Let us begin with a question: How does someone who has never seen or experienced “the horrors of war” actually illustrate them? We have all heard that phrase – the horrors of war – but can we really understand it? All we can actually do is imagine some atrocities or other that have happened in places gods-know-where to nameless soldiers. Masses of people that lost their lives that later on turn into numbers. Our minds simply can’t handle the fact that each one of these people had a life, a family, hopes and dreams and a history behind their back. To us they are just a thing that happened somewhere in the past. Something we did not experience ourselves, something we can’t really imagine.
So here we come again – how, oh, how does a person like you and me, someone who has never been a part of a war like World War I and II go about when they are told to describe the horrors of war? What can we relate to?
Many of us have grandparents and great-grandparents that have been soldiers and officers, a part of the Army. We can tell just by the way they behave and speak that they have gone through something not quite right. So if they tell us stories of the times when they were fighting for their country we can get a step closer to realizing what war is. We can easily Google it and see what Wikipedia has to say about it, or some other site. We can see photographs of soldiers ready for battle, of people in trenches, of battlefields before or after the actual battle; we can see pictures of piles of bodies of people that died “fighting”; we can see pictures of tons of graves that look exactly the same with identical engravings saying “soldier who died defending his country” or something like that; we can also see pictures of the damage that this or that type of bomb has done in one place or another—all the destroyed buildings and dead people buried in piles of rocks and walls and pipes and rubble… We can watch movies about wars that happened ages ago, about wars happening right now and about imaginary wars that are happening somewhere in the future. Well, I believe you can tell for yourselves how near that takes you to reality.
Anyway… that was just to get you thinking and kind of put you where I stand for a moment. The project I’m working on right now is called Trenches. It’s still part of the bigger Personification project and in it we basically have to illustrate one of two poems (or both) – Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen and The Hollow Men By T.S. Eliot. Both of these poems are obviously centered on WWI. To be honest I couldn’t relate to those poems. Not one bit. That is why I spent an entire afternoon and almost a whole night with the first one. I read it, I read it again, and I read it again afterwards. I just kept re-reading it until I was so sick of it my mind was playing tricks on me. the words were moving on the page, twisting and turning and morphing in front of my eyes. They were black and red and green and purple and they changed color restlessly. They became bigger and smaller, they became the things they represented and in the end I could see, in my mind’s eye, everything that was written in the poem. I read a lot about Wilfred Owen and I read a thousand different explanations and analyses of that one small poem. I even remembered it word for word… (although I don’t remember it anymore) in the end I got to translating it to Bulgarian. Translating a poem is far from easy, as my English teacher used to say. Even though I always doodled in his class because I knew the material, he got us to translate different texts and poems, and from that experience alone I was able to conjure up some tricks to make the translation work perfectly. Well, it sounds cheerful as I say it now, but I got genuinely depressed doing it because the poem gives off a generally depressing vibe. I had to get in the vibe in order to write the Bulgarian equivalent.
So by doing what I did that night I believe I got as close to what Wilfred Owen was feeling that day when he wrote the poem as possible, seeing as I am a teenage girl that has just moved to Cardiff to do her Illustration course and one who lives a cheerful and happy life untouched by major conflicts such as war.
Well, after pouring out all that brain cr*p on you, dear readers, I will share with you some of the magic – here are some of my sketchbook pictures, let them soothe your mind a little. (seriously, though – I have no idea what made me write everything I wrote up there…)
About the sketches: as mentioned before, the project is still in personification and so everything is set in a world of objects. Boxes, tissues, sea shells, and other stuff. We were allowed to use 2 colours and I chose a dark yellowish, going brown (which actually turned to brown after I started making the final images), and a dark green after seeing a couple of war photographs that my dad sent to me.
P.S. I realized I am really taking this seriously by listening to This is War and Now and some songs by Iron Maiden (courtesy to Jack Alexander). I’ve been obsessing over Tank Girl and reading How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness and A Song of Ice and Fire by G.R.R. Martin. I recently saw the trailer to The Book Thief, which I read when it came out a couple of years ago. As well as remembering some of the war movies I saw in the past year or two such as War Horse, Atonement, The Last of the Mohicans, Red Dawn, Tomorrow When the War Began, Love and Honor, Les Miserables and more…
(ugh… I always feel like I talk/write too many completely unnecessary things but this time I really did. I am so sorry you had to go through all of this. o__o)
p.p.s ^ Tank Girl is also green and yellowish :3