Recently, I wrote an article about the process of creating Rain before Rainbows for the Jackson Wild Collective. As this article is only available for members of the collective, I thought I'd share the article here too. I hope you enjoy it!
The process of creating "Rain before Rainbows" by Alicia Hayden
14 days ago
Alicia Hayden is an award-winning wildlife artist, writer, photographer, and filmmaker from North Yorkshire, UK. Her piece When the Whale Sang won the “Human Impact” category in David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year 2021, and was awarded the inaugural Ingrid Beazley Award.
Rain before Rainbows is available to buy from Alicia’s online shop. It contains 26 illustrated poems, including Leopard, which won the Under 18s category in WWF’s My True Nature international poetry competition in 2011.
Rain before Rainbows is my first illustrated wildlife poetry book, and is compiled of poems written over the last ten years. The collection is split into two halves: “Rain”, which contains powerful poems reflecting on environmental breakdown and human negligence of the natural world; and “Rainbows”, which is full of more hopeful, optimistic, and celebratory poems. Each poem is accompanied by an original illustration.
I decided to create Rain before Rainbows after watching Attenborough’s 2020 documentary “Extinction: The Facts”. The raw imagery on the screen moved me to do something to protect the natural world; during the documentary I wrote one of the poems in the collection Paper Flower – which acts as a turning point between the two sections of the book. As I was putting the poetry book together, I decided to donate 50% of the profits to a wildlife charity, and I chose the UK wildlife hospital “Tiggywinkles”, as I love the fact they care for and release injured wildlife, many species of which are declining in the UK – such as hedgehogs.
I hope that when people read Rain before Rainbows, they feel moved and inspired to do something to protect the natural world; even if it’s a very simple change, like switching off a light when leaving a room. When I showed Rain before Rainbows to a friend, after reading it she said:
“I feel quite empowered about nature through reading your work. It’s one thing to encourage people to love the environment by reminding them how destructive they are, but it’s so much more moving when it’s through reminding them of the beauty of nature and the awesome opportunity we have to be part of it. The beauty of it really moved me… way more than any adverts about the importance of recycling.”.
If this is how people feel when they read Rain before Rainbows, then I feel like it has served its purpose. Artivism and other forms of activism are powerful ways of communicating messages and the urgency of changing our ways, but perhaps people need to be reminded why it’s worth protecting in the first place.
I find creating poetry and art is such an effective way of expressing myself and my emotions, and I believe it is a really powerful means to communicate the threats facing wildlife. As an artist and a poet, I find my inspiration comes from a whole variety of sources – but always from the natural world. I find a walk in nature so refreshing and motivating, and I have created some of my favourite art pieces and poems after walks – such as You and I, which was written in a glade during the first lockdown in 2020.
My work – be it art or writing – is evolving all the time! I think it’s very difficult for work not to change over time. It used to really bother me that I didn’t have a “style”, as working primarily in realism can mean I feel as though I don’t add my individuality. However, the more I’ve created, the more I’ve realised this isn’t the case; my art and writing both change according to my mood, the feelings and messages I’m trying to convey with the piece, and the character and behaviour of the subject I’m drawing. I think one of the unusual aspects of this collection is that you can see the evolution of my writing, from very early poems like Leopard (written aged 10) to recent poems like Rain before Rainbows (written aged 21) – I find it quite satisfying being able to trace my literary routes through my own writing.
As my work is constantly changing, it’s difficult for me to pick my favourite piece. I love all the poems in Rain before Rainbows for different reasons. With regards to my art, I think my favourite piece is When the Whale Sang, which accompanies the poem The Whale’s Song. I spent so long planning the drawing, and then creating it – it’s the piece I am most proud of. One of my favourite parts about creating was definitely putting together all the illustrations and poems, and seeing it become a book!
My art and illustration process is a little different, as it depends what the illustration is for. If it’s a commission, then I will do an initial sketch, and send it for approval, before adding more detail, and continuing. When I’m creating artivism pieces (such as When the Whale Sang), I normally think about what scientific research and literature about the environment I’m interested in portraying, before brainstorming ways of visualising this. Selecting the media, size, and feel of the piece also comes in this brainstorming stage – using muted coffee colours for more natural pieces, or using inks and watercolours to bring colour and emotion to other illustrations.
I am sometimes asked by people interested in creating wildlife art and poetry, how to get started – and my advice is, just have a go! All art forms are so subjective, that even if one person doesn’t like a piece of your work, lots of other people will. My main pieces of advice for you, if you’d like to create nature poetry and artwork, are: