Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Poetry Collaboration for Creaturemag

The Orange: gouache on paper


Recently, and for the first time, the wonderful creaturemag arranged a collaboration beween a poet - Ben Macnair - and 6 illustrators. Each artist was allocated one of 6 poems to illustrate, with no knowledge of the other poems - although we were in touch with each other (leading to quite enigmatic communications!). 

'My' poem was 'The Orange' - brief and to the point ... a woman treats her heart like a Terry's Chocolate Orange:

The Orange
She treats her heart,
like she does her
Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
She drops it on hard surfaces,
introduces it to the business end of hammers,
peels off the expensive covering,
and gives it away piece by piece.

I have to say that at first I did not care for the poem at all! It seemed very abrupt and cold. I also struggled with the stark inclusion of such a well known brand and product. 

But the more I considered it, the more I appreciated it. As it was early February, I wondered if each of the 6 poems concerned the heart and different ideas of love (this turned out not to be the case). It seemed that the Terry's slogan 'Tap & Unwrap' or even more 'Whack & Unwrap' was central but unspoken / implicit. At first I saw the 'she' of the poem as a victim but then I found the attitude to 'her' increasingly ambiguous. 

I began with some sketchbook work to feel my way into the task: 


 


In my final illustration, I have tried to suggest the rather brittle, defiant facade - even some power -  that the woman has developed, but also her vulnerability in the face of  life & its demands.

The 6 poems with illustrations were posted by creature mag in 2 lots of three - read all 6 collaborations here and here. In addition to appreciating 'The Orange' more, I also found the other poems (especially the 2nd three) even more complex and moving. 

This was a fantastic brief to do and I, indeed all 6 illustrators, found it utterly compelling and really enjoyed doing it. We would love to do the same again!

Comments very welcome!

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