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The Illustrator Celebrating Modern Families In All Their Forms

Studio Visit

Illustrator Sophie Beer has worked hard to develop her bold and playful style.

This year she is celebrating as books bearing her name hit shelves around the country. We’re particularly excited about her latest release: Love Makes a Family.  We caught up with the Brisbane-based creative to talk more about this book, which shines a loving light on the modern family and its myriad forms.

15th May, 2018

Illustrator Sophie Beer. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

Sophie’s describes her studio as ‘a little colourful coven where I’ve surrounded myself with things that inspire me and make me happy, from midcentury Swedish tapestries, to paper quillings found in op shops, to plants!’ Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

Sophie looking through one of her new children’s board books, Naughty Pups, also published by Hardie Grant Egmont, and available now. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

‘I think Illustration as an art form is immensely interesting,’ says Sophie. ‘There’s none of the pompousness of fine art, and few of the strictures of graphic design. It straddles this fascinating liminal space between creativity, commerce and daydreams.’ Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

Inside her Brisbane studio. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

‘Over the past few years I feel my work has found a firmer footing in what I like illustrating: colour and happiness.’ Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

Studio details. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

‘I am very partial to the party spread in Love Makes A Family, as well as the final scene!’ says the illustrator. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

Sophie relaxing on the couch at home with her trusty greyhound, Arthur, and her kitty Gideon (also known as Giddyup, Giddymegg, Meggsy, and a variety of other nicknames!). Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

Jo Hoban
Tuesday 15th May 2018

‘I love the sillier, lighter sides of art.’ – Sophie Beer.

‘I feel like the spectre of the tortured artist best describes my career start,’ laughs Sophie Beer, who originally studied law and literature at university, believing that creative careers didn’t exist. Disengaged, the budding artist was a chronic doodler in the margins of her lecture pads. After graduating, Sophie put her doodling to good use as a side hustle – she started an Etsy shop selling ‘terrible Game of Thrones knock-off prints’. They sold like hot pigeon pies (traditional Westeros fare) and left Sophie thinking there was something in this doodling business after all!

Sophie learned how to use Photoshop – her sole illustrating tool – and built up her skills and portfolio while working a day job in marketing and communications. In 2016 she left this role to pursue illustration full time. She’s now represented by The Jacky Winter Group and The Bright Agency and has a diverse and impressive body of client work behind her.

Working from her home on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Sophie’s colourful, captivating work is influenced by mid-century illustrations. ‘I love the sillier, lighter sides of art,’ she says. ‘Embrace what makes you happy. Life is too short for your art to be boring.’ Sophie leaned on these sentiments for comfort in early 2017, when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour on her hearing nerve. The tumour was removed soon after and has significantly impacted Sophie’s hearing. ‘I’m still dealing with the emotional after-effects: I’m an avid music lover and to have a tumour decimate my hearing evoked a grief beyond words… After a brush with mortality, I decided life was too precarious and fleeting to waste time with things I didn’t enjoy, so I threw myself into my dream of making children’s books!’

Since then, Sophie feels very lucky to have aligned herself with Hardie Grant Egmont (HGE). ‘They have some wonderful ideas about how to progress the Australian children books market, so I’m super chuffed to be working with such a luminous publisher.’ When HGE approached Sophie with the idea of doing a bright, fun picture book about inclusivity and rainbow families, she jumped at the chance. ‘With Love Makes A Family, we’ve specifically tried to make the focus of the illustrations on the acts of everyday love that parents and carers give to their kids. The fact that the love and hugs are coming from two Dads, two Mums, or Grandparents is incidental to the love itself!’

Follow Sophie Beer’s illustration on her website Sophie-beer.com.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net