Jonathan Gibbs

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution



We have not visited the Torrible Zone, nor do we know the Hills of the Chankly Bore or the Land Where the Bong Tree Grows. Nonetheless, these fantastical places are vivid to us, from childhood. Inspired by Edward Lear's literary locations, I seek to address the relationship between poetry and the visual image.
How do we see and read the combination of pictures and text?
Currently I am illustrating 'To a Mountain Daisy', by Robert Burns. This connects ideas of place & time, earth & life, also body & soul. This commission follows various published poetry for which I have made wood engravings. The earliest example, for Canongate, asked for a set of illustrations for 'Rough Seas', by Tom Pow. Dumfries and Edinburgh are depicted, followed by travels in the USA. The reader is transported by evocations of place, experience, memory and the human condition. The mind's eye can visualise Pow's world through his poetry. This illustrator's interpretation depended upon direct observation Edinburgh and rural subjects, but was indebted to Andreas Feininger's New York photographs for Manhattan, which appears as a silhouette beneath the typography of the page. I have never visited America. Pow's second collection, 'The Moth Trap', required more specific reference to Scotland. And this was followed by a walking man, illustrated in the landscape for 'Reading the Bones', by Janet Paisley.
'Dart', 'Woods etc.', by Alice Oswald, and the 'Collected Poems' by Robert Frost each elicited different interpretations of place, to give appropriate visual complement to the poems.
These images are symbolic, sometimes topographically correct but often sliced or fragmentary.
There is a fine pen-line from Edward Lear, through Edward Gorey, up to and beyond Tom Gauld's 'Kingdom'. I will discuss such far-away places, which are closely spaced on the page, and imprinted in the mind.

Jonathan Gibbs
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Itinerant Illustrator
Subtitle of host publication5th International Illustration Research event in Bangalore, India
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'THE MIND'S EYE: POETRY & PLACE'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this