Artwork from this year’s winners will appear in the special Children’s Book section of the Book Review’s Nov. 13 issue.
The judges this year were Jeanne Lamb, the coordinator of youth collections at The New York Public Library; Lucy Calkins, the Richard Robinson Professor of Children’s Literature at Teachers College of Columbia University; and Sophie Blackall, an author and artist who has illustrated 24 books for children, including one of last year’s Best Illustrated winners, “Big Red Lollipop,” as well as “The Crows of Pearblossom,” “Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children” and “Are You Awake?” — all published this year. They chose from among hundreds of children’s picture books published in 2011.
The Book Review’s 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books for 2011, in alphabetical order, are: “Along a Long Road,” written and illustrated by Frank Viva (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers); “A Ball for Daisy,” written and illustrated by Chris Raschka (Schwartz & Wade); “Brother Sun, Sister Moon: Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures,” written by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Pamela Dalton (Chronicle Books); “Grandpa Green,” written and illustrated by Lane Smith (Roaring Brook Press); “Ice,” written and illustrated by Arthur Geisert (Enchanted Lion Books); “I Want My Hat Back,” written and illustrated by Jon Klassen (Candlewick Press); “Me … Jane,” written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers); “Migrant,” written by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (Groundwood Books); “A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis,” written by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Dial); and “A New Year’s Reunion,” written by Yu Li-Qiong, illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang (Candlewick Press). Next year, The New York Times Best Illustrated awards will celebrate its 60th anniversary.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Ivy and Bean website

There is a new Ivy and Bean website over at Chronicle Books with downloads and all sorts of fun stuff. Book 8 is coming soon! And paper dolls too!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Book Launch Party This Thursday

I hope some of you can join me on Thursday evening at Word bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Princeton Children's Book Festival

I will be at the Princeton Children's Book Festival this Saturday from 11am-4pm. Would love to see you if you happen to be in Princeton. xx

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What Are You Doing Tuesday Nights This Fall?

I will be teaching (the great) Sergio Ruzzier's class at SVA. Registration is open, no experience necessary. There will be cake.

Monday, July 18, 2011


This week I am up at a Summer camp in New Hampshire, called Beam. It's a camp which invites artists, architects, engineers, craftspeople, teachers, designers, chefs and musicians to collaborate with kids on projects which require invention and adaptation and creativity and resourcefulness and humor. Right now the kids are working on a project with U.K. art/architecture team, Wignall and Moore, on a project called “The Story of Machines That Never Flew,” an aerial installation of fantastic aircraft dreamed up by thinkers and dreamers, ancient and modern. Beam campers and staff are constructing and documenting their building of a collection of distinct mechanical and sculptural inventions to tell the stories of the designers whose imaginations soared but whose creations never left the ground. I've seen parts of a boat-shaped airship and feathered wings and a giant squid and all sorts of other intriguing things taking shape around camp.

So what am I doing here? I am doing a project called Atlantis! I have always been interested in displaced things; a subway train at the bottom of the ocean, a lion in Harrods, a rusting ship in the desert and a city at the bottom of a lake. We are going to make that city. Smallish in size, with fantastical, futuristic, Gaudi inspired buildings. We are going to design the buildings and make molds and pour concrete and embed them with seashells and mosaic from smashed plates (who doesn't like smashing plates?). And then we are going to sink the city in the lake. And film it underwater. It's deeply exciting.
Of course this is way out of my field of experience. I am reading everything I can read about hydrocal cement, and feeling only a slight wave of panic. I'll keep you posted on our progress.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reading, Signing, Drawing This Sunday in Dumbo...

Click on the image for more information
This Sunday afternoon, June 26, from 4-5pm, I will be reading and drawing and signing books at powerHouse Arena in Dumbo.
I have four books out this season, so it's a bonanza. There's something for everyone: Aldous Huxley's The Crows of Pearblossom, ("The story is just this side of disturbing" - San Francisco Book Review"), April Stevens's Edwin Speaks Up ("Blackall’s softly colored illustrations manage to make even stretched-out rats look adorable") Lisa Wheeler's Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children, ("Blackall applies her typically sweet-natured style in surprising and occasionally disturbing ways" - Booklist)  and my own Are You Awake? ("This is the AWESOMEST...BOOK...EVER!!!!! "- Edward)
I have coerced Eggy to come and read duet style, so that will be worth the price of admission. Which is FREE!
It's a ridiculously busy time of year, I know, but stop by if you're in the neighborhood. I'd love to see you.
x Sophie

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crows on NPR

Abrams gave me a heads up that there was a possibility Daniel Pinkwater might review Crows of Pearblossom on Weekend Edition this Saturday. We were heading up to our little farmhouse for the long weekend and on Saturday morning I turned on the transistor, extended the antenna, twiddled the dial and got static. And more static. It was 8am and there were dragonflies on the pond and the lilacs were heady and frogs were peeping and the swing was beckoning and I confess we abandoned the radio in favor of Spring frolicking. Returning to the house in search of coffee, my friend, the artist Edwina White, picked up the forsaken transistor and doggedly pursued a signal. Shortly before 10am she called us to the mudroom, where she stood on one leg, the other elegantly extended behind her, with an outstretched arm transmitting Mr. Pinkwater's elusive voice. She held the position valiantly for the duration. And apparently Crows of Pearblossom hit #62 on Amazon. The power of radio!
Here is the review. And here is a frog.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Are You Awake?

I wrote Are You Awake? nine years ago, when my son was about three. We had only been living in New York for a short time but had taken a trip to see family in Europe. Eggy’s toddler internal clock was turned upside down and we had several sleepless nights and surreal conversations. I wrote this email to my father at the time:

“Brooklyn, August 2002. We are back from France and still fighting the jet-lag, mostly because Eggy is at his liveliest between 1am and 5am. He can climb out of anything now, even his slippery travel cot, so it is pointless trying to put him to bed as he simply gets straight out again. So yesterday we bought bunk beds at a stoop sale and Nick carted them, in pieces, the four blocks (and five flights of stairs)!  We don't have mattresses yet, but the kids are sleeping on them anyway on their cot size mattresses, which leaves plenty of room around each for Olive to arrange her books and for Eggy to cram toys and cars and leftover toast. Eggy hasn't actually spent much time on his, preferring to roam the apartment in the wee hours before finally collapsing somewhere exhausted. I found him at 7am actually sitting in his highchair fast asleep...”

All of my previous books had been written by other people. I was overly excited to begin illustrating my own and then was completely unprepared for what happened. Or rather what didn’t happen. I couldn’t begin. I had so many different ideas, I just couldn’t pin one down. I thought perhaps it should be a very large book, and the conversations would be incorporated into the pictures, but the speech bubbles had me cornered. Then I wanted it to be a tiny, tiny, cloth bound book after Edward Gorey or Beatrix Potter, but it was feared such a size would get lost on library shelves.
One thing I was sure of, that the pictures would start off dark and inky and gradually lighten to an explosion of sunshine when the sun finally, finally comes up.
Here are some early variations:

 ...and this is how it ended up:

 Some books have a slow incubation and this was certainly one of them. But it’s probably just as well; when Eggy was about six he found the idea of a book (even vaguely) about him utterly mortifying and made me promise it wouldn’t be published. (I had my fingers crossed behind my back.) Luckily he changed his mind more recently, just in time for Are You Awake? to go into production. I have illustrated around 20 books for children in the meantime, so it’s quite a thrill to finally see this story, of a sleepless night long ago, out in the world.
Eggy, aged 3
Eggy was always a bit nocturnal
 Are You Awake? is in stores next week or you can order it from an independent bookstore here!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Obsession with the Bucolic Backgrounds in Old Photographs

The pictures above were swiped from cabinetcardgallery and luminouslint but I have my own large collection of 19th century studio portrait photographs (which I was too lazy to scan). Some of the sitters are identified on the back but most of them are strangers with enigmatic expressions and fantastic whiskers and enviable posture. I haven't always treated these strangers with complete respect, if you know what I mean, but I'm very fond of them and they're not around to object.
Recently though, I've become obsessed with the artificial bucolic background scenes, especially when you see a bit of skirting board or a carpet sneaking in. I have become determined to paint such a scene on my farmhouse living room wall and photograph everyone who comes to visit in front of it. It will be a fine excuse to buy props. Boxing gloves and monocles and medicine balls and a brace of pheasants.
I went searching for information about photography studio backgrounds and thought I'd paste some snippets here.
It makes sense, of course, but it was still a surprise to realize the backdrops were painted in black and white and not color.

The painting above is by Thomas Le Clear and I found it on Luminous Lint. There's a really nice story attached which doesn't have much to do with the background but is fascinating about the implications of photography on painting.
Caswell's Background Holder is good because, "It saves a sight of trouble to the busy operator" and "There is nothing about it that is liable to get out of order."

This above is one of the few examples I could find of a surviving intact backdrop. You can buy it for about $10,000 at
Tempting, but I decided to paint my own. It's a work in progress, something to fit in between deadlines, but

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Jules Danielson over at 7-imp invited me to come and do and show-and-tell about Crows of Pearblossom, so I did. Here is the title she gave the post and clicking on it will whisk you right there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Books of Wonder

I will be at Books of Wonder, (the only bookstore I know of where picture books are arranged alphabetically by illustrator) in NYC this Saturday, March 19th, from 12-2pm, presenting Aldous Huxley's The Crows of Pearblossom. There was a nice review of the book in The Wall Street Journal last week, and on the New York Times art blog.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Publishers Weekly Spring Children's Announcements

I had an excellent time illustrating PW's Spring Children's Announcements cover last week. You can click on the image for a larger view, and here for the article, and here for the accompanying interview...
ps It's not remotely Spring-like in Brooklyn this morning. Not one bit.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Two Book Maker's Dozen Events

Two Book Maker's Dozen events coming up on Friday March 4th and Sunday March 6th. Click on the invites for closer inspection. Hope to see some of you in Dumbo or South Orange!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gung Hey Fat Choy!

Happy Year of the Rabbit! Learned scholars assure us the rabbit will bring wisdom and kindness and calm to the year ahead. (He has his work cut out in Egypt.)

There are lots of very particular Chinese New Year traditions. Here are some of my favorites (a little late):

Before New Year's Eve, clean the entire house to get rid of any of last year's dirt (I wish!), then put all brooms and brushes out of sight. Pay all your debts (again... I wish), and resolve all outstanding quibbles with family, friends and neighbors.

Buy red things. And flowers. And red flowers.

Arrange oranges and tangerines and candy on circular trays.

Put fresh dollar bills in red envelopes.

On New Year's Eve reunite with close family. Eat dumplings. Pay respects to ancestors. Open all the windows to let out the old year.

On New Year's Day don't wash your hair. Don't sweep the floor. Don't cut anything. Don't drop your chopsticks. Don't say the number four or mention death. Don't borrow or lend money.

Wear red.

Give children two red envelopes because happiness comes in pairs.

Wish everyone Gung Hey Fat Choy!

Eat rabbit-shaped dumplings!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter Crows

It was a recent honor to be invited to the ABA Winter Institute in Washington DC with Abrams Books to present The Crows of Pearblossom, Aldous Huxley's only book written for children, (which was an even greater honor to illustrate). I met hundreds of wonderfully passionate independent booksellers and librarians and we talked ourselves hoarse about crows and snakes and books and children.
I wanted to bring along a crow themed party favor for one of the events and enlisted the help of my lovely intern Kristen Kelly.
Here are the crows in formation, from mere lumps of sculpey to passerine beauties.

Special thanks to Kristen Kelly for her crow-making and photography assistance.