This Folio Life: Illustrating the rhythm and movement of poetry

Artist Lesley Barnes has created more than 50 charming illustrations to bring The Folio Book of Children’s Poetry to life. In this blog, she explains how she tried to bring joy to the visual pace and tone of favourite childhood poems.

Raquel Leis Allion, Art Director

 

It was a very special challenge to be asked to illustrate such a wonderful collection of poetry. What illustrator hasn’t imagined what Kublai Khan’s pleasure dome might look like?

Copyright © Lesley Barnes for The Folio Book of Children's Poetry 2018, from The Folio SocietyI think poems already have a visual language, so I kept my illustration simple in terms of form and colour as I wanted the pictures to be magical and fun while not distracting from the words.

I wanted to capture the rhythm and movement of the poetry in my illustrations. For example, in The Pied Piper I could imagine the rats running and dancing through the lines of the poem, much like they chase the song of the piper through the streets of Hamelin. In Weathers, I drew the wind whipping all around the poem, while the skier in Patience slaloms down the page.

Copyright © Lesley Barnes for The Folio Book of Children's Poetry 2018, from The Folio Society

Another way I created rhythm in my illustrations was by using pattern and repetition to make ‘visual poetry’ – creating the seasons in the Garden Year or the phases of the moon in The Wind and the Moon.

I wanted to help the reader imagine themselves in the poems, so I included a boy and girl character throughout the book – lying in a field of ‘golden daffodils’, or tangled up in the word play of elephant and telephone.

Copyright © Lesley Barnes for The Folio Book of Children's Poetry 2018, from The Folio Society

Sometimes a line of poetry just connects with you, and on a personal note one of my favourite poems to illustrate was Tartary. Although the poem is full of fantastic imagery, I could not imagine anything finer than the lines ‘And zebras seven should draw my car / through Tartary’s dark gleades’.

If you look closely, you might see a picture of my little dog Cleo with a giant cake, which she almost certainly would have tried to eat if it was real.

Copyright © Lesley Barnes for The Folio Book of Children's Poetry 2018, from The Folio Society

This blog is by artist Lesley Barnes.

The Folio Book of Children's Poetry

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