Writing Tips: How to Incorporate Illustrations into Your Poetry

If you follow poetry, you’re likely familiar with the modern trend of featuring illustrations with poems. This aesthetic is not only Instagram-friendly, but it can also help you build your brand while enhancing your poetry’s storytelling. Whether you’re curating your Instagram grid or creating a collection of poems, consider these tips when adding illustrated artwork to your poetry. 


If you’re not an artist, partner with a fellow creative to bring your vision to life


Collaboration is a crucial aspect of successful artistic endeavors. If illustration isn’t your specialty, commission a fellow creative. Whether you ask a friend or search for an illustrator online, partnering with an artist can help bring your vision to life. Be sure to define your working relationship—are you willing to receive feedback and input from the artist, or are you simply looking for someone to execute your vision?


Once you find the right artist to work with, create a physical or virtual mood board to share with your partner in poetry. Browse social media networks such as Pinterest for color and overall aesthetic inspo. 


Get inspired by other poets


As you cultivate your own artistic identity, find inspiration in other poets’ work. Consider how specific poets combine their talents to build their brands and readerships. Browse through collections you own or scroll through Instagram to gain a sense of how poets seamlessly incorporate illustrations in a particularly creative and thoughtful way. Note the themes and aesthetics they employ—how does this artwork drive home specific messages? 


Choose your structure


If you wish to incorporate illustrations into a poetry collection, choose which structure best suits your storytelling point of view. Decide whether you want to include an illustration for each poem, each section, or at the beginning and end of your collection. To help you make this choice, consider how you want your illustrations to support or emphasize the themes your work explores. Incorporating an illustration with each poem can help your readers associate artwork with your writing, helping you build your brand. An illustration for each section or at the beginning and end might be used to make additional creative statements. 


Decide on an aesthetic


Once you’ve chosen the best structure for your voice as a poet, decide on an aesthetic. Consider if your illustrations should be black and white or colorful, abstract or more realistic. If your poems are narrative-driven with detailed, rich imagery, realistic and colorful illustrations might work best with your poetry. On the other hand, free verse, emotional poems would be complemented well with black and white, abstract artwork. If you’re undecided, take some time to discover your aesthetic. Choose a few poems you’ve already written, then free illustrate, letting your creativity flow through. 


Whether you’re just experimenting or creating a published collection, artwork can add a new dimension to your poetry—find what speaks to your work, and have fun with it!