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Reflections of ‘The Forest’: Exploring manifestations of ecopoetry through illustration practice


The combination of poetic language and visual illustration has the potential to bring about kaleidoscopic dimensions to the understanding of the intended meaning(s). Illustration as a medium of reflection can be seen in the sketchbooks and writings of artist/ poets across the world. The aim of this practice-led research is to position illustration as a medium of reflection on ‘the self’ and the natural world.

This research attempts to draw its ideas from the theories of art by Crowther and Wünsche (2012) that discuss biocentric approaches found in abstract art.

The research further explores a poem ‘The Forest’ from the book ‘Green Poems’ written by the Indian lyricist Gulzar, through the creation of an illustrated book. ‘The Forest’ was originally written in Urdu and has been translated into English by Pavan K. Verma. (Gulzar, 2014)

The relevance of ecoconscious writings with context to environment preservation and the aesthetic as well as systemic aspects of such writings have been discussed by literary scholars and artist researchers while reconceptualising the interconnectedness of the ‘self’ and nature. (Jalaja, J., 2013)

Reflections of ‘The Forest’ is an illustrated book which explores human-nature relationship by evoking the emotions of the words through watercolour and ink based illustrations. The images flow as a narrative and the book design allows the reader to experience both the image and text in a parallel yet exclusive space.

"When I pass through the forest I feel my ancestors are around me..."(Gulzar, 2012).

The poem takes the reader through a journey of the bond between humans and trees. The cyclical nature of life is highlighted in the illustrations and the design of the book to emphasize ephemerality of existence.

The Forest

When I pass through the forest it seems my ancestors are around me

I feel I am a newborn baby

And these tribes of trees

Are rocking me in their arms.

Some play a flower rattle, others sprinkle fragrance on my eyes

One very old, bearded bargad

Takes me in his lap, surprise writ on his face,

And tells me:

Now you have begun to walk

But once you too were like us

With your roots in the ground

Straining with all your might to catch the sun.

You had just arrived on earth

And I saw you slithering around,

On our branches you would climb, jump down again,

Scamper around

But once, standing on both legs, you could run

You did not return

You became a part of the rocks, of the mountains!

But even so

The water in your body

The soil in your being

Is from us

You will be seeded again in us

You will return to us again.

Keywords: ecopoetry, narrative, artist book, illustration


1. Wünsche, Isabel. (2012). Meanings of Abstract Art: Between Nature and Theory. Routledge

2. Gulzar. (2014). Green Poems. Penguin Books Limited

3. Jalaja, J., (2013), The Beauty and the Beast in Nature: A Reading of Gulzar’s Ecocentric Green Poems.

This book was created as part of the Illustration Residency Programme at the School of Visual Arts in New York, 2016.

This book was exhibited at:

The School of Visual Arts Gallery, New York, NYC 2016; All Inked Up Fair, Herbert Read Gallery, University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury, Kent, UK 2018

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