Marooned, Rebecca Jones
this piece is a response to a poem we published in issue one by Rebecca’s sister, Kathleen Jones. here’s what they had to say about their collaborative process, one which reaches back to each other from Minnesota to North Carolina.
-Editors, baldhip magazine
When/ how did this start?
Kathleen: We are sisters, and ever since we were kids we have made art and written stories and poetry. I am five years older than Rebecca, and I used to open up my notebooks to find that she had embellished my drawings. I found this hilarious and wonderful.
Rebecca: As we got older, Kathleen started writing more and drawing less, and I started doing the opposite.
Kathleen: A few years ago we started collaborating more intentionally. Rebecca did the illustrations and cover art for a poetry chapbook I made in grad school. In my MFA program, we design broadsides for everyone’s thesis reading, and my broadside featured Rebecca’s art. The project shown here was much more spontaneous: I sent Rebecca a letter and included “Marooned.” Just a few days later, she sent me a picture of the drawing it inspired.
Do you work concurrently or is your collaboration a type of call and response?
Rebecca: It depends on the project. So far, our collaborations have mainly happened when Kathleen has written something and I have illustrated it after the writing is largely done. In the future, we intend to plan and execute more pieces concurrently.
Describe your process.
Kathleen: “Marooned” was a little different from usual because we didn’t consult at all—I had no idea Rebecca was even working on a drawing.
Rebecca: I felt that “Marooned” was a very visual poem; in my own work I often narrow concepts into symbols so I responded to the poem immediately.
Kathleen: Usually, when I commission work from Rebecca, we both generate lists of images from the work.
Rebecca: The process is a blend of figuring out what images are inextricable from the intent of the writing and which images I see as a reader. Usually Kathleen has some idea of the imagery she would like to see for her work but we go back and forth with ideas…for example, with the chapbook I made several preliminary sketches then we discussed refinements.
How does working together affect your relationship outside your art? Are you closer/ less close?
Kathleen: We are definitely closer than we would be if we didn’t enjoy working together creatively. Even if we weren’t collaborators, I would be a huge fan of Rebecca’s art and would want Rebecca to read my poetry. She is an incredibly valuable and trustworthy reader. We always ask each other questions about our work out of a genuine interest.
Rebecca: Making a drawing from Kathleen’s writing is a matter of peeling back layers to figure out where she’s coming from. It is interesting to make my own interpretation of her words but even more meaningful to ask her why she writes what she does, get the backstory of the writing in order to make the drawings as genuine as possible. Putting thoughts into words and images is personal work and discussing personal work in this way definitely makes us closer.
Do you feel your poetry translates well into art?
Kathleen: It was exciting to see the illustration of “Marooned” because the train tracks were at once nothing like the tracks I pictured and a perfectly accurate view of how the poem feels to my sister. When I think of the poem now, I think of both the tracks in my head and the tracks she created. Rebecca’s art style is as recognizable to me as handwriting, and I love the experience of seeing my own work turn into something that looks and feels like her own. At the same time, I don’t believe my poems have ever lost any of their own style or meaning upon being translated.
How does working in different mediums affect the collaborative process?
Kathleen: It’s interesting to collaborate with someone who uses tools I don’t know how to use. From a technical standpoint, we have to ask each other a lot of questions about what is possible.
Rebecca: As someone who enjoys creating visual narratives but does not make writing a decidedly creative practice, I love being able to run with a narrative created by my sister.
Do you work off other inspiring artworks or only each other?
Kathleen: I write a lot of ekphrastic poetry, so I’m constantly drawing inspiration from lots of different types of visual sources. I have some of Rebecca’s artwork hanging up in my house; I need to write some poetry about them!
Rebecca: I make a lot of drawings and prints based on words and music.
WE ARE MERE MORTALS. WE MUST COLLABORATE TO SURVIVE. Also it’s really fun
and me talking about collaborating! Baldhip Mag kindly featured a drawing I did based on Kathleen’s poem “Marooned.”