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How I created a poetry artbook

One creator's experiment with publishing, paper collage, and poetry

By Bri CraigPublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 5 min read
Top Story - June 2024
A digital collage of some of the artwork featured in my book, All the brooding flowers

Back in at the very beginning of February, my brain began to itch with a new idea: a fusion of artwork and poetry. I protested the idea for a few days... it seemed too far fetched, I felt too inexperienced, it was too vulnerable to put something like that out into the world.

But my brain gets obsessive, and again and again the thought occurred to me, what if? What if you tried it? What if you were brave?

So a few days later, I did a small test of the concept. I grabbed my kitchen scissors and cut apart some junk mail and faded construction paper. I assembled those pieces into a little mosaic and scanned the image with my printer. Then I found a untouched poem I had written over a year ago, and I overlaid the text on top of the scan.

And I stared at it for a while.

This was first page created for All the brooding flowers and ultimately didn't even make it into the book. The art was repurposed for the "about me" page, and the poem was paired with a different image.

Looking at this first page, my idea didn't feel so crazy anymore. Suddenly, my idea felt very real and tangible. I could do this. I could create an entire book full of paper collage images and poetry. It could be pretty. Hell, maybe it would even turn into something beautiful.

And so I began to make more artwork.

I gathered more paper scraps from my junk mail, from my neighbors, and from the recesses of my unopened "crafts drawer." I began to pick out poems and create art for them.

It took a substantial amount of effort, and I was overwhelmed with uncertainly and insecurity for about 70% of the time I worked on the book. But do to a handful of lucky factors, I didn't give up.

And so today, I'm happy to announce that my book, All the brooding flowers, is officially published.

The Artwork

All of the artwork in my book began as scrap paper and was cut and arranged by hand to become the artwork that you see today. I used recycled and repurposed paper to make the project as environmentally conscious as possible. Even one of the earliest proof copies of the book was cut apart and re-used to make more art for the book.

Creating the cover of All the brooding flowers with kitchen scissors and a glue stick

Similar to what I did for that very first page, most of the artwork was scanned using my printer/scanner and uploaded into Canva, a online platform that helps with visual design and document creation. In Canva, I made minor adjustments to the artwork (such as erasing some stray glue marks) and I added in my poetry.

In the beginning, I was creating busier, single-page artworks and placing my poetry on top with text boxes. However, I found myself unhappy with the way the book was looking. It felt like the art was "competing" with the poetry, rather than enhancing it. So about 10 pages into the book, I decided to re-do everything in favor of a more "minimalist" style, which used the artwork to "accent" the poetry, rather than take away from it.

The best example of the artistic change can be seen in the two versions of my poem, Sea Glass. The poems actually used the same scan of artwork, but the in the second version I erased half of it digitally in Canva:

Version 1 - Intended to be a single page
Version 2 - Intended to be spread across two pages

I didn't love "killing my darlings" and deleting the pages I created, but I think the change was necessary to stear the project in a more cohesive artistic direction. Once I changed the style, I pushed forward with the project with a better sense of confidence.

And I do really love the minimalist art style of the final book:

But don't worry, I did reuse some of the original artwork on "non-poem" pages such as the bio and acknowledgements.

The Cover

One of the most intimidating things about creating the artwork for this book was the realization that I would have to also create the cover. The cover is the first thing people with see (and judge) about your book, so it was a higher pressure work of art. If you can imagine, the cover took the longest to create out of any art piece in the book, taking me around four hours to create the background image alone:

And because this piece was the most textured, it didn't quite scan correctly with my printer. So I ended up taking a picture of it on my phone in order to better capture the colors and details (very professional, I know).

Comparison of my printer/scanner (left) and my smartphone (right)

After I had a digital copy of the background, I pulled it into Canva and I overlay the title of the book. Then I digitally adjusted the image to give it a slightly more purple hue.

The hand-made cover of the book

The Role of Vocal

I'd be remised to talk about this book on Vocal without also mentioning the role of Vocal in it's creation. I'm not the first person to publish Vocal poetry in a book (there are others who have already done that, like Paul Stewart), but I'm more than happy to join the club!

While I don't tend to put all of my poetry on Vocal, there are a few poems that I wrote for Vocal challenges (or published just for fun) that did actually make it into the book!

My favorite example is my poem, When I Saw You, which was written for Vocal's "From Across the Room" challenge (and even netted a runner-up prize)!

Here's the original poem, as it was published on Vocal:

And here's the artwork I created for it for my book:

(slightly resized for display purposes)

And I won't spoil the artwork for every poem in this book, but I will tease that that the following Vocal poems ended up in the final version of the book!

So cheers to Vocal, for being the first home for several of the poems in this book, and helping me gain confidence with putting my poetry out "in public."

The Takeaway

As I sit with my computer on release day, staring at this article, it's difficult to formulate the proper words to talk about this book. It was difficult. It was outside of my comfort zone. I felt so uncertain for so long, wondering whether this book would really blossom into the thing I wanted it to be.

But I did it.

I took my brain's silly little idea and I turned it into a real, tangible thing I could hold in my hands.

And I'm someone who really struggles to feel proud of myself, but god damn, I did it. And I can sit outside on a lovely summer day and feel the sun shine on my face knowing that I did something purely to be creative. To make myself happy in this world. To live and keep living the way my little brain wants.

So my message to you, reader, is to do that silly little thing that your brain wants you to do. Even if it's scary. Even if it feels impossible. Because the sun feels so good on your face on a day like today.

So do it!

The Thank Yous

If you're interested in checking out the book and supporting my writing and art, you can find it at the link below:

And as always, if you have any questions about my process, feel free to ask about it. I'm always happy to share both my mistakes, triumphs, and plain old advice.

And since you made it this far, thank you for reading!

Truly - thank you!

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About the Creator

Bri Craig

Bri Craig (she/her) is a variety pack writer. She enjoys writing poetry, webcomic features, humor, short stories, and personal anecdotes. Basically, neither of us will ever know what will be posted next!

Let's connect! More about me here.

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Comments (29)

  • Sweileh 888about a month ago

    hank you, I am happy with your exciting stories. Follow my stories now

  • Kathy Tsoukalasabout a month ago

    What a beautiful idea! Thank you for sharing your process.

  • Anna about a month ago

    Yayy! So proud of you for being brave and publishing this beauty! Congrats on your well deserved Top Story! The best way to celebrate! :)

  • Christy Munsonabout a month ago

    Congratulations on Top Story! 🥳 🤩 🫶🏻 As I multi-disciple creator myself, your article speaks my language on so many fronts. I thought I'd read, liked, and commented on this article previously, but am not seeing my Comment, so allow me to say (again?) how enthusiastically I agree with your advice. We can and should find joy in creating our own masterpieces with our art and our words. If you're interested in seeing some of my art, I invite you to check out my article about some of my creative pursuits (but don't feel you have to). "Creating: My Bliss". https://vocal.media/motivation/creating-my-bliss

  • Paul Stewartabout a month ago

    Congratulations on a monumental idea and looking forward to reading and marvelling in it very soon (Actually was snooping on Amazon for Vocal creators and came across it before I saw this post about it. Added it to my list and will buy it soon) Well done on the creativity and the determination this all took! Love the concept. Congrats too on Top Story so this gets more eyes!

  • Babs Iversonabout a month ago

    Fantastic!!! Congratulations on the book!!! Congrats on Top Story too!!!❤️❤️💕

  • Mark Graham2 months ago

    Congratulations on your book. What a great idea. I published several coloring books of my drawings on another site known as 'artwanted.com'. Just wondered if you have seen my color art here on Vocal.

  • Hasan2 months ago

    An excellent read with actionable takeaways!

  • Congratulations Briana a fantastic achievement

  • Milon Barmon2 months ago

    Awesome! Keep up good work.

  • TahimaAni2 months ago

    amazing ♥️

  • Dr. Jason Benskin2 months ago

    Awesome work! Love this read. Keep up he good work. When you get a chance please check out my work let me know your thoughts.

  • Vagabond Writes2 months ago

    I think there is no praise I can give you that has not already been sung in the comments, and you deserve it all. From the concept alone this book is an immediate purchase for me! I'm looking forward to reading it!

  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    That look really, really good, and good for you for getting it done. Congrats.

  • Stella Yan PhD2 months ago

    A wonderful publishing journey!

  • Melissa Ingoldsby2 months ago

    Gorgeous art to synch with your thoughtful poetry! Very creative

  • LOVE YOUR STORY!

  • Shirley Belk2 months ago

    bravo, Bri!!!

  • angela hepworth2 months ago

    Bri, this looks so gorgeous! It’s so evident how much work and heart you put into it. You did that!!!

  • The Dani Writer2 months ago

    This all kinds of excellence because of your detailed sharing of the steps and feelings along the way. I enjoyed feeing in on the journey and it's beautiful unfolding. Thank you for being the star unafraid to shine and well done top Story-an!

  • And now this one is on the front page where it rightfully belongs 💪

  • Amanda Starks2 months ago

    Coming back, ( AGAIN ), to say CONGRATS!! I was so hoping this would be picked as a top story!!

  • Ameer Bibi2 months ago

    You did it, bud Keep shining Congratulations on TS

  • Khan2 months ago

    Your artbook is beautiful ❤️ Congratulations on the top story

  • shanmuga priya2 months ago

    Congratulations 🎉

Bri CraigWritten by Bri Craig

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