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.

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.


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.

CTS session 3 – Transnational histories

To me this was the most interesting CTS session so far, I’ve always been interested in history plus the psychology behind people’s actions.

In the lecture in small groups we made a list of what we thought to be the 10 most important artists of all time. For someone who hasn’t really studied art before it was hard for me to think of just the classic names most people know of, so I listened to people in my group. I knew what the result was going to be of this exercise from the beginning which was once we had correlated all of our results, we all gave expected names. Such as Picasso and Da Vinci. And talking about the reasons why I completely agreed. Nearly all the names were White Western Men, and I thought that was because that is the history we are taught in the UK plus I assume around the world. Because it is connected to our own personal national art History. Also the institutions and the galleries now and in the past seem to show the same artists over and over again.

Also we have been affect by colonialism including slavery because the western world had an image in their heads they were better and more important than everywhere else and wanted to show of their own “excellence” to show their own strength to the world. Then after colonialism I feel that we wouldn’t want to admit to our own mistakes by expressing interest in the art from the countries they invaded. I thought this would be such an interesting topic to explore and research more for my more extended essay.

When we split into our groups in the seminar, we were given an article, and my group was given an article on Picasso and how he was inspired by African art and does that mean he deserves the credit for creating Cubism.

In the Western world we seem to depict Picasso as the creator and inventor of Cubism when in fact he was heavily inspired by African art which had the same qualities however didn’t have the name Cubism. Picasso was actively inspired by this and made it influence his work. However by the institutions, galleries are the society this was actively ignored, and I think this is due to colonialism as this was still era when Europe seemed to be divided the world between them, even if it was towards the end. They didn’t want to draw light to the countries they stole. But also they had the thought that these countries were uncivilised and barbarian and wasn’t worth the publicity.

The author of the article seems very passive aggressive and instead of blaming society of the time he specifically targeted Picasso. Using derogatory and Patronising language. However I think this is because he is a black man who grow up in Alabama and I assume has a family history of slavery. He has sat point to prove, and he is attacking a well loved artist to gain publicity for his views.

CTS Session 2 – Image v Object

In our second lecture we discussed the importance of archiving and where LCCs archive is.

What I found the most interesting was talking about Palestine and Maus and how when they were published as graphic novels, and how that changed the overall experience. Especially with the covers of Palestine and how graphic and thought provoking they were, and when they were made into graphic novels they seemed dreary, and more like a historical documentary. Also I found interesting that the USA version of the graphic novel was very grey, and sad, and I think this may be for political reasons because America strongly support Israel instead of Palestine and they wouldn’t want to drag attention to the people living in the country they are try to destroy. I thought this would be an interested idea to explore further, how politics influence art and publication.

We then in the seminar discussed and sorted through a collection of comics books and trying the describe them as an entire collection and individual pieces. I am not a big fan of comic books however I was interested in how everything has changed in style and in the industry over the last century. It was really interesting to sort through them all and discover they were all British comics and magazine while we tried to discover the link through such an eclectic and diverse collection.

What is Illustration? CTS Session 1

In our first CTS session we discussed what it is Illustration and how it has changed over the years, and what it means to us, and what being a illustrator is.

The reason why I illustrate is that my head is so busy and being able to see it on paper to understand my thoughts.

During the session I found looking at the illustrations from over 100 years ago compared to the last century and today extremely interesting, and made me question the idea of style and is there a set style or idea of what Illustration is.