Christmas Poems

Michael Kirkham (Illustrator), Wendy Cope

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This piece of research was the development of a body of images to illustrate a hardback collection of Wendy Cope’s poetry. Commissioned by Faber & Faber, the aim was to develop an original visual language and pictorial content that utilised the authorial voice of the illustrator whilst being sensitive and complementary to the poems. Christmas Poems was to be distinguished from other similarly themed books by creating a distinct and gently subversive aesthetic treatment based on observations and reflections of the lived experience of Christmas celebrations in the UK in the early 21st century. The illustrator read the poet’s work extensively in order to ensure a matching sensibility in the content and tone of the imagery. Visual research into the subject matter provided the themes and subjects for manipulation. An extended period of drawing and reflection was embarked upon to generate the key imagery. A review of illustrated poetry and picture books was carried out in order to develop understanding of the communicative potential in the combination of words and images. A strategy of parallel scenes was developed in response to this: using the pictures to describe scenes that were complementary to the poems’ subjects rather than duplicating them. A theme emerged of standard Christmas images and their counterpoint: a cracker with a disappointing toy inside, a fir tree with its dropped needles; a candle with a lighter next to it. Further iterative drawing developed the imagery into compositions. A colour scheme was developed through material experimentation which was appropriate to the tone of the poems but clearly distinguished from the colours traditionally associated with Christmas. Digital and physical processes were combined in the production of the final artworks. The book was published by Faber & Faber, widely available in major UK booksellers and prominently displayed by them in the festive season.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherFaber and Faber
Number of pages48
ISBN (Print)978-0-571-33858-0
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2017


  • Illustration
  • Christmas
  • reflective
  • sombre
  • poetry


Dive into the research topics of 'Christmas Poems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this