Trenches: A book of poetry

Dulce et Decorum est, by Wilfred Owen. This is the poem that I chose to develop into a handmade book of illustrations featuring personified objects. The size of each page is 42x42cm. Media used: ink, watercolour, drawing pen + a collage element on the last page (a photo of soldiers who died on the field). 

I believe I said everything I needed to in the previous post (Warfare: the Game of Ares) so I will just show you pictures of the finished book. They say enough just by themselves. 






























The end.


Warfare: the Game of Ares

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.

pink-tank-girlP.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

Personification: Rumpelstiltskin

I can only say that I had an incredible time doing this project. For so long I had forgotten what it was like to draw with black ink and just black ink and after I did the first couple of images, the rest felt like child’s play! Amelia did say this was going to be one of the hardest projects of the term and I can agree that parts of it proved quite difficult. For example, I believe that the hardest part of all was just setting the character-items into this world of setting/background-items. The very interaction between the two types of ‘inanimate’ objects, the proximity of one to the other (which is key to conveying the needed emotions), the relation of blacks and whites and contrast altogether in one object next to another (should they be similarly shaded in contrast to the background or should they contradict one another?) and, well, actually a lot of other things that one usually doesn’t think about consciously (like me).

But enough about that. The project is called Personification and this is Chapter I: Rumpelstiltskin.

Below you will see twelve images that illustrate the story. They are black and white images done with ink and pens (with the help of a Promarker here and there). I guess it would help if you find the story for yourself and read it, and it would be a fun exercise to try and figure out which is which, so, enjoy.

*Bear in mind that this is a Course Project.... any feedback and/or constructive criticism is warmly welcomed!!!*














the end.

Personification: Giving Life to the Inanimate


Monday morning, the start of a new day and a new week. How about that… As you might imagine Personification sounds like the simplest thing in the world—just take an object and give it ‘life’, right? What’s hard in that? We know it; we’ve done it; kids do it all the time. But, as there is always a ‘but’, when you have that as an assignment, things tend to change some.


Let me start with a simple fact: Amelia is the leader of this project together with illustrator Georgina Hounsome. In other words prepare for something that sounds fun and simple and childish but in reality it’s a real pain that (obviously) takes you by surprise. Anyway, in an e-mail Amelia told us to bring as many random everyday objects as possible, both from home and from nature (e.g. forks, fruits, vegetables, interesting looking things and boring ones as well, sticks and leaves and twigs and so on). It was easy to visualize what we were to do with these things given the name of the project is Personification—we were probably going to choose an object, and draw it as a living thing. Hmmm, yes and no.

What the day began with was a presentation about what ‘personification’ actually is, and it was packed with examples; artists and works alike. What she was most clear about though and what she kept on emphasizing was that we shouldn’t draw faces on the objects or give them arms and legs—that’s not their true self, is it?—we have to let them speak for themselves (and not just that), we have to strive to catch them in mid-action*.

*— What she meant by that was simple. Have you ever seen Toy Story? Well, basically all the toys in a little kid’s room are alive and while he’s playing with them they just pretend to be dolls and puppets and do nothing. But as soon as he’s out of sight, they come to life, start moving and go about their toy-business. The little boy doesn’t know that these things are happening (even while he’s asleep) because he can never catch them doing it. As Amelia said: in this project you have to catch them off-guard, while they’re active, you mustn’t let them become static and inanimate.


So yes, we have to catch them mid-action. When we draw our objects we picture them alive and kicking, roaming and doing, active and moving… If you think about it, it’s not the easiest task in the world.

There were several drawbacks in the forms of limitations as well. For example, we couldn’t use colours, we couldn’t use speech or put faces and/or limbs on the objects. Each of us received a task sheet on which there were 11 sentences printed. What we had to do for this exercise was pick objects and put them in the situations described on the paper. Since everyone brought different things everyone made different thumbnails and the diversity of mediums, techniques and objects used was inspiring! We made some pretty cool thumbnails! I did too :)




fwxJ1But THEN came the actual project. The hard part. Rumpelstiltskin—you know the story (if you don’t find it online and read it, it’s a good story)… well, what we have to do with it in connection to Personification is to replace every character with an object, and make 12 black and white thumbnails illustrating parts of the story. Much like the previous exercise only a bit more concentrated. Another catch is that we can’t use normal landscapes. We have to look at things from an object’s point of view and depict the world they inhabit using the studio as a base (meaning that all the landscapes and backgrounds in our thumbnails have to be from our studio at Howard Gardens). Before making the 12 thumbnails though, we have to submit character worksheets—size A1, one sheet per character—sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

Lumping awesome!!! SO looking forward to it!   \  (>.<)  /

P.S.  Why I believe this project is an absolute must and we totally have to do it:

First of all, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone” (something I heard and I’ve been saying an awful lot lately—which doesn’t make it less true!!). This task is definitely out of my comfort zone, so I see it as a challenge, a sort of obstacle that, once overcome, will turn out to be a good experience. One that will make me a stronger and more skillful artist.

Second, this is something I would never think of doing on my own. I might give myself challenges, but they are nothing like this one… but once it’s been given to me as a project, as something that I must do, I get hyped up and enthusiastic about it and I do things in the end that I never expected I could! In this way I am able to explore my potential and strengthen the abilities that I already have. (And here you could go back to the previous paragraph, because they kind of mix up… :/ hmm…)


Await updates in the form of pictures :)