Book of Portraits Part 9: OTMA

As there are the basis for my vision of Alice, I thought I would upload some quick sketches of the four Romanov Grand Duchesses. The sisters would often refer to themselves as OTMA, an acronym of their names, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. I didn’t want to spend too long on these images and did them fairly quickly, starting off with blue pencil sketches before completing some ink paintings as well. I made the same images twice as I really liked the original photographs and wanted to see what they would look like in both sketch and ink form and I think I prefer most of the pencil sketches, however I do like how the ink has bleed in the other images. For some reason I really struggled with drawing Maria in all of these images more than the other sisters, and I don’t think the images of her are as strong as the others but she is posed in quite a difficult angle to draw and this just shows that I need more practice drawing portraits from different angles.

Alice: Screen Printing and Drawing

Recently I have been experimenting with screen printing and drawing as a way of applying colour to my work and I am very pleased with the outcome. My tutor recommended trying printing with my work in order to get a flat bold colour that would evoke the propaganda images from the Russian Revolution. I used a blood red colour for the printing process in order to symbolise a number of things, the communist propaganda of the revolution, the death toll from the war, the death of the Romanov family, the Queen of Hearts and her bloodthirsty tendencies and finally Alice’s maturity.

After printing the images, I then drew back into them with a black pencil which created a very nice contrast and emphasised the red even more. I originally wanted to apply more colour to the images possibly using ink an d watercolour but was so pleased with how they turned out that I decided not too and think I made the right decision as applying more colour may have ruined them. Despite this, I could always copy them onto nice paper and then work back into them so I will still at least have the original illustrations.

Within these images, I also wanted to included a lot of the symbolism and allegory I have discussed previously and managed to do some of that. For example, in the mad tea party I wanted the Hatter to become a representation of Rasputin, who had a lot of influence on the imperial family, while the March Hare is a representation of the nobility at the time who greatly disapproved of Rasputin. The Romanov family is then personified within the confused Alice and the dormouse, the latter is wearing the imperial crown and both the Hatter and the Hare are trying to keep him to themselves.

As for the image of Alice with the roses, the symbolism there involves Alice entering adulthood and sexual maturity; a theme which had a appeared during my research into Snow White for my dissertation, particularly with the idea of red, white and black being symbols of blood, innocence, purity and death. As well as this, the roses are meant to represent the façade of the enchanted garden Alice spends the novel trying to reach, as ultimately it is not what she expected and the beauty of it is false; the roses for example aren’t really red but have just been painted that way. They also symbolise the death involved in the revolution and the falseness of the Queen’s beheading threats as it seems no one is ever actually beheaded.

The image of Alice in the house is taken directly from a drawing I had done during my development work which I photocopied onto cartridge paper in black and white before screen printing on the top of it and then drawing back into it. The house is stylised after the Ipatiev house where the Romanov family was murder and so the image itself becomes an allegory for the imprisonment of the family, just as Alice becomes a prisoner of sorts due to her growing, and the redness of the house a representation of the death that took place there.

One of the initial difficulties of this project was not knowing how dark to make it and how much of the terrible history to include within it. However as I have continued to work on the project, I have begun to move away from the Alice text and focus more upon the symbolism and meaning behind it rather than illustrating it literally. I really like working in this way for the project and will continue to do so, and my fears of the project possibly being to dark, as it did originally start out as a brief for a children’s book, are now pretty non existent. I think that the symbolism involved within these images aren’t overly obvious at the moment and so the dark nature may not be obvious to everyone, something which is common in children’s stories, particularly fairy tales as I have learned from my dissertation.


Alice Development Work Part 2

After working on some development work and composition ideas for my Alice project, I continued working on illustrating scenes from the book and connecting them with the history of the Romanov family and the Russian Revolution. I decided to work with different shades of brown and sienna coloured pencils in order to see how my drawings would look in different colours which emulate vintage, old photographs, something which I have seen a lot of during my research into the Romanov family. I like the look of these drawings in the different sepia and brown shades and think that they bring something new to my work, however they are still in the early stages and require a lot more development and working into.

For this part of my project, I decided to focus on the scene where Alice grows inside the White Rabbit’s house and becomes trapped within it. As Alice becomes sort of ‘imprisoned’ within the house, I therefore thought that this could become a representation of the Romanov family during their house arrest before their deaths. I stylised the Rabbit’s house after the Ipatiev House where the family where eventually confined and murdered and as Alice becoming trapped within the house can been seen as a representation of the awkwardness of puberty and the outgrowing of her childhood home, I believe it could also illustrate the four young Romanov sisters who were either just leaving or experiencing puberty during their captivity in the Ipatiev house. These four young women were experiencing the trials of puberty and adulthood while being imprisoned within this house, just as Alice does when she outgrows the Rabbit’s house.

As well as the image above, I drew up some quick ideas for different positions Alice could be in within the house and also quickly illustrated the scene where Alice visits the Duchesses house and catches her screaming baby, who then turns into a pig. As mentioned earlier, these images are very early development ideas which I had worked on previously and have been continuing to progress my project. I like the composition most of all within this work, but I do want too continue working on these scenes as I want a more unusual composition, particular with Alice’s figure as she grows within the house so that the scene looks more distressing and confusing.

Alice Development Work Part 1

After my mock viva and receiving my feedback, I continued working on my Alice project while thinking about the feedback I had received and how to develop upon that. Above is a recreation of the caucus races illustration which I had used to much ink on; one image us a mixture of pencil and ink while the other features dip pen drawings with ink and watercolour. I didn’t finish these images as I wasn’t too happy with them I didn’t think the characters worked as well as they did in the original illustration, showing how hard it can be to re-draw an image again. Taking this into account, I think the next step for this particular scene will be to continue working on composition and process ideas in order to eventually come up with an image that I am completely satisfied with.

I’ve been working on developing composition ideas for the project. Some of the compositions are quick and rough sketches while others feature a but more detail and this is due to me trying to work more quicker, especially within my development work. I’ve also been trying to be more expressive within my work and mark making and this is something which definitely needs more improvement however I think that I am beginning to loosen up more when using a pencil and this will hopefully help me to develop. As for the compositions, I’m not too happy with most of them and I know that they definitely need more work and development however at this stage I was only playing around with concepts and ideas and some of these may or may not be developed further. Some ideas I was trying out were Alice possibly changing from a child to an adult whenever she shrinks or grows in Wonderland, emphasising the confusing time period of puberty, and inspired by my research into the Russian Revolution, I wanted the Hatter to become a representation of Rasputin and his influence over the imperial family who are represented within Alice and the dormouse.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Character Designs

Designing the characters of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been a rather tricky process. I wanted to create a fresh new approach to the characters while also keeping the spirt of the beloved characters we are fimiliar with. Alice herself is based on the appearance of the four Romanov sisters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, and as mentioned previously, I am thinking of her as an embodiment of these four young women in term of their innocence to the revolution, reflected within Alice’s questioning of Wonderland. I also thought that depicting Alice as a teenager was very suited to the story and its metaphors for puberty.

One thing I wanted to explore in my illustrations is the depiction of the animal characters as more human, as seen with the White Rabbit above. Inspired by Jonathan Miller’s film adaption of the story where the animals are all just adults in regular Victorian clothing acting foolishly, I wanted to think of the animals as humans masquerading as animals or them being a hybrid of sorts, reflecting their madness and strangeness. The Duchess was inspired by the many examples of nobility I had seen in my research dressed in traditional Russian court dress, while her Cook was inspired by the traditional look of female Russian peasants. The Caterpillar was rather difficult to design as I also wanted to keep him as human as possible. I was unsure of how to combine the human form with a caterpillar, simply by having him be a caterpillar from the waist down or one idea I had was to have him wear a very long patterned coat which resembled a caterpillar, giving him the illusion of being one but also leaving it for the viewer to decide.

The Mad Hatter and the March Hare I originally thought of as being disgraced nobles who have left the court, so I wanted them to have a dishevelled appearance and I used Rasputin as a basis for the Hatter and I depicted the Hare wearing military inspired clothing as a sign of the war and revolt. Other than the outward appearance, I have yet to make a more stronger connection between the two but may do as I continue to research. I also explored the combination of animals and people with the characters from the caucus race who I thought of as peasants that could immediately be contrasted with the members of the Queen’s court. The animals all take part in the race in order to keep dry and warm but this ultimately does not happen and I thought this could be a metaphor for the peasants who were starving and remind so. Mirroring this, the nobility of Wonderland lead a care free life and play croquet using animals as equipment and I thought this could be an interpretation of the parties and grand balls held by the nobles, oblivious to the underlining tension of the coming revolution. I am quite happy with most of these initial designs, however some will definitely be altered as I continue my work, especially when I begin my composition ideas.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Notes and Ideas

While re-reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and discussing it with my tutor, I made some notes highlighting some of the key themes and ideas which I could incorporate into my illustrations. We discussed how the story could be adapted differently by reflecting upon world history or current affairs and how characters could become representations of historical or political figures, before I decided upon the Russian Revolution as a starting point. We also discussed possibly subduing Wonderland so it’s not as fantastical as typically expected and is much more grounded in reality, something which I definitely want to explore.

As well as this, my tutor noted how the story can be interpreted differently if Alice is illustrated as a young woman or teenager rather than a child, and discussed the innocent, questioning nature of Alice herself. As a teenager, Alice and her story becomes a representation of entering adulthood and looking back upon childhood, questing the confusing world as she develops and grows, similar themes which I looked at in relation to the adaptation of the Snow White story in my dissertation. It is here I began making strong connections between Alice and the Romanov children, most notably the four sisters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. I thought it would be interesting for Alice to be a representation of these four young women who did not survive the revolution, and, their innocence and questioning of the situation they were in can be personified within Alice’s experiences in Wonderland.

I started to also make connections between Wonderland and my knowledge of the revolution as I was re-reading the book. I have read books on the Romanov family previously, such as Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K Massie and Ekaterinburg: The Last Days of the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport, and am currently reading Four Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses by Helen Rappaport, from which I will highlight more possibly connections between the history of the Romanovs, the revolution and Alice. Examples of some of the connections I have been making include, the animals of the Caucus race who race try and get warm and dry but do not succeed, being a representation of the starving peasants and rioters of the revolution. By contrast, the nobility would often hold parties and balls, oblivious to the rioting, something which I believe I could interpret into the ridiculousness of the Queen of Hearts holding croquet games and using animals as equipment. As well as this, I was thinking of using the mystical, mysterious and controversial Grigori Rasputin as a bases for the Mad Hatter, thinking of him as a possible noble that has been removed from the Queen’s court.

All of these ideas are still very much new but I hope to included a lot of them into the Alice project as I believe that I will hopefully create a new and interesting take on the story, something which I think is very hard to achieve with most stories. I have had a lot of doubts with this project and really want to get it right, however I am very excited about it and am also looking forward to the challenge.

Book of Portraits Part 7: Russian People

Here are some more drawings of Russian costume which I included in my on going book of portraits. I looked at Russian nobility and peasantry again in order to create a more diverse look to the characters and reflect upon, and emphasise the history of the Russian Revolution. Right now for example, I am thinking of having the court of the Queen of Hearts as a representation of the nobility at the time and the animals feature within the story, most notably in the caucus race, as a representation of the peasants of the time.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Russian Influence

After my initial research into the Victorian time period, I decided to connect Alice with the Russian Revolution and did a few sketches based upon my research into that. I looked at Russian nobility and peasantry leading up to and during the revolution in order to find some visual influence for the characters in the story, for example the images above of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Tsarina Alexandra I believe could be a great visual influence for the King and Queen of Hearts. While studying this aspect of history and reflecting upon it and connecting it with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, I think it’s important to stress that even though I may be using historical figures as a visual basis for the characters, the characters themselves may not be a reflection upon that figures personality.

I’m still making connections between the story and the history of the revolution and am currently reading Four Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses by Helen Rappaport in order to help find more possible connections. As well as this look into Russian costume, I’ve also briefly looked at Russian architecture so that I can include it in my work, most notably with the Queen’s castle. I did some very quick, rough sketches of some Russian architecture in order to get used to the unusual shapes present within the traditional architecture.


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Initial Sketches

Here are the initial sketches I did whilst researching my Alice project. I continued drawing Alice Liddell to serve as a possible influence for my illustration of Alice herself, and drew these four images. I originally wanted to paint them with ink after drawing them, but the paper in the sketchbook I was using wasn’t very suitable for water and ink as it just bleed through to the other side and pages underneath it.

Despite this, I still quite like the effect of the ink in the two top images and how the entire image hasn’t been covered with ink and instead features just a small amount dotted here and there. As well as these images, I drew some sketches of various Victorian girls I had seen whilst researching Victorian costume and thought I would draw them in order to get some kind of idea of what I wanted Alice to look like, before settling on my Russian and Romanov inspiration. I used a blue pencil again for these images and really like the look of them, particularly the shading as I think it looks particularly good in coloured pencil.

Book of Portraits Part 6: Victorian Portraits

Here is some more work from my book of portraits which I mainly focused on during the Christmas holidays while working on my dissertation. I decided this time to focus on Victorian portraits as an aspect of research for my Alice project before ultimately deciding on the Russian Revolution as a time period to focus on.

I wanted to experiment with using pencil and ink together and varying the amount of detail used within the image, so I decided to use detail only on the faces and hands and to keep the clothing as just a block of colour using different inks. I started with quink ink and sepia ink to create the vintage, old kind of look and colour often seen in Victorian photos and I really like the final outcome and think the watered down and line work well together.

After using quite dark simple colours, I decided to try using some more bright ink colours to contrast with the old, vintage look I was originally trying to achieve. I started with the portraits of Lillie Langtry above, again leaving the detail out of the clothing, I just painted it with water and colourful ink, letting the colour bleed differently around the area.

I tried this again with two male portraits, using green and brown this time, but I think I should have used a different colour to brown and keep the consistency with the bright colours. I think the bright colours work rather well as well as I think they are quite unexpected of the time period and therefore create an interesting contrast.

After experimenting with colour, I decided to try creating some portraits with using only black ink, and I also really like the outcome of these images, particularly because of the way the ink has dried and is darker and lighter in different areas. This process has been very enjoyable and hasn’t taken me too long and so I am thinking of exploring this way of working more within my Alice project, this time with full narrative illustrations rather than just portraits.