Exercise 2: Literally Illustrating Metaphors

“if you are to
understand water
you have to throw it about
like a herd of
galloping horses”

In Exercise 1, you played with producing a metaphor from a moving image. Now, you’ll do the opposite. You’ll be given a metaphor and move backwards to create the image. Find your art pencils and get ready to draw! Note: Stick figures and cave art are totally acceptable! This is not about how great an artist you are. Remember, these exercises are for the busy Curious Creative, and should take no more than 10 minutes of your time. Of course, you can increase that time if you feel more playful.

My Thoughts:

My dear friend and former colleague, Stacy Chestnut, once shared with me a teaching idea called, “The Interpretive Card.” In this activity, students repeatedly flip an index card from front to back as they complete an analysis of a piece of figurative language, both drawing and writing about it. The physical exercise of repeatedly turning over the card aids the mental process of going back and forth between the right and left sides of the brain, resulting in a more complete understanding of how the figurative language works.

One thing I have taken away from this exercise is how useful it is for my students to actually draw what they see in their mind’s eye, whether for a metaphor or a new vocabulary word. Forcing them to picture an image often fills in the gap where an otherwise superficial understanding would be.

For writers, visualizing while we create helps us form more accurate and thus evocative figurative and descriptive language.

Your Turn!

Draw a literal picture of one of the following metaphors (or choose a different metaphor you love). Think about what the metaphor would look like if it were actually possible. Check out the two examples above, one by a professional artist and one by an amateur– me.

  1. “An old man whose black face shines golden-brown as wet pebbles under a street light” -Levertov
  2. “dogwood…whose roots are my mother’s hair.” -Charles Wright
  3. “dead leaves and dead grass like a starry sky from inside out.” – Charles Wright

To build community and support, please take a picture of your drawing and share it in the Comment box below.

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