Posts tagged
with poetry


Frenzied Emotions Swirl Through Changyu Zou’s Poetry-Inspired Illustrations

May 12, 2023

Grace Ebert

A figure is surrounded by a chaotic cluster of birds, cars, houses, and other symbols

“Starry Bird 7.” All images © Changyu Zou, shared with permission

Tinged with magic and metaphor, the energetic illustrations by Savannah-based Chinese artist Changyu Zou are emotionally candid and reflect her reactions to verse. “I think poetry uses the most beautiful words to express what’s most real in the poet’s heart. Although these words sometimes are very abstract and not easy to understand, they can give me unlimited imagination,” she says, sharing that she tends to pull a few terms or phrases from a poem and then use those as the basis for her drawings.

Zou strives for an interplay between the original text and her visual language, which often relies on a feverish mishmash of figures and symbols. The mixed-media illustrations—she works with both digital and analog materials, including gouache, acrylics, crayons, colored pencils, and sometimes collaged details—draw directly from the Misty Poets, a tradition that emerged in defiance of the restrictive Cultural Revolution of 20th-century China and is characterized by its obscure haziness. This mysterious and indeterminate quality arises in Zou’s works as birds, human hands, cars, houses, and other objects appear to whirl in chaotic motion.

In addition to the Misty Poets, the illustrator mentions Kahlil Gibran, Haizi, and Rabindranath Tagore as influences. One line of Tagore’s “Starry Bird” reads “light in my heart the evening star of rest and then let the night whisper to me of love” and inspired Zou’s series by the same name. ” Because Tagore’s poetry expresses the harmony of life and nature, I chose elements for these to represent humans, such as cars and houses, and also elements that symbolize nature, such as birds,” she shares. “They are together on a planetary ring, expressing a state of harmony and love.”

Zou is preparing for a solo exhibition this fall, so keep an eye on her Instagram for news about that show and other projects. (via Creative Boom)


A figure is surrounded by a chaotic cluster of birds, cars, houses, and other symbols

“Starry Bird 1”

A figure is surrounded by a chaotic cluster of birds, cars, houses, and other symbols and stretches its arms toward a star

“Plan Adviser 1”

A figure on a raft peers down into the ocean with chaotic cluster of symbols and birds

“The World Remade”

A chaotic cluster of birds, cars, houses, and other symbols appear at the bottom of the illustration with a large bird to the right

“Starry Bird 6”

A figure is surrounded by a chaotic cluster of birds, cars, houses, and other symbols

“Starry Bird 4”

A figure rides a car toward a lighthouse with a chaotic cluster of symbols

“Plan Adviser 2”





A Heartwarming Animation Set to Poetry Reminds Us ‘How to Be at Home’

April 27, 2021

Grace Ebert

As we collectively count down the days until we can safely enjoy post-vaccination visits with friends and family, a delightful animation has a comforting message for those of us struggling to reign in our anxiety: “If this disruption undoes you, if the absence of people unravels you…lean into loneliness and know you’re not alone in it.”

A collaboration between poet Tanya Davis and filmmaker Andrea Dorfman, “How to Be at Home” plucks some of the same scenarios from the duo’s wildly popular “How to Be Alone”—watch the 2010 film on YouTube and pick up the illustrated book from Bookshop—and translates them into quarantine terms fit for 2020: where benches and public transit once were spaces ripe for interaction, they’re now hazards to be avoided, and a lunch-time scroll through your phone is no longer a distraction but a welcome way to stay connected.

The animated scenes emerge from the pages of a book, an emblem closely associated with solitude, through a mix of live footage and stop-motion techniques. Set to the dulcet rhythms of Davis’s poem, the short film flows through ubiquitous pandemic activities like home yoga, watching long films (including all the credits!), and solo dance parties and reminds us how we’re all bound together even when we’re physically apart.

“How to Be at Home” is one of 30 pandemic-themed films created through The Curve, a platform supported by the National Film Board of Canada. To see more of Dorfman’s illustrations and animations, check out her Instagram and Vimeo. You also might enjoy Gemma Green-Hope’s animated portrait of her grandmother.





JR, Faith XLVII, and Two Dozen More Mural Artists Convene to Celebrate the Legacy of Dr. Maya Angelou

July 15, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Rabi of Cyrcle & JR’s Insideout Project, Los Angeles (2019). Photo: WISEKNAVE Fine Art Documentation

Muralists from around the world including JR, Faith XLVII, Axel Void, and Daniel Arsham came together for a weeklong Maya Angelou Mural Festival in Los Angeles celebrating the legendary poet. The artists, numbering more than two dozen, decorated the Dr. Maya Angelou Community High School with wall-scaling paintings that depicted or celebrated the visage and message of Dr. Angelou. Rabi and JR (previously) used Angelou’s “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” in their design; Faith XLVII (previously) drew inspiration from the phoenix, a frequent motif in Angelou’s poetry. The mural festival was organized by Branded Arts. (via artnet)

Shawn Michael Warren’s mural (2019). Photo: staticmedium

HUGE’s mural. Photo: wiseknave (2019)

L: Daniel Arsham, Maya Angelou High School (2019). Photo: staticmedium / R: Victoria Cassinova’s mural (2019). Photo: staticmedium

Tochlita (2019). Photo: staticmedium

Axel void’s mural, (2019). Photo: Impermanent Art

Faith XLVII (2019). Photo: staticmedium

Perez Bros’ mural (2019). Photo: staticmedium



Art Illustration

Loneliness and Belonging Explored in a New Children’s Book of Poetry and Mixed-Media Illustrations

March 16, 2019

Andrew LaSane

Images courtesy of Enchanted Lion

Author JonArno Lawson and artist Nahid Kazemi recently collaborated to tell a largely visual story about a young bird contemplating its own existence and trying to find its place in the world after losing its flock. Titled Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon and published by Brooklyn-based Enchanted Lion Books, the children’s book features poetic writing by Lawson which provides the framework for its complex themes. Kazemi’s colorful illustrations—a mix of pencil, colored pencil, chalk pastel, and collage—pull young readers into the colorful and curious world.

After studying painting at Art University in Tehran, Kazemi worked as a graphic designer for literary magazines, published children’s books in Iran, and participated in illustration festivals around the world. Kazemi tells Colossal that the collaboration with JonArno Lawson happened by chance, shortly after a move and career restart in Canada.

While looking through books at a library for publishers and authors, the artist came across one called Sidewalk Flowers. “It made me hopeful that publishers in North America were interested in publishing wordless books,” she said. “I searched for JonArno’s other books in the library and felt that his work was close to my own style. I found him through social media – he really liked my work as well, and after a short while, we started to think together about this project.”

The new book is available on Bookshop. To see more of Kazemi’s mixed media illustrations, follow her on Instagram. (via Brain Pickings)



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