Sophie Blackall

Sophie Blackall

Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication (1993)

Artist and Illustrator

UTS Alumni Award for Excellence 2017 - Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building

Sophie Blackall is an award-winning artist, book illustrator and global literacy campaigner. In 2016 she won the prestigious Caldecott Medal – the illustrated book world’s equivalent of an Academy Award – for Finding Winnie, a bestselling children’s book about the incredible true story of the bear who inspired A. A. Milne’s Winnie‑the-Pooh.

Sophie lives and works in New York, where her designs have been sold at the Museum of Modern Art and have been featured by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, and on subway posters throughout the New York City metro system.

However, it is Sophie’s work with global literacy and health campaigns that gives her the greatest sense of pride.

“There’s nothing like putting on a show for a thousand school children in a place where literacy rates are appallingly low, and then to have a child say, ‘I didn’t know girls could do that – I want to do this when I grow up’.”

“There’s nothing like putting on a show for a thousand school children in a place where iteracy rates are appallingly low, and all of them get to leave with a free book. And to have a child say: ‘I didn’t know girls could do that – I want to do this when I grow up.’ Or to be in Rwanda where children have to walk for up to two hours to get to school, and to see them hold their very first book in their hands and recognise themselves in stories.”

Sophie also combines her storytelling skills with illustrations for poster campaigns for The Measles and Rubella Initiative. Designed to improve immunisation rates in Congo, India and Cambodia, the campaigns are improving life expectancy, and medical practitioners have praised artists like Sophie for motivating people with art, rather than the usual data and graphs.

Sophie credits the visual communications course at UTS for honing her typographic and graphic design skills, and remembers how artist and former lecturer Peter Powditch taught her to see things differently.

“I remember the very first class with Peter. He had us all put a ladder on a page. The word ‘put’, rather than ‘draw’, was the first clue this was going to be interesting. My eyes opened a bit wider and my heart beat a bit faster, and that was just the beginning,” Sophie says.

“I was incredibly fortunate to have Peter as my mentor and I still hear his voice in my head as I work. He taught me to notice things that had previously been invisible, to turn anything into a tool to make marks, to pull an image out of thin air. I learned to never be daunted by a blank page.”

2017 Alumni Awards Sophie Blackall


Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building Alumni

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