Sophie Benmouyal: Daydreams, Drawings, Doing it all over again

With Nocturnal Stroll, Sophie Benmouyal has signed her first collection on textile with Demain Demain. We caught up with her on a virtual visit to her studio to discover her rich and colourful universe!

Just like many of the authors and illustrators we have met since the beginning of our Demain Demain adventure, Sophie Benmouyal made a few detours before finally devoting herself to her greatest passions: fiction and illustration. With a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, she worked in this field for several years for various organizations and businesses, first in an agency, then as a freelancer. “I loved the process of looking for ideas to find the right way to get a message across, whether it was finding the right photos, the right colours, the right font…”

The Great Launch

A few years later, just when she realized how much she missed doing illustrations, Sophie Benmouyal became pregnant with her first daughter. “A friend of mine said: ‘a baby sleeps all the time; you’ll have plenty of time to build a portfolio!’ I had quite the opposite experience!” she says with a laugh. Her husband’s editor—who was in the process of publishing her first book—was looking for ideas for a magazine column on yoga… “I drew animals doing yoga poses and sent it to her,” recalls Sophie. “The day after I sent her my sketches, she called me to tell me that she wouldn’t be using my illustrations for the magazine, but wanted to turn them into a children’s book!” The album Mes amis yogis (my yogi friends) was published in 2018 by Bayard Jeunesse Canada. The illustrator’s career had just launched. And several other books would follow.

Today, Sophie Benmouyal’s clients include publishing houses, foundations, and organizations. “What I love about this job is the variety of the projects. I like to try new textures, to create playful worlds. When I was younger, I tried to be more serious. I felt like it somehow made me look good, but it wasn’t the real me. I like to bring a little humour to my illustrations and play with colour contrasts, while sticking to a limited palette. I always add a little story around my characters.”

In Sophie’s Studio

Sophie Benmouyal describes her work space as “not at all tidy!” It consists of a long drawing table where all her brushes and pencils are laid out. Her bookcases around it are filled with a variety of materials. “I like everything to be done quickly and intuitively. I may have my office and studio at home, but there are plenty of notebooks and work tools lying around the house. There are easels in the living room.” Her daughters, now 6 and 8 years old, also spend a lot of time drawing and doing crafts.

“I get up early every day, so I have a half hour to muse on my projects before my girls leave for school. I do some sketching, some research… Exploration time is very important to me.”

On a Roll

One of Sophie Benmouyal’s proudest projects is a book that will be released in early May by Auzoo Canada entitled Les animaux du Québec (Quebec animals). It is an early learning book for children 6 months and older. And then there is this collection, the very first, created in collaboration with Demain Demain.

“Starting a career later in life has the benefit of knowing what you want and not being shy to knock on doors. For example, during the pandemic, I offered my services as an illustrator to Montreal’s Botanical Garden. The result? I did a four-page comic strip for the youth magazine Flore alors.”

The artist made the same move by offering her services to Demain Demain. She really loves their reusable bags… The collection Nocturnal Stroll was born. “This is the first time I have seen one of my illustrations on fabric. For this collection, I really enjoyed playing with textures and shapes. There are so many in nature! So, I developed a forest of mushrooms at night.”

During our interview, Sophie Benmouyal had a surprise in store for us: she has just signed a contract to be represented by agent Becca Langton of the prestigious Darley Andersen Agency in London. “This agency is dedicated entirely to the illustration of books,” she enthuses. “I had been looking for some time and had been turned down on several occasions with constructive feedback to add to my portfolio. I worked on my weak spots and this literary agent contacted me.”


An illustrator you admire?

It’s really quite diverse. I keep an eye on literary releases. My favourites vary a great deal from one week to the next. I truly love Nathalie Dion’s work. It is soft and poetic. Her book Les baleines et nous (whales and us) is particularly meaningful to me. I also love the worlds of Guillaume Perreault, Sophie Casson, Manon Gauthier, and Geneviève Bigue.

Favourite children’s books?

The most recent books I’ve added to my library are an Alain Gree retrospective as well as several books by Alice and Martin Provensen, a couple of American illustrators I really like. When I’m looking for inspiration, I try to leave the Internet and let myself be carried away by books. That’s why I’m building a nice collection of references.

Where to find Sophie Benmouyal’s creations:

Demain Demain
Web Site
Illustration Quebec

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