A lace doily waits to be picked up again.
A young girl’s fingers where an old woman used to fiddle.
How many beginnings can one hold?
This is an art journal page which illustrates a poem. I usually create the image first and then add the text. This time, I wrote the poem first and then illustrated it. Namely, for a long time I have had a desire to include creative writing in my art journals. I have loved poems since a small child and I used to write them all the time. After I grew up and moved away from home, it gradually stopped. But now years later, poems seem a great addition to art journal pages. Especially because I usually start writing a poem with a visual image in mind. Wouldn’t it be suitable to document that image too?
Of course, you do not have to be a poet to get into illustrating poems. You can also illustrate the poems that other people have written. Poems are great tools to get connected with the visual images that represent feelings. I think poems make a perfect pair with visual self-expression!
1) Getting in touch with the feeling
Read the poem several times.
What kind of atmosphere does it create? What metaphors does it use? Are there physical objects or people to include?
There’s a risk of getting too rational here. Try answering these too:
What kind of memories or thoughts does the poem raise in you? What kind of rhythm, music or dance does it resemble?
Lightly sketch the elements you want to include to the page. Write the poem or at least reserve a place for it.
I used watercolors for sketching. Light painting can bring a more intuitive approach to your work than using a pencil. You don’t need to know your exact composition yet. Think this phase as the first steps in the dark! Do not take it too seriously (= too rationally)! Focus on the feeling you want to express!
3) Expressing with composition
After sketching, adjust the composition by adding more elements to the page! With poems, I often feel that if the composition delivers the message, the rest is trivial or easy. There’s so much content in the words itself.
I wanted my page to lean to the right and then up. Right – because there’s a strong connection to the future in the text. Up – because the doily waits to be picked up in the story. I also chose the colors accordingly: blue representing the old and red representing the new.
This phase is to fine-tune everything already created.
I wanted to add the feeling of fabric and emphasize the upward movement by adding thick lines with watercolors. I also made the lace more detailed. Then I added some dark areas to make lighter areas pop. A thin black marker and colored pencils are great for the finishing touches when using watercolors on the page.
The page was made on a separate watercolor paper and then attached to the journal. Watercolors work best on watercolor paper. Even if you use a thin watercolor paper it’s better than using a smoother surface.
Illustrating Poems – A Minimalistic Approach
You know that I am not a particularly fond of minimalism in self-expression but with poems, I think it can be a very effective approach.
A yellow spot on a white painting.
A happy thought when leaving.
I saw the sun on a cloudy morning,
The one to brighten my being.
This poem of mine began with a visual image that called for simplicity. When aiming for lots of space, acrylic paints can be a better medium to use than watercolors. Acrylic paints have more substance themselves, and it’s easy to add slight, yet powerful color changes with them.
In this page, I divided the poem into three parts. The composition was built accordingly.
The first part is focused on expressing the latter sentence: the leaving. It is bittersweet, light peachy orange.
The second part visualizes the sun in cloudy weather.
The last part communicates the person, her being and her relation to the world that she is leaving behind.
With acrylics, it’s easy to work on any surface. I used white gesso instead of white paint but only to save some money.
Art Journal of Poems
Think about having an art journal that is filled with illustrated poems! What a treasure would it be! The best things in life are those we can create ourselves.
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