Illustrating Poetry with Julian Peters- Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 of the interview with Julian Peters a comic book artist who specializes in poetry illustration, well what are you waiting for? Click here.

Julian talked about the connections between Manga and Yeats. He  cited The Young Turks as a new age inspiration for illustrators like himself.  He also believes the creative process  involves taking a lot of reference photos of himself in various poses, often wearing makeshift costumes and holding various cardboard props. He illustrates poets like Eliot and Rimbaud. This illustration features Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe.

Annabel Lee detail


Why don’t you use colour in your comics?

Hand-drawn black-and-white imagery bares an affinity to calligraphy, and so lends itself more readily, I think, to the seamless blending of drawing and text in the mind of the reader. The drawings should seem almost like a flowering into visual form of the written text that accompanies it, and the use of colour would run counter to this effect. Unless the text itself were to be rendered in colour, I suppose. So many possibilities yet to explore!

How has blogging changed the nature of poetry and illustration in your experience?

 I think poetry and illustration may be rather well suited to blogging and to the internet age in general, as they can both be “ingested” rather quickly. Whether people online will take the time properly “digest” them is another question.

But poetry and illustration certainly have an advantage over other art forms requiring a more sustained attention, such as prose writing. Music and videos still do the best of all, of course, but only because the viewers/listeners can do something else at the same time. 

 The illustration of Eliot’s Prufrock poem is terrific… is more Eliot on the anvil?

Absolutely! The overwhelming response that the completed portion of that adaptation has generated online has convinced me to complete it as soon as possible. At some point I would also like to try my hand at a comics version of “The Hollow Men,” certainly one of the most haunting and at times downright chilling poems in the English language.

 How has learning art history changed your view of illustration in general?

 I had the immense good fortune of spending a part of my childhood in Italy, where one is hemmed in on all sides by centuries-worth of beautiful art. Perhaps as a consequence of this, I have long tended to be most attracted to works of art that show an awareness of what came before, even as they take these influences from the past in new directions.

It’s as T. S. Eliot said about poetry in “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” the most individual parts of a work may be those in which the poets of the past “assert their immortality most vigorously.”  This is just as true for comics artists and illustrators as for any other artists: They should at least have a good knowledge of the history of their medium, and ideally of the history of the visual arts in general. Art without historical awareness tends to look rather shallow, I think, at least to those who do possess some of that awareness.  

What are you reading now and what are you illustrating?

I tend to read several books at the same time. I recently finished Middlemarch, which I loved, particularly for the way George Eliot leads us to see some part of ourselves in each of the many and very diverse characters (in my case, even in the loathsome Casaubon, I am sorry to say). I also just finished Cosi parlò Bellavista (“Thus Spake Bellavista”) by Luciano De Crescenzo, a work of popular philosophy celebrating the laid-back approach to life of the inhabitants of Naples, a city I have long been fascinated by. At the moment I am reading Samuel Beckett’s Murphy and an anthology of Japanese short stories.

Both Naples and Japan are major inspirations for my Views of an Imaginary City series. This ongoing project is a kind of picture book for adults, which in my more optimistic moments I like to think of as a kind of cross between Ando Hiroshige’s One Hundred Views of Edo and Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. I’m also working on a number of collaborative projects, including providing the illustrations for a creative biography of the Montreal poet Émile Nelligan.

 Your biggest inspiration in the art world and why?

In the contemporary art world, far and away the figure I find most inspiring is the Italian comic book artist and illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti. I can’t think of any artist today who, while still working with traditional materials such as oil pastels and pen and ink, has contributed more new ideas as to how to go about depicting the world around us, and the world inside our heads. He’s also one of the few true virtuosos of line, one of those artists who can capture in line and visual composition something akin to the effect of melody in music.

The greatest visual melodist of all time, in my opinion was Aubrey Beardsley, just one of the reasons why he remains my favourite artist.

Thank you again Julian! It has been wonderful talking to you…like walking into a new world filled with pictures and possibilities.

Thank you Neelima! And thank you for advancing the cause of poetry in an online world through your wonderful blog!


neelthemuse@ 2013



3 thoughts on “Illustrating Poetry with Julian Peters- Part 2 Leave a comment

  1. Julian: REALLY consider contacting textbook companies or something in the education realm …

    regards…rosa from Las Vegas

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