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Artist finds muse in others' 'Missed Connections'

Illustrator Sophie Blackall is immortalizing Missed Connections posts in the form of wonderful, whimsical drawings that speak to hope and serendipity in the Internet age.

"I hope at their best they are beautiful, funny, warm, poignant, odd, and memorable," Sophie Blackall says of the paintings in her Missed Connections series. Sophie Blackall

OK, so your "Missed Connection" post on Craigslist never led to a great romance with that cute hipster who looked your way on the L train--let alone an e-mail from anyone vaguely resembling her. But those hopeful words you sent out into the ether may not be lost after all.

Brooklyn illustrator Sophie Blackall is immortalizing Missed Connections posts in the form of some pretty wonderful and whimsical paintings. And who knows? Maybe your note to that girl with the nose ring and headphones is now a work of art.

"Messages in bottles, smoke signals, letters written in the sand; the modern equivalents are the funny, sad, beautiful, hopeful, hopeless, poetic posts on Missed Connections Web sites," Blackall writes on her blog. "Every day hundreds of strangers reach out to other strangers on the strength of a glance, a smile or a blue hat. Their messages have the lifespan of a butterfly. I'm trying to pin a few of them down."

Her original paintings, created with Chinese ink and watercolor, measure about 11 inches by 17 inches and have names like "Hairy Bearded Swimmer," "I Had a Blue Hat," and "Seeking Girl Who Bit Me TWICE Last Night While We Were Dancing."

Blackall sells 8.5 inch by 11 inch prints of her illustrations for $40 (with free shipping) on crafts site Etsy and plans to release a book based on the series in 2012.

For now, all the featured ads originate in the New York area, where people tend to live in the sort of close quarters that make them prone to bump into strangers. She's fascinated by how Missed Connections ads might differ in other cities, but suspects she won't be culling inspiration from rural Iowa anytime soon. "Somehow 'I saw you from Route 17 on your brush hog, we made eye contact and you smiled...wish I'd asked for your number' seems unlikely," she says.

In any case, N.Y. posts give her more than enough fodder for now. From the hundreds or possibly thousands of Missed Connections ads posted daily in the region, she looks for lyrical and unintentionally funny selections, as well as ones with distinct imagery ("Furry Arms Under a Yellow Umbrella"). Blackall's series evokes Victorian times and has a wistful quality that lends a sense of hope and humor to those chance encounters--and the subsequent anonymous words that probably have a meager chance of reaching their intended targets.

"The project seems to strike a chord, which makes me really happy," says the Australian-born artist, whose illustrations have appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and Architectural Digest. "Under the surface there's an ember of optimism which warms even the most cynical. There's something undeniably seductive about serendipity."

Click on the gallery above for more of Blackall's Missed Connections paintings.