Poetry and prose has often proved inspirational for visual art artist; so for this exercise I was asked to choose a piece of poetry, prose or a song lyric. I found it hard to think of my favourite poems so I asked my friends around me to list theirs. It has been very interesting to see the array of poems that my friends liked; the list is extensive. Just for fun, here it is:

  • This moment is your life- Omar Khayyám
  • Kuala Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • When all the others were away at mass -Seamus Heaney
  • King of Twist by Steve Turner
  • Still I Rise – Maya Angelou
  • Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself – Khalil Gibran on the subject of love
  • The evacuee by RS Thomas
  • How do I love thee – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • The lady of Shallot
  • Guinevere-Alfred Lord Tennyson
  • A fairy song – William Shakespeare
  • To my wife, with a copy of my poems – Oscar Wilde
  • Romance del prisionero ( Anonymous)
  • Funeral blues-wh Auden
  • Sonnet 18 Shakespeare
  • I love you first – Christina Rossetti
  • The good Morrow- John Donne
  • The British – Zephaniah

I was very interested to see how words can touch us all so differently. Poetry can be so personal and for me, although I enjoyed all of the ones above,  at this point of my life the one that talked to me more or touched me was ‘ Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou.https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qviM_GnJbOM

So I took the paragraph below

I started sketching ideas, inspired by Maya Angelou words. So I drew illustrations of black women as this poem is about the feelings of a black woman. This paragraph evokes discrimination and bullying, so with that in mind I started writing words and insults. This  part was very hard and draining as I had to research some of the insults used on black people, again reminding me of the power and weight that words can have. Words can be used to uplift or in this case, to hurt and destroy. Words are powerful!

In this sketch I used an illustration of a black woman with an Afro hairstyle,representing her confidence in herself  and in her race and colour. In her hair I wrote all the insults, as black people’s hair has always been the first point of call for insults and racial remarks. I then drew balloons to represent rising.
I like this sketch I think it’s effective but I still wanted to experiment more.

I did different sketches trying to depict black women comfortable in their own skins, and rising above, but found it very difficult.

I was inspired by an ilustration by Frank Morrison and adapted it slightly: as I liked the profile of the woman but I wanted her face to be softer. I used a similar concept to Michael Vopicelli and john Sokol. I then incorporated Maya Angelou’s poem in the lady’s profile.

I played with different ideas, thinking of artist like Ghada Amer, who inspires me. How effortless and easy her works look; how her works convey a message, usually a feminist one.

I selected two of my sketches but after reviewing them I was still not convinced.

More  detail was added to my samples, The writing was typed in red representing danger.

I was still not 100%  satisfied with the outcome as my lady – although she looked strong she didn’t look like she was rising above the discriminatory and racist words.

I practiced some more and developed my sketch further. I changed my lady to one of my original illustrations. This time writing Maya Angelou’s poem in her hair as a symbol of rising above the insults fired out to her. I chose to write the words ‘I rise’ in capitals in her earring to give those words the power they evoke and make them paramount.

Around my illustration of the gun it is darker in an attempt to make the mood heavier. The words are typed  in red symbolising danger and they are stitched with silver thread, symbolising how people like excusing their bad behaviour with ignorance, as if that were a good enough excuse! Disquising the cruel words with a soft tone.

I have added some rainbow effect sequins so that when the light catches them it gives the effect of magic and twinkle, setting Maya Angelou’s poem in a brighter light, giving hope to so many. I emphasized the word I Rise in capitals to give them more importance and power.

I opted to leave the glittery silver threads hanging to symbolise the impact of the firing gun.

Pew! I felt so exhausted, as while working on this piece and typing  such horrible and wicked words,  it made me think and reflect on so many cruel and unjust events world-wide. The subject of racism is growing  stronger every day and it  is one that, unfortunately. Some  people endure constantly. It doesn’t go away!

Thank God for people like Maya Angelou who used  her words to express what so many people couldn’t, thus giving  strength, comfort and hope to so many.