a Tanka illustrated: #5 So high…

I’m still working on my series of illustrated Tanka. I searched for a way to combine writing poetry with my art work for years and now it feels like I’ve found it. The more I write, the more ideas are growing, the harder my fingers are itching. I made some time this week to do practise my collage skills (see my Facebook and Instagram accounts), but I still kept up the Tanka.

English translation of the Tanka:

heaven is so high
that it seems impossible
to collect its stars
and yet I do, one by one
I take them into my dreams

LIVE cursus Tanka Schrijven en Illustreren

Lijkt het jou ook leuk om Tanka te schrijven en te illustreren? Dat kan!

Op 9 december aanstaande vindt de ééndaagse workshop Tanka Schrijven en Illustreren plaats op een rustieke locatie in Zeeland. Op deze pagina leest u meer.

Storytelling with Tanka + Illustrated Tanka#4

English translation of the Tanka:

four paws are walking
to the horizon with me
I never get there
no matter how much concrete
slides past under my two feet

Storytelling is majorly important in art

Without a story, art is basically just a pretty (hopefully!) picture or a display of skills. Nothing wrong with pretty pictures, but personally I want more. And I know I’m not the only one. It is in the stories we share that people read or see a reflection of their own. It is through stories that we connect. Most artists strive for meaningful art. If we really want to connect with our audience, storytelling is the key element in our work.

Short poetry as a great tool for storytelling

Most times in art the story isn’t portrayed or told literally. It often appears as a metaphor. But when told with style and cut down to the bare essentials, story can be integrated into a piece of art. For any kind of art, and especially in a visual journal, or art journaling, upgrading our skills in a very concise form of using language can be a major asset. Micro storytelling does not only prevent us from losing the essence in a tsunami of words, but also, it helps boil down our minds to the essentials, making our art more focused and condensed and therefore stronger.


Simply put, Tanka are a spin-off from Haiku. It is probably put a bit bluntly, but let’s not make this too complicated for now. Haiku are short poems that consist of 3 phrases having 5 -7 – 5 syllables. Tanka have two added phrases of 7 syllables each which give them just that little bit more space to really tell a story. There are no strict rules as to rhyme, style or content. Writing Tanka is about rhythm, form, feelings and thoughts. They are often a fragment from life…a tiny captured moment. It doesn’t have to be complicated academic “literarararity”. Writing Tanka is a matter of learning to feel the rhythm of your words. Once you get the hang of it, writing Tanka becomes addictive.

Freedom within limitation

I’m so glad that every now and then I jot down quotes that mean something to me. I’d never heard of Tawara Machi, but one day I read an interview in which she said about writing Tanka:

“Freedom lies in the limitation of the form.”

I couldn’t find the interview on the internet anymore, but the words remain true nonetheless.

In the past I’ve experienced that it pays to do away with excess art supplies. It relieved me from a burden I hardly realized I was carrying and made room for a huge flow of inspiration. It goes completely against our modern consumerist minds, but working with WHAT WE HAVE is endlessly more inspiring than possessing or allowing ourselves EVERYTHING. It simply leaves more room to BE. Working within limitations sets the brain into action. You see, our grey matter absolutely loves solving problems. So when we decide to use Tanka to write our story, our brains are immediately activated. I imagine it must be something like this:

  “My story in Tanka? Hell no! Too few words! How am I going to fit ALL of my story into THAT few words? Can’t be done! But must! Think! Let me think! How can I do this? Hmmm…I’ll need to boil this down to the very essential….”


The very essential! That is what Tanka – and any other limited form of writing or art making – help us find. And whatever text it is we’re writing or whatever art it is we’re making, if we manage to capture the essence of what we want to express, the world will be waiting to see, read or hear it.

Tanka and Illustration are a match made in heaven

Because Tanka don’t allow us to say EVERYTHING we want, it leaves room to expand on our story in the visual. Or to give it a complete twist. And the other way around, if we make a drawing or a painting, we sometimes want to add just those few words to it, to make the story whole or bend it over backwards. Tanka are an amazing and satisfying tool for that.

LIVE Tanka Workshop upcoming

On the coming 9 December there will be an in-the-flesh workshop Writing and Illustrating Tanka in Dutch in the Netherlands. (more information if you click on image below)

a Tanka illustrated: #3 Some days… + Weekend Inspiration

Before you know it, it’s already weekend again. So on this fabulous Friday I wanted to share some of the things that have inspired me in my work lately or that I feel can be inspiring for a great weekend.

But, before I do that, I want to share with you Illustrated Tanka #3. It’s called “Some Days” and it’s really an art journal page. It was one of those days where I felt completely obstinate for no reason. One of those days…I bet you know the feeling.

English translation of this Tanka:

Some Days

I have a problem
with my own authority
even. I don’t like
having anyone tell me
what to do. Not even me.

Tanka #3 was a reversed Tanka. First I drew the illustration and then I noticed how the lines were revealing my foul mood, making a wonderful theme for a Tanka. It’s miraculous how we give away so much of ourselves in a few simple and abstract lines. Adding the words made my story of that day feel so complete. It is this golden combination of text and image that I love so much and feels incredibly rewarding.

Weekend Inspiration

I thought it would be nice to share some of the things with you that inspire me or that I see passing by on facebook that I’d like to share. To spend a lost moment in the weekend, perhaps?

“Song of Solomon” by Kate Bush from the album The Red Shoes. In this song she sings:

“Write me your poetry in motion,
write it just for me
and sign it with a kiss”

I know in the song it means something else, but illustrating poetry to me is exactly THAT…poetry in motion…capturing the mood of the poem by the movement of my fingers, hand, wrist and arm. So often when I set out to make an illustrated Tanka these words sing through my mind…

Some lovely illustrated poems by Joanna Tilsley.

Stop Motion version of That Time of Year by William Shakespeare.

The children’s poem story The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt and Tony DiTerlizzi (not very good quality, but amusing nonetheless).

A little peek into the illustrated version of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself by Allen Crawford.

A really nice series of illustrated poetry by Venkatagiri Rao.

Have a nice weekend!

a Tanka illustrated: #2 For those willing to see…

I’m still writing and illustrating Tanka’s. Partly in preparation of my LIVE workshop on 9 December – for which there are still a few seats available, see the link below – and partly because I’m working on a series. One of my latest Tankas is this one.

English translation of the Tanka:

For those willing to
see, the earth is scattered with
treasures. These jewels
will only reveal themselves
to those who’re willing to stoop.

LIVE cursus Tanka Schrijven en Illustreren

Lijkt het jou ook leuk om Tanka te schrijven en te illustreren? Dat kan!

Op 9 december aanstaande vindt de ééndaagse workshop Tanka Schrijven en Illustreren plaats op een rustieke locatie in Zeeland. Op deze pagina leest u meer.

Transforming a Filofax into a Traveler’s journal

Do you know the quest for the PERFECT journal/planner? If you’re as nuts about notebooks and planners like me and if you have a butterfly mind like me, you probably do and have probably been caught in the planner mania of the moment like me. In this post I share with you what I think is pretty much the grand final of my quest…I think I just may have found MY perfect journal/planner and who knows, it might be yours as well…

If you’re like my husband and many men I know, you might have NO clue why people would spend so much time in finding and even drawing the perfect planner. Then watch the first video in which I share my thoughts on why planners are da bomb these days and how I created my own perfect one…

My quest for the PERFECT planner

I started out with regular shop-bought diaries. Every now and then I’d sidestep to a French diary/planner because their layout was just that bit different. And I was keen on one-day-a-page diaries by Ryan for a while. But I always kept so many notebooks and single memo scraps on the side that my planning was always a little messy. I moved on to digital planning when I got my smart phone, but found that working on paper was really important to me, so I let that go. All I kept, was my online calendar so that I always had it at hand on any of my mobile devices and computer. For my appointments I still use that.

But…a good diary/planner/journal needs more than just  a space for appointments. For me, it needs to help my butterfly mind stay on track.

Tadaaah….da bullet journal!

And then suddenly there was the bullet journal! I discovered it quite early on and seeing it was a huge aha-erlebnis. Only, why hadn’t I thought of it myself? In my own messy way, the combination of diary and memo scraps was already sort of a bullet journal, in essence. But I didn’t think of putting it all on one book and giving it a gripping name…alas. I could benefit from it, though, and so I did. Within minutes I had converted a notebook to bullet journal. I had a super lovely Cangini Filippi Paros notebook, that I really want to put the spotlights on for a minute since if a hard cover notebook is your thing, the Cangini Filippi really is worth checking out because it’s more than lovely! I like it way more than moleskine because it has better paper. And it’s just a bit bigger than the Leuchtturm bullet journal. However great that notebook was, it wasn’t perfect. In the video below, I’ll shed some light on the why of it and about why I think journals and planners are the hype of the moment…and that for most of us it’s not because we’ve too much time on our hands (as I’ve heard some men say).

Migrating to a traveler’s journal

Last week I saw a video by Bohoberry on her new traveler’s journal that contained her bullet journal and her notebooks and planners and I felt this acute sense of needing a traveler’s journal. I literally set out to get myself one immediately…or no, to MAKE myself one!

Why the hassle? 5 Advantages of a traveler’s journal with elastic bands over a ring binder:

  1. Ring binders are incredibly annoying when you want to write on both sides of you paper. They’re always in the way.
  2. Ring binders offer a very limited amount of space because they always need free space to let the paper be turned.
  3. 6-hole punched paper is expensive, or you need a special hole punch for it. The traveler’s system allows you to work with ANY kind of paper. Cut it (if necessary), fold it, sew it (pamphlet stitch, see link below) and you’re good to go. So, this system allows you to even include art paper, should you like that.
  4. Taking out single pages from a ring binder can get annoying if you need to do so to write on a flat surface, rather than acrobatically folding your hand around the ring binder. From a traveler’s journal, you can simply slide out a single notebook and you’re done.
  5. You can use ANY A5 notebook in your traveler’s journal, even a hardcover Leuchtturm, should you like that.


If you’re inspired to turn your own filofax into a traveler’s journal, you can see in the next video how I did it. Be sure to read the 8 how-to steps below and the additional information, especially about the drilling. You will also find some useful links for your journal at the bottom of this article.

How to turn your Filofax into a traveler’s journal in 8 easy steps:

  1. Remove the ring binder. Be careful if you drill, because the metal gets really sharp and hot.
  2. Remove the rivets from the Filofax back and clean your journal cover.
  3. Insert eyelets in the two rivet holes in the back of your Filofax journal cover and hammer them down flat. Use metal disks to hide an ugly hole if you must.
  4. Decide on how many elastic bands you want in your journal. You need 3 holes for 4 bands, 6 holes for 8 bands. Take into account the thickness of your Filofax journal cover to see if it can hold 6 holes. Measure them and draw them in carefully and make sure there’s room left in the back to open and close the cover well.
  5. Punch small holes with a hole punch on the given measure marks.
  6. Finish the holes with eyelets to prevent wear and tear on the new made holes.
  7. Measure some elastic band. I used the length of the spine of the journal times the number of strings I would have plus 2. So in my case I had 8 elastic bands and I cut off 10 to make sure there was room for the stitches at the back and for tying them together.
  8. String the elastic band. Don’t keep it loose, but don’t pull it tight either, because that will wear out the elastic really soon. Tie it together, shove in your self-made and bought notebooks and there you have your own Filofax Traveler’s journal!

A note on removing the Filofax Ring Binder

Below you find two YouTube videos on how to remove a Filofax ring binder. In case you can see the rivets/eyelets on the binder on the inside of your Filofax, you can only remove it permanently, with a drill. If the binder is flat on the inside, you can use the second video.

  1. Permanently remove the Filofax ring binder with a drill (Be ware…CANNOT be undone, so do this at your own risk!)
  2. Change or remove the Filofax ring binder with a screwdriver

Print your own dotted paper

I was so happy to find dotted paper online that I could print. There’s lots of them online, but most have a text or a URL on them. At Incompetech I found a tool to compose your own dotted paper after your own wishes, so you can even choose colored dots. Isn’t that fun? You can print some sheets double sided, fold them in half, make a nice cover, bind them and you have an insert!

Bind your own traveler’s journal inserts

With the 3-hole pamphlet stitch you can easily bind ANY kind of paper to inserts for your traveler’s journal. Here is a good site about the pamphlet stitch. And here you will find a pretty video to demonstrate it all in motion.

The Tanka Workshop I speak about in the video?

On December 9 I’m doing a LIVE “Writing and Illustrating Tanka” Workshop in Dutch here in the Netherlands. It will be a whole day, and if it’s dry, in the evening we’ll end the day with a lovely fire under the stars… If you’re interested, there are some spots left. You can find more information here.

I hope this blog post has been of help and inspiration to you. And if there are any questions, feel free to ask. Should you give your filofax a travelers metamorphosis, will you share with us in a comment below? I’m very curious what solutions you come up with for the minor challenges you run into and of course I’m looking forward to seeing some lovely transformation…

Oh, and before I forget…these are my studio chatterboxes Winsor & Newton…♥

LIVE Workshop Writing and Illustrating Tankas

Why Tankas?

My first love was words. I filled tons of diaries with words. And when plain words weren’t enough anymore, I began writing poetry. I think I was 11 years old when I started. I poured everything that happened in life into poetry. In poetry and dancing. Unfortunately, one day I stopped dancing. But I never stopped writing poetry. Often on its own as recordings of my days or impressions I collected or thoughts that need to fly. But just as often I combine poems with a drawing or painting to complete a story.

I love Tankas because of their simplicity. They are short, but just long enough to really say something. Tankas don’t ask for much. All they want, is a little rhythm. Sometimes when I’m in bed at night there are a few words that still want to be said and they dance their way out of me into my notebook in the shape of Tankas. And often, the next day, a drawing or painting grows out of them to complete the story.

So I figured, since I love writing and illustrating poetry so much, why not make a workshop of it?

Workshop Writing and Illustrating Tankas

Besides, it’s high time for a LIVE event!!! In the flesh…close to home, with a small group of students.

I simply long to work with people again. I love teaching online courses, but I really missed LIVE interaction with people. So…I found a really rustic location and on 9 December I’m doing a full-day workshop on writing Tanka – which is a simple form of poetry – and on illustrating them in two different ways. The technique we’ll be using in the illustrations is watercolor and ink. And with a little luck, we are going to conclude the day outside with a lovely fire in the garden with blankets under the stars.

The workshop will be for a small group of no more than 12 people and will be in Dutch. But for all those who do not speak Dutch, no worries…something’s coming up in English too ♥

If you’re interested in the LIVE workshop, you can read more on this page.

Hi and Welcome! I’m Mandy.

I’m a Dutch artist, art journaler and teacher and I am a passionate visual storyteller. It is in the stories we share that other people read or see a reflection of their own. It is through stories that we connect. That’s why I make art.

I help people use art and language to tell their stories and show them it is the stories we carry that make us unique. They determine how much we allow ourselves to heal. By looking at all of them, those in the light of our lives and those tucked away in the shadows, we can find strength, healing, joy, relief and confidence.

People talk a lot, but opening up to the essentials is something altogether different. In our own unique visual language we can do so safely. And I go to any length to help people do so, because…“What’s wrong with being personal anyway? Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.”
– Meg Ryan in “You’ve got Mail”

Read more about Storytelling in Art and about my story


Online Workshops:

I’m a guest teacher at:

mandy van goeije is a guest teacher at life book 2017
mandy van goeije is a guest teacher at art journal summer school 2016