Tuesday, 6 December 2011

'wormwood' progress report.

I started at the beginning. The first poem is called 'the stones of the barn'. I took a photo of a stone barn near Muker in the Yorkshire Dales a couple of years ago, so I fished it out, and made a drawing from it. Simple. Would everything else prove that straight forward? Of course not. I fast-forwarded through the collection to 'jasmine'. Tried to draw some jasmine. Failed. Tried again. Failed again. Swore under my breath. Broke the point off the charcoal pencil. Sharpened it. Broke it again. Swore again. Jammed the sharpener. You get the idea.

Moved on to 'little piggies'. When I was about ten, I took a photo (transparency, not print) of some piglets. A year or so ago I possessed a bells and whistles scanner which was able to scan transparencies. It since gave up, as these machines are wont to do, but luckily I'd scanned the photo of the little piggies, and was able to use that as a source for the drawing. Success!

'over the sea to annan' was based on a true story of a herd of cows swimming the Solway Firth. I googled the story, and was able to find a photograph of the original herd. The photo was extremely low resolution, but at least it showed me what sort of cows they were, and enabled me to hunt around my own stock for cow photos. I made up a Solway Firthish background. Good. On a roll now.

Or not. Several more failures followed, though also some success with a drawing of a grass snake for 'summer's end' and an iguana for 'iguana'. Polperro was also straight forward enough. For 'sibling rivalry', I thought about drawing a mouse, but instead drew a molecule of buckminsterfullerene. Anyone who understands the poem will see why. Anyone who doesn't, will be as puzzled as the boy in the poem, so it works on both levels.

'Mary' was an easy one to illustrate. The poem was inspired by visits to Gibside, so I used one of my many photos of the place for source material. Anyone who's read my early novel 'The Sand in the Painting' will recognise Gibside as a key location. I tend to do this; to find a place that inspires me and use it in novels, short stories, poems, artwork - anything. Similarly, the last poem in the collection, 'summer's end', is a summary of the themes of my novel 'Small Poisons'. Never let a good idea go to waste.

So, on to the next set. It's often tricky to know how to illustrate poems. The images are all in the words, so an illustration might lead the reading too strongly; might set the reader on a particular path and prevent them from seeing other possibilities. That can't be helped. The astute reader might look at some of the pictures and say: 'No, that's completely wrong for that poem.' I hope some of them do. If I'm going to be literal, then I need to illustrate 'Tom doesn't see' with a Constable's 'The Haywain'. Now there's a challenge. Will I, won't I? Not sure. Will report back in due course.

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