Where on Earth do I Put the Text? : The Movement of the Eye in Haiga.

One of the single most important decisions you can make in constructing a haiga is choosing the location of the text. Poor text placement will come across to the viewers as awkward no matter how carefully you have created the image and the haiku. Even Basho’s frog pond poem will appear amateurish if put in the wrong spot. It’s all about reading how the eye moves around an image.  I have made up a dodgy surrealist haiku to stand in as our “victim”. Check out the following:


The Recitation, Thomas Wilmer Dewing – 1891

The first place your eye rests is the woman on the right’s face and then it moves in the direction of the arrow. The triangle is a strong shape so you might want to place your text here:


This positioning changes the point at which the eye enters the painting, at the text now, then it moves on to the girl’s face.  The position effectively introduces the poem first and allows the reader to contemplate it in the context of the image. This is generally the best strategy with haiga but certainly not the only one that works.


Dolce Far Niente (Doing Sweet Nothing) by John William Godward, 1904

This one is a tricky one. See how the eye moves from the girl’s legs to her face, then to the bird? This combined with the busy background closes off this image; you will have to break in with this one:


See how I have adapted the line position of poem, whilst not changing its essential nature, in order to suit the image? Sometimes, for best effect, this must happen. Remember this is different to haiku presented on its own; the text and image must work together. If the image cannot change, the text must, at least a bit.

Sometimes the position looks so obvious and is so wrong. Check out this image. That sky is just begging for a text but look what happens:


Thomas Edwin Mostyn – View of Venice

It looks right but the haiku takes over the image, disrupts the natural flow and definitely looks like an add-on, not part of the original composition. The movement in this picture goes from the patch of light on the right, to the woman and then to the hazily drawn city in the distance:


See how placing the text within the highlight (slightly expanded in this case with cloning, albeit quick and dirty cloning) looks more like it belongs? For this particular version to work, the image probably would need to be made larger so the text will be clearer for display but you get the idea.

Sometimes, the image is simply a monster. It works perfectly with your poem but there is no obvious spot for the haiku. This is an example of one of these closed off images:Image

Isabella and the Pot of Basil – George Henry Grenville Manton

Now remember this is about making the image and words work together so it requires you to look at the image in the light of this.


I curved the text around her body (this would be better achieved with Photoshop but I only have Corel) and cropped to get the text onto a third point which balances the composition.


Placing elements on third positions can help enliven images that are just not work. Well hopefully you followed my explanations. Next we will be dealing with how to create photo haiga. Cheers til next time.

Belle Époque Europe viewed March 7 2013 at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Belle-%C3%89poque-Europe/124762957488?ref=ts&fref=ts


3 thoughts on “Where on Earth do I Put the Text? : The Movement of the Eye in Haiga.

  1. Violette Rose, I love these haiga, thank you for explaining how you did it. Love them Maire 🙂 I am new to blogging but am beginning to populate my blog, taking time but getting there!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s