VH World: Sophie Beer
Sophie Beer: New mum, illustrator of beautiful children's books on touching subjects like Kindness Makes Us Strong, Love Makes a Family, and How To Say Hello, and the latest subject of our VH World interview series. Our shining star Brissy photographer Sophie Vaughan (aka Studio Gentle) visited Sophie on a sunny spring afternoon to take some photos of her and her new son Augie, and we had the pleasure of asking her all about what it's like to be Sophie Beer!
1. Tell us a little bit about who you are/where you live/what you do?
I'm Sophie Beer, a children's author and illustrator! I live in Meanjin/Brisbane in a creaky, lovely old Queenslander with my son Augie, partner Reuben and two cats. I'm obsessed with stories, colour, fun, equality, plants and animals, and I'm lucky enough to work with these obsessions as a job everyday!
2. When did you first decide that children's book illustration was your thing?
I've always been a huge reader: I was the kid who got booted out of the library in primary school for trying to stay to keep reading when lunchtime was already over. I never really considered it to be a viable career, though! That would be like saying you want to grow up to become a rockstar.
I completed a dual degree in law and literature/design. The literature and design parts have come in handy. The law part, not so much, which is the opposite of what my parents told me. I worked as a paralegal for a while, which was a mistake for every party involved. I kept idly doodling on important documents, my head in the clouds, not fixed on typing up affidavits.
I ended up setting up an illustration Etsy while still in law school and the rest is proverbial history!
3. What inspires your illustration style?
Mid-century modern design, native flowers, Scandinavian tapestries, unexpected colour palettes and so, so much more. You can find inspiration in everything if you're curious enough. I try to make my work fun and colourful, but with a thimbleful of heart in each one.
4. How has life changed since Augie came into the picture?
My heart has grown about three times in size. Not literally, that would be quite medically concerning. But I was unprepared for the avalanche of the love that bowled me over when I first saw him.
Having said that, having a baby really does grab your life by the ankles and shake the stuffing out of its pockets. The unimportant things have fallen away and I am at the whim of a tiny, adorable despot.
I have just started accepting freelance jobs again and trying to squish those in around a baby who is rather nap-resistant has been an interesting experience. There has been a lot of late night/weekend work and emotional and physiological over-reliance on caffeine.
5. What does a day in your life look like?
At the moment, it is hanging out with a baby all day! You'd think I'd be sick of spending every single day with a tiny human who isn't yet capable of walking, let alone conducting interesting dinner conversation, but it never feels like a chore.
But in my life pre-baby, I split my day into blocks for different projects: personal, admin, small projects and big projects! Starting off with the big ones that require a lot of brain intensity and winding down the day with less intense ones was a good method to keep my mojo up.
6. Books/Podcast/TV Show/Movie/Music recommendations? What is bringing you joy at the moment?
Books: Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down. My gosh, if she doesn't win all of the prizes for this astounding, keening, gorgeous book, I will riot in the streets.
Podcast: I'm really enjoying the poetry podcast Poetry Unbound at the moment. I'm also slowly but surely making my way through the intimidatingly extensive back catalogue of the History Extra podcast by the BBC, which is so interesting I keep trying to find ways to fit the facts I learn from it into everyday conversations.
TV show: I just finished Ted Lasso, which is as great as the internet kept telling me it is. It has the warm, bear hug feeling of Parks and Recreation, but is also a takedown of toxic masculinity.
Movie: Wolfwalkers on Apple TV. If you've not seen it yet, you are doing yourself such a disservice, especially if you are into animation and folklore. Just breathtaking.
Music: 'The Turning Wheel' by Spellling (with three l's!). I can't remember the last time I heard an album that didn't immediately sound like anything else. She has tapped into something really special there.
7. If you could give one piece of advice to a budding illustrator, what would that be?
Practise. It sounds trite, but really it is the only way to get better at your craft and figure out your particular dialect as an illustrator.
8. What would define your personal style as?
If Ken Done designed a wardrobe for Ms Frizzle. Colour explosions, fun, and pattern clashing.
9. How would you describe Variety Hour in one sentence?
Like a riot of spring flowers, a window that looks out into a humming rainforest, an artist's color pallet, and summer fruit basket all swirled together.
Thank you, Sophie!
Find and follow Sophie's beautiful illustrative work at @sophiebeerdraws.