This was a Folio Society brief to illustrate three poems, which have been selected by the poet Imtiaz Dharker to be part of an anthology of love poetry ranging through time and across cultures. The poems selected are The Good Morrow by John Donne, Wild Nights! by Emily Dickinson and The Trick by Imtiaz Dharker. This was my first project in my third year at university.
I chose to use photography as the base of my illustrations.
The illustrations were rooted in the abstract metaphors that ran through each poem, rather than the literal descriptions. My final outcomes were made from hanging a pinhole composition behind a photograph I had taken, printed on tracing paper. The set up was backlit, so that the pin holes let a light pattern emerge on the surface of the image. This was photographed again to produce the final illustration.
My process began with photography, trying to capture the dream-like feelings that were in each poem. Although I did other experiments in other media, photography felt the most natural fit for the illustrations I wanted to achieve.
To push my concept further than just photography, I considered the essences of each poem; distilling the words down to three per poem.
From these words, I scamped simple line drawings that I felt best communicated the feelings, emotions or themes in a visual way. These became the basis of the pin hole compositions.
The illustration above shows an image of holding hands, with two intertwining lines of light spots. The hands were a response to the sensual final stanza of the poem, where Donne writes of “our two loves be one”. This is also reflected in the intertwined lines, that begin from separate places and leave the page together; this follows the poem’s structure as it starts when the lover’s do not know each other, and ends where they vow to love until death.
This poem (above) had a staccato rhythm, with lots of hyphens and exclamation marks. The passion and longing is unavoidable when the reader engages with this poem, which I wanted to reflect in the illustration.
The image is a long exposure, where the subject moves, creating longer gestural streaks across the photograph. This is layered with a pin hole composition based on a stormy ocean, so the lines are more expressive and parts of the page have been ripped out to allow a bright white to shine through. This was inspired by the frustration in the poem which I wanted to communicate with the processes used to create the illustration.
This poem (above) is based on the writer’s experience of losing her husband. It’s a dream-like exploration of loss and longing, and uses the visual images of oranges. The image I chose is a silhouette, with cloud inspired shapes floating across with the pin holes. The circle is a direct reference to the oranges.