I had never heard of my illustrator, Sophie Blackall, prior to this assignment. I found her children’s book illustrations to be really amazing. In all of the books that I was able to get my hands on (including Wild Boars Cook, Jumpy Jack & Googily, and Red Butterfly: How a
Princess Smuggled the Secret Silk Out of China), I found that without Blackall’s illustrations, the stories would have been incomplete. Particularly, in Jumpy Jack & Googily, I found the illustrations of Googily to be extremely adorable. The bold colors that Blackall uses, along with her technique of using Chinese ink and watercolors, really makes the characters pop off the page. The characters almost have a liveliness to them, likely as a result of her techniques, in addition to the way that she uses the space on the pages. Her illustrations completely cover the pages of the books, as she uses all of the space to create large and detailed characters and background scenery.
Unfortunately, I found that I did not enjoy many of the stories that Sophie Blackall has illustrated (with the exception of Jumpy Jack & Googily). Overall, the stories seem a bit bland and lack a strong story line that the reader is easily able to follow. I found several to be too long and others to be too slow. But I must admit that the illustrations, like I said before, really make the books. Without the illustrations, I feel as though the stories might be complete flops.
Her website (http://www.sophieblackall.com/) is something unique, that at first, I found a bit challenging to navigate. Her website primarily contains pictures of individual illustrations that she has done, categorized by the subject of the drawings (animals, children, health & beauty, food, etc.) There is not much personal information about Blackall herself, but there are links to her blogs and her Etsy site, where images can be purchased.
What I found particularly interesting about Sophie Blackall are the Missed Connections images she creates. I found this to be such a unique idea, to take the posts on Craig’s List’s Missed Connections and focus on freezing the moment in an illustration. The way that she imagines and illustrates these “missed connection” encounters brings a unique life to them. I find it to be a very original way to create art, using simply a few phrases with little detail. From there, her imagination runs wild as she creates her illustrations. She then sells these illustrations on Etsy, which is another unique idea. According to my research, she has sold about 150 of them at $40 each. What a profitable hobby! After completing this study, I know that I am excited for the book of these images that she hopes to publish in the upcoming year.
Sophie Blackall has several blogs as well, one in which she posts about her personal life, including projects she is working on and places she is traveling. She also includes bits and pieces about her family life, apart from her work. Her second blog is used to post pictures of her Missed Connections illustrations, as well as to discuss ideas related to those images. If you get a chance, I would definitely check her Missed Connections blog out at: http://missedconnectionsny.blogspot.com/. She had created some really fun illustrations to go along with the posts, and I spent hours browsing through them!
What I think I might take most from the illustrator exploration is the idea behind the missed connections. I think it might be a fun activity to do in my own classroom sometime. Where we would get the inspiration for missed moments, I’m not sure. What I’m thinking of as of right now, is that maybe I would read some of the Missed Connections to my students (the most appropriate and relatable ones of course). I might then ask them to each write a sentence on a slip of paper that models the Missed Connections. I would then collect these sentence strips and then pass them out to the class, so that each student has one that he/she did not write. I would then ask them to create an illustration for the sentence. It would be really interesting to see what the students create, and how these images might differ from the mental images that the author had in mind.
Another way in which I might use Sophie Blackall’s work in my classroom is to have my students look at one of her images/illustrations on her webpage, and then to create a story based off of that image. Most of her illustrations are unique and detailed, so they would be appropriate to use as story starters.
This is a bit of a side note, but I found this fact to be really fun: she is even featured on the Urban Outfitters website! Maybe I just find this exciting because I actually work for the Urban Outfitters Inc. company, but it is definitely something I plan on showing to my coworkers!
Examples of Missed Connections Illustrations: