–F4I [fan for illustrator]
I saw you from across the Paresky Center at the 2011 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards ceremony. You were accepting your honor for illustrating Pecan Pie Baby. Charmed by your watercolors, your accent, and your admission that you can’t draw bicycles, I was too shy to ask you to sign my book. Now I wish I had.
Sophie Blackall’s Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found (Workman, August 2011) has been out for over a year, but I just recently checked it out from my library. I’m so glad I did. This illustrated compilation of Craigslist’s famous — perhaps infamous? — “Missed Connections” personals ads began life as a blog. Blackall writes,
Messages in bottles, smoke signals, letters written in the sand; the modern equivalents are the funny, sad, beautiful, hopeful, hopeless, poetic posts on Missed Connections websites. Every day hundreds of strangers reach out to other strangers on the strength of a glance, a smile or a blue hat. Their messages have the lifespan of a butterfly. I’m trying to pin a few of them down.
Fascinated by the ads, Blackall began depicting the brief stories they told and posting the artwork and text pairs online.
The listings which prompt Blackall’s paintings are “the simple ones with peculiar details; lyrical ones with striking imagery; misspelled ones that are often unintentionally hilarious; and tender, surprisingly moving ones.” All of these are represented in the collection with illustrations ranging from the literal to the fantastic. Sometimes Blackall’s interpretation of the ads is so literal it is fantastic, as in the misspelled ad linked above and in this one posted by a self-described “half Asian girl”:
Blackall’s warm watercolor and Chinese ink paintings capture the Missed Connections postings in all their hopeful, romantic, slightly creepy glory. A few of my favorites:
Love this concept? There’s plenty more where that came from. Not all of the illustrations made it into the book, so check out the blog for additional images. Blackall did a special edition painting based on a contest entry for Boston.com’s Love Letters column, and another for Time Out New York. NYC’s subway system commissioned an Arts for Transit train poster from her (as well as one from fellow BGHB fave R. Gregory Christie). And prints of many Missed Connections illustrations are available for sale in Blackall’s Etsy shop. Who knows? Maybe you’ll recognize yourself — or the one that got away — in one of them.