Sophie Casson is an illustrator living with her family in Montréal, Quebec. Her strong conceptual editorial work has won multiple awards, and last year she was shortlisted for Canada’s Governor General's Literary Awards for Quelle pagaille, one of the children’s books she illustrated. She is involved in Québec’s illustration community, organizing exhibits, promotional trips and addressing copyright issues.
Stay Conscious of Your Freedom
How did you get started in illustration?
With a box of CRAYOLA. At about nine years old, after a family trip to Ivory Coast, I drew a very large, detailed African village scene in crayon. I remember my deep satisfaction standing in front of the result. But I didn’t know illustration could be a career until I was 21. Illustration found me when I made the life-changing decision to leave the university Economy program I was enrolled in for a college program in graphic design. I loved it so much, I pursued to a bachelor’s degree.
What personal experiences or circumstances have most influenced your work?
Thirteen years in the illustration adventure, I was unsatisfied with my work. I was suffocating! I felt I had something I wanted to say, but hadn’t found the means to do so. So I started exploring new techniques. I took a weekend screen-printing class, which left me literally boiling over in creativity. That’s when I found my style and medium, though I’ve since transferred that technique to the computer.
What is the strangest assignment you’ve ever received?
Way back, a magazine aimed at primary-school teachers asked me to illustrate an article for teachers who cringed at the thought of teaching art to their class! It gave tips like “don't do any painting projects because they're messy” and "avoid using sparkle glue." How paradoxical for me to illustrate an article giving this kind of advice!
What would be your dream assignment?
Honestly, a career in illustration is already a dream come true, even if there are plenty of bumps and holes along the road. I am looking in the direction of licensing though, and would be quite excited to create patterns for textiles or gift wrapping.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator?
Illustration is a calling for me. I have looked in other directions time and time again, trying to visualize myself doing something else, thinking it would be great to stabilize my income. My imagination stopped there.
What inspires you lately?
I really love drawing the human form, but lately Nature has been a great inspiration and seems to want to slip in everywhere! Also, Fernand Leger and his friends obsess me.
What is your biggest challenge as an illustrator?
It’s very important for an illustrator to evolve, and not feel stuck in one style. So I try to stay freedom-conscious to better serve my work, all the while serving my satisfaction. Keeping up with technology sometimes gets overwhelming too.
What’s your favorite quote?
“It’s the journey, not the destination.”
Which illustrator/s do you most admire and why?
Edward Gorey, Aubrey Beardsley, Wolf Erlbruch. They’re all masters of the form. And of humor too, even Beardsley in some of his works. Poetry to my eyes.
What excites you about illustration right now?
As much as keeping up with technology sometimes feels like a never-ending task, it also opens up new possibilities. As the more traditional markets—editorial, agency and youth books, for example—shrink, I see illustrators creating all sorts of new venues for themselves and using social media to promote their original ideas.
Where do you think the field of illustration is going?
Well, everything seems to be in a flux, and I wish I had a crystal ball to answer that! I see it diversifying into smaller, more segmented markets like e-books.
What other profit centers could illustrators explore besides commissioned work?
A lot of younger illustrators open to doing animation, crossing over into editorial, then jumping into graphic design, and also designing toys, creating jewelry...but really, it’s more about gut feeling and passion. There are many options, you just have to stay tuned to what makes you who you are, follow your biggest desires and put that in action.
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession?
Don’t think that one day you’ll have made it. It’s a path that asks you think out of the box, and not just for the job commissions! This profession is demanding, you need to be passionate and persevering.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career?
I wish I had understood how important promotion is, and had real training in that area!