Illustrating Kipling's "If" for a toddler
May 16, 2014 12:07 PM   Subscribe

I would like to create something for my three year old daughter: I want to calligraph and illustrate Kipling's "If" for her, either as a booklet or a single page. Now I am looking for ideas on what things to draw, surrounding the poem.

My three year old daughter's chief characteristic, that many people have commented on, is that she coolly does her thing, no matter how much screeching or carrying on people do around her. I like that about her and it reminded me of Kipling's "If".

Anyway, I'd like to do this for her as a keepsake that maybe she'll smile about in the years to come, but also something that we can talk about right now. She loves poring over books and illustrations with me.

I really like the idea of drawing people who have actually lost their heads and are looking silly without them. I think she would get a kick out of that.

But for the rest of the poem I am still looking for image ideas that illustrate the text, that a three year old could already talk about.
For instance,
"Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools: "

lends itself to an image of a building block tower being built up or destroyed.
And I guess "walking with Kings" lends itself to nice images.

Do you have more ideas for me? Thanks!
posted by Omnomnom to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In case anyone needs the body of it: If

Some of this is pretty abstract.

I can think of showing a pile of gold or chips for "all your winnings." But I don't know how to convey what happens next.
posted by Michele in California at 12:24 PM on May 16, 2014

people who have actually lost their heads and are looking silly without them

This immediately reminded me of Shel Silverstein's drawing for "The Loser". Maybe some of this other drawings could offer you inspiration. Maybe watercolored (in this kind of way) would help silly drawings match the calligraphy better.

I think a young child would really relate to an image for this line: "the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’"
posted by Houstonian at 12:27 PM on May 16, 2014

I know this isn't part of your question, but before you put hours into illustrating it for your daughter, have you considered how you are going to handle the last line? It is a lovely poem, but a daughter might feel that it doesn't really speak to her and was meant for someone else.

I remember being a little girl and feeling kind of frustrated/confused by that kind of thing.
posted by keeo at 6:17 PM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would totally change it to "a Woman, my daughter." It's a one of a kind artwork and not a poetry collection.

How will you fit this onto one page - a poster with little pictures running around it? I would block it out on a page and see. How much space you have for illustrations. Some beautiful poem illustrations I've seen are a border like vines or trees, with 2-3 key images overlaid.

You might want to look at illustrations of the owl and the pussycat, which is often put together in this style and is a similar length.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:45 PM on May 16, 2014

I am 51 years old, and the whole time I was growing up, my Mom had this poem framed on the wall. It is, in fact, still there.

It is done in simple, lovely calligraphy, and that fact alone caught my attention when I was very young ( such cool words! and look how important they are to have their own style!)

Of course, as I grew up I realized that it was not just that one poem which rated calligraphy, but the fact remains that it made quite a impression.

I guess my point is that while you may want to illustrate the poem, a simple yet beautiful rendering of the words themselves may have quite an impact.
posted by PlantGoddess at 8:40 PM on May 16, 2014

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