Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – Review

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Illustrations by John Tenniel

I grew up with Alice in Wonderland being first exposed to it as the Disney animation, and being in my year 6 play of Alice in Wonderland being the Mock Turtle, at it was around that time of the age of 11 I read the book for the first time and fell in love with it, even though I read children’s illustrated books as a child, I had always been a keen reader, so this was the first time a book challenged me but drew me in with illustrations and where I was first introduced to the idea of illustration.

I have a couple of editions now, but the one I am going to talk about today is the most modern, published by Penguin Random House in 2017 with the cover designed by Coralie Bickford Smith. Inside contains both Alice in Wonderland, and Through the looking glass, and what Alice found there.

The cover is a beautiful red faux leather embossed cover with blue foiled text and repeated pattern of flamingos. When I brought this copy, I already had several, but I was immediately drawn by the cover, the book felt special and not just something to read to be seen as art, of the designers, author, and illustrator. It was a copy I don’t necessarily read when I want to reread the book, but it holds the most symbolism to what the book means to me, sentimental and special.

Inside contains over 50 illustrations by John Tenniel. Originally looking at the work and thinking of the era I assumed they were etchings of some sort. However, I knew I was likely to be wrong, as even though I have been becoming more interested in print, I am not well versed enough to know the era that well. I discovered in researching that they were completed by taking the original drawing and transferring it onto wood to be engraved, this was completed by an outside contractor, and then were transferred on electrotype plates. This was not a printing method I had heard of before, however discovered it was commonly used with letterpress to create illustrated books. I tried to discover whether the first editions were printing using letterpress and couldn’t find any confirmation, however with finding out these plates were most commonly used with letterpress, and pictures of the original books and even the way the text is laid out to create images of its own, I imagine it was letter press.

However, because of the way of printing these illustrations they are all line drawings, and tone is built through hatching. Even though I know it is down to the era it was created it feels very juxtaposed to the text which is full of colour and imagination. I would be curious to see what John Tenniel working with Carroll would now create with today’s technology. However, they do work together for this reason, the words are complicated and bold and something simpler helps balance the whole book.

Tenniel’s illustrations often stray away from Proportion and I think the is purposeful because the world the characters situate is not proportional, it’s strange, unique, beautiful but scary, and I think this is his way of communicating this to the audience even when show showing a character. Also, I believe he is using it to also show the young age of Alice, as children and pre-teens are particularly hard to draw and get across. So the bigger head against the smaller body is more child like proportions and then even if characters are different sizes to what we aspect, for instance when she drinks the potion and become giant or tiny, or against the Jabberwocky, playing cards, animals which are now out of extinction we can still see her as a child because height is irrelevant in the story and the schemes of things. Also, in the writing of Alice and in the way, she acts she can seem a lot older than she seems, and I think the illustrations could be also there to remind us she is still and young child, but also to reinstate how she is such as unique and different character as one would expect of a child. She is a strong female character invented in a time where that didn’t truly exist, to have a clever, young, curious, dreamy and indomitable girl who isn’t afraid to talk back made readers rethink what they thought about children in particular girls.

It disappoints me that it seems the children of this generation have not read this book, and I was looking it and was wondering why, is it just getting too old? And unfortunately I do not believe it attracts the younger generation today as we have been exposed to so much technology and colour that the illustrations would underwhelm a younger audience today, children’s book are full of colour and wonderland, and even though Alice contains illustration the colour and wonder are in the words and the illustrations are just a supporting act and not many children would be attracted to that, maybe even intimidated. I even know my generation being at the age of 21, not many people I know have read it, and I remember getting my first computer and only got my first phone under a decade ago. I read it because I was an ambitious reader, I was reading adult novels at the age of 10, my parents couldn’t stop me reading, and even though I loved illustrations I read a book for the words. I grew up with Going on a bear hunt, and the hungry caterpillar as children’s book’s which even though have incredible illustrations, and good stories they don’t stand against some of the more artistic and creative children’s books you can get today.

Kids want the newest, colour and shiny object and unfortunately to them they don’t believe that is Alice.

Letterpress induction and using the workshop – Act 3

I didn’t know much about letterpress before the induction however to me that was a reason enough to do it, I am passionate about learning new techniques to use in my work and I have always been fascinated with words being a super keen reader.

Entering the workshop I didn’t know what to expect, I purposefully did not research on letterpress because I wanted to get a feel and learn there. Most of the induction was health and safety and explaining what you could achieve in the letterpress workshop and immediately I was filled with ideas, and how I could incorporate it into my work. We were shown the presses and we practiced on the galley press, I could the idea of using such a traditional technique in more of a contemporary setting, so I got home and started exploring ideas.

After receiving the briefing for Act 3 I started thinking of ways to incorporate new techniques and workshops into my final outcome as I felt that was the idea of this brief. To explore. So usually I would have stuck to my usual watercolour portraits, which I wanted to include but explore other ideas to. My extract was heavily linked to my 96 words from the automatic writing task. So I used the two combined to find 5 other quotes I could use as captions for each illustration. I then went to letterpress and sat with one of the technician, while we decided font, positioning, and scale. Once that was decided, I started using the type to get all my quotes set out, I found the process completely satisfying and relaxing and enjoyed the process completely even if it was time consuming.

I managed to get the six quotes set out in a couple of hours, but had to come back after the weekend to finish the process.

On the Monday afternoon I spent the same amount of time, just proofing making sure everything was perfect, then laying it out on the machine, making sure the maths was right so when I printed it would be on the correct place on the paper.

The next morning, I spent 2 hours where I made sure everything was in the correct place, making a couple of test prints before printing everyone out. Each time I was amazed with the result and every second I was there I came up with more ideas for the future.

CTS Session 8 – Storytelling and Narrative

I have never been someone who has enjoyed comics, my brother collected Beanos even though I like to look over his shoulder I didn’t have the desire to read or discover more. When I think about Storytelling and Narrative I think of it in a different way. I like to paint portraits which can be full of sub images which tell the story or the narrative of the person. Sometimes it is through colour, texture, expression or filling the image with other aspects. So this way of telling a story was completely different to me.

However it was very natural, it came very easily, it was like reading a book but being more visual and break the words, the story the language into a visual means.

Even though we were given names for the different transitions, I knew them anyway however just not under the names, the titles.

Moment to Moment Transition

Each panel describes what happens in one moment to the next. It also depends on the panels on each side, everything plays a part. It is about the situation of the panel in the story.

Repetition seems an important part and each some maybe one thing, could be more changes, we are used to moving image, and this helps. Like using a camera, film, zooming in.

This also helps with drama by using repetition.

Action to Action Transition

Action to Action is about it’s name, but is similar to moment to moment, however there is more action, more dynamism in between the frames. We could see the before and after and not the actual action. We connect the dots, in our minds we will tell the story. The gaps between the frames is called the gutter. We stitch together the details.

What is the difference between Moment to Moment and Action to Action? Is there. Can a moment be an action and vice versa and movement is important to Action to Action? Is the transition important?

Subject to Subject

Is again what the name says, changing the subject, maybe changing the viewpoint.It can make the story more dramatic.Dialogue can string the story. Style and consistency strings it together. The content inside the images tell the story. Linking the two frames together, the have a connecting factor. Maybe because things are linked in our heads but of our cultural knowledge.

Scene to Scene

It’s where you change the scene, maybe the time or just the place. Ques, Text, Captions are important, they work together giving information about the change. Stereotypes can also play a part. Dialogue. You can gather a lot of information from a small sequence of images.

Non – Sequitur Transition

No logical link between the panels, random. Surreal, weird.

We did two exercises. The first where we each drew an image to start then continue the story, we then studied the transitions we subconsciously knew, and it was interesting when I seemed to find a lot of the images turned dark and violent. Sometimes I felt people before me were unsuccessful and sometimes there seemed no link, however then if we had more time someone could have gone back and changed the environment to change and image which didn’t seem to fit.

Then we went into our separate groups, and we were given 20 minutes to plan and create a story line in groups of 5, each creating an image, but working in a group together to decided on the story, and the transitions between the images. I think our simple idea was effective because we had a short amount of time and it made everything sympathise and empathise with the main character because we have all been in that situation. The hectic layout which was a happy accident led to the feeling the character was in, and it gave the story atmosphere.


Act One – Setting the Scene – Final outcome

This was a couple of tough weeks for me as I was hugely busy with work and the stress of a short deadline with a full time work schedule plus family commitments became quite overwhelming, however I pushed through and had to make some compromises to make sure I remained my mental health.

My container for the final show was my Viola case, I am most proud and happy with this decision as it showed my work off in an new and interesting way and way unique to me, and it represented me well as it was a personal object. I play my viola when I am stressing or am down and music always lifts my spirits.

I decided to keep the illustrations simple mainly due to time constraints and knowing my usual watercolour portraits take a long time, but also this task was about changing the way we create. I tried to use less reference, create graphic images, change the paper, especially in colour and used graphic markers. In my side Hustle I have made these prints and I used some of them to draw on top of.

I still had some watercolour in there but tried to use it in unique ways, I painted washes then used a scalpel to make the marks to distinguish the item of figure.

It was really exciting to see other people’s results and outcomes. I really enjoyed sorting through the containers and seeing the containers they had picked.

Act One – Visit to the V&A

I started by wandering round the V&A taking photos and really exploring and finding a quiet spot to sketch, I saw the Spirit of Gaiety at the back at the step in the painting exhibition, it was a really peaceful place to sketch, I knew I had to sketch it.

I decided to use the word wish to name this piece because after researching the meaning behind the word gaiety, which means been light hearted and cheery. But within the sculpture there seems to have a sadness with a glint of hopefulness. Which is a feeling I know through my own experience, I’ve wished for the weight to be off my shoulders and to be light hearted and cheery.

I had a photo of a sculpture and I was enjoying sitting in that space so much I decided to sketch from the photo.

I found it interesting that in the description it was just about it was the wife of a rich man, but the sculpture seemed to have this sadness I couldn’t explain so I renamed it “Broken”

I next wandered into the computer generated art exhibition which I found completed fascinating and the images really called to me but one in particular did. It was called Cellular growth and the artist had designed a program which stimulated plant growth around a ball and the result was beautiful, incredible and fascinating. My one line sketch of the piece doesn’t give the piece justice but I renamed the piece “Life”

The next sketches I did I really struggled with, I found this beautiful sculpture of a woman in terracotta. I couldn’t get the face right. However when I went home I spent some more time sketching digitally and I am more happy with the result. I called this “Hide” and the sketches I originally did made it look like the woman was wearing an old fashioned theatre mask.

I found myself in the theatre and stage exhibition space and saw this giant rhino which was used as a simple of fascism in a play, and I was intrigued. It’s not my best sketch, I tried drawing in a brush pen which is unusual for me, however I tried to used the theme and idea of the brief of being experimental and use new ideas and stretch myself. I called this piece “Balagan” it’s a Hebrew work which means mess, I called it this because of the link to fascism and the mess that can create.

Experimental Mark-Making Workshop

Considering the experimental mark making I have been doing in my independent study time for my side Hustle project this was a further extension of that. I decided I wanted to mainly use black and grey because it made me focus on the marks and texture rather than colour which is something I think I excel in. I’m confident in my use of colour but I think I struggle with texture.

I brought a bottle of ink and natural sponges, old brushes and many Thanks I could use to create interesting marks.

However when we moved onto other people’s areas I felt that people were using too much thick acrylic paint and everything was getting muddled. And the interesting marks were lost. So I used Sgraffito to make marks into the paint, And then I had the idea of laying down a piece of paper on top to print it, and to me these were the most interesting marks I saw during the workshop.

Continue reading “Experimental Mark-Making Workshop”

Act One – Automatic writing task

This was an interesting experience for me. Words heavily influence my work, however through the automatic writing task, it showed me the thoughts which were truly in my mind, there was a lot of emotions and thoughts I was feel which I always try to cover. There were random objects which I then could relate meaning to, it was an interesting task because it gave me 96 words which explain my subconscious and J could use as inspiration for my work. Which helped with the project and for future work.

Side Hustle – Primary Research – Experimenting with prints

After talking to someone who choose the topic sequence and rhythm, I had the idea to create a repeating pattern using Lino prints and try and make them chaotic. At this point I didn’t know whether or not I would repeat them in rows or make it more random and messy.

I first started on making three small linocut stamps. Each one try to create interesting marks and textures and making each one unique and different but are cohesive. I then starting thinking about colour, I decided to keep it black and white and this would offer more opportunity to mix the prints easily later and would keep the contrast in the texture.

I then printed them onto paper, only using one per piece of A3 paper. I repeated the stamp randomly sometimes not reining the stamp to create different tones. I wanted it to be quite messy.

I then used different methods to get the ink on the paper to create chaotic mark making but also just interesting prints. So I used a brush, a natural sponge, used my hand and even though I do not like them as much as my Lino prints, I am happy I did them to experiment. I still can use them and they made me realise the path of these patterns I wanted to go down. However these is things I can take from them, I like the negative space in the hand prints and it isn’t as busy as the others, and I really like the fine lines in the wrinkles of my hands. In the piece I used brushes and sponges I like the translucent affect I achieved by watering down the ink, however even though the piece is busy it doesn’t seem chaotic.

Finally for my last image, I decided to cut up newspaper, find headlines, pieces of text with interesting ideas and words, and stick all of these down together. I really like the affect I got especially after I made it grayscale.

After I had made all of these prints, textures and images, I wanted to then find a way of piecing them together. So after our reconstruction workshop where I really I enjoyed the process of photocopying and cutting up and reconstructing the image I decided to use this technique again. I used the photocopying to my advantage, by changing the scale where I wanted changing the brightness/darkness creating different pieces in tone. I then cut strips out of my pieces to then weave into a new one.

I absolutely love the affect and result it has given however it doesn’t feel chaotic because it has a lot of order, however that could be an interesting topic to explore, the order in chaos. At the moment I don’t know if I will use the piece further down the line however I enjoyed creating it and it made me understand what is chaos more.

I then decided after finishing this piece to attempt a more chaotic approach. By ripping up my photocopies and then using paint and ink and more printing over the top to create a more chaotic print and texture.

I preferred this result just because it fit the brief more, however I then had the task of thinking how these will integrate into my work and ideas.

Chance & Control – Exhibition Review

Chance & Control

Art in the Age of Computers

Victoria and Albert Museum

The exhibition saw a variety of artists use computers to create art work, some of these decided to distance themselves from the process to gain more a random result where as others worked more directly to gain a more systematic and purposeful one.

There was a large variety of worked achieved in different ways, some used programming others used old machines to systematically apply the medium to the paper. My favourite piece was called Cellular form. The artist Andy Lomas made a program which represents and stimulates the same as growth in plants. Each piece started as a small ball and according to all the set rules he set out different organic structures appear. The art them reminds and reminisces of nature, including plants, corals and other organic structures. The reason why I loved this piece so much even though it was computer generated and set out by a program it was very fluid and natural and didn’t feel stiff. Plus it reminded me of fractals, which was a subject which I was fascinated in when I studied maths. Fractals are where a set of rules is set in place mean similar patterns recur getting progressively smaller. They are seen frequently in nature and naturally, such as Crystal growth, cauliflowers, and galaxy formation.

Each artwork had a description explaining how it was made which is important because it allowed the viewer to understand the process because that is part of The magnificent of these pieces but also as they are not created in a traditional way the description is important because it explains the story and as I they are not conventual, where as in a painting a description of the type of paint can be enough, these descriptions allow you to see the type of “paint” they are using.

The exhibition was spread across two small rooms in the 1st floor of the V&A just off the side from the painting exhibitions. As you walked through it was like being pulled into a different world because these artworks seemed futuristic and new unlike the painting from artist like Turner I had just seen seconds before, this gave some wonder to these pieces.

Computers have only been around for less than half a century and haven’t been readily available until the last couple of decades, this is a new genre and medium for art. They had what is to be thought as one of the first computer made artworks. Derivatives of an Image: Zero-Degree Transformation By Waldemar Cordeiro and Giorgio Moscati. It was made in 1969 and printed in 1971.

This to me is intriguing as it states it was made on an IBM computer which was available to the public until 1981. And the prototype was announced in 1973, however I can’t find any information to discover how they design led and made the image with an IBM.

Computer generated art started after the war in the 1950s, a real breakthrough of computers was made by Alan Turing during the war by completing the Enigma machine. Even though the public didn’t know of his magnificence the industry could finally start building the machine, the computer they dreamed of. In the 1950s there is is earliest accounts of computer generated art. Oscillion 40 by Ben Laposky was created in 1952 where he used long exposure photography to capture him using an oscilloscope to manipulate electronic waves which appeared on a fluorescent screen.

In the 1960s computers were still in their early days, the machines were big and heavy and extremely expensive that no ordinary person could afford or own one. The main way art through computers at the time was created was using a plotter where a pen or brush was connect3 to a machine and the computer where guide it, with its program.

As the computer developed the options given to artists increased and more experimental, new and different art was created, and it was a while even before a computer could print anything.

It would have been interesting if in the exhibition is was curated by time, showing the journey of computers, from the start to finish, instead of the art being showed as one of pieces disconnected from the interested and wonderful history. It also would have been intriguing to see several pieces of work made by the same artist using the same program to see the organic and unpredictable results as some of these programs and processes can create.

I found most of my history from going on the V&A website and looking at the exhibition page however this information would have been useful at the exhibition to give me a greater knowledge and appreciation of the pieces.

However I overall loved the exhibition, it had been curated with grew at care to show a great deal of diversity I. Different techniques and processes and each piece pulled me into the history behind it making me question how it was created and what is art. I think it was very clever to place this exhibition next the the more traditional paintings and it gave more of an impact walking into the room, like a shock to the system and gave more appreciation to the pieces.

It gave me so much information and made me wanted to experiment and learn with these techniques myself and see what I can create and how it can influence my art and practise. It was the most inspiring exhibition I have ever been to, not in the way it gave me loads of ideas for my art, but made me want to experiment push further, create new ideas, and explore the medium of computer generated art.