Sophie Blackall Illustration

Drawings and Snippets and Breaking News, (but more snippets than breaking news).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Making of The Mighty Lalouche

I am thrilled to announce The Mighty Lalouche is finally here!
The author, Matthew Olshan and I first met competing for a cool spot at BEA in 2007, the year the air conditioning failed. We began a rambling conversation, during which I mentioned that I was an avid fan of vintage boxing photographs. Matthew, who shares an interest in early photography, went looking for portraits of turn-of-the-20th-century pugilists. What he found—proud, diminutive boxers in high-waisted shorts and booties, complete with astonishing mustaches—became the inspiration for The Mighty Lalouche, in which a tiny French postman turns out to be an invincible fighter. (It’s very nice to mention an interest on a whim and have a perfect story on the subject delivered to your inbox.)

I had to wait a few years before I could begin work and it soon became clear it would be absolutely, completely impossible to do this book without actually visiting the City of Light. (Really, any excuse to visit Paris. . . .) There I wandered the streets and talked to finch enthusiasts and postmen and took a billion photographs.

Back in the studio, I fell headlong into research. But when it came to making the first sketches, I found the images to be frustratingly two dimensional. I wanted to feel you could step into Lalouche’s world. I also wanted to try something I’d never done before, and with a perverse desire to complicate things, I decided to make the book in tatebanko, Japanese paper dioramas. I drew, painted, and cut out thousands of tiny pieces of paper to make Parisian streets and boxing-ring crowds and Lalouche’s cozy apartment. Often I sneezed and lost a bunch and had to start all over again.

Once the pieces were assembled into scenes, I enlisted the help of filmmaker Alex Rappoport to light and photograph the dioramas.

Most pictures books take me around four months to complete; The Mighty Lalouche took nearly two years. I became very fond of our small, steadfast, modest hero. He may be a boxing champion, but in his heart of hearts, he is still a postman. I like to imagine he is timeless and ageless, that even now he diligently walks the streets of Paris delivering brown paper packages tied up with string.

The Mighty Lalouche!

Click on the image for the full effect...