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 Project, Trials and Thoughts

I have been finding this project very difficult and challenging so I thought I would write a post about my trials and thoughts about the project as well as the feedback and advice I have received from various tutorials and crits; especially since I am now a lot more confident with my work and the development of the project. In terms of my work, I have been advised to focus upon narrative focal points and to draw out the meanings from the text that I have been reading and to use a more poetic approach rather than illustrating the text literally. As well as this, I need to be more strict and decisive with my decision making and work processes and this is something I completely agree with and am working on as I continue the project, especially after my mock viva which I don’t think I was as prepared for as I could have been. I have also been advised to become more expressive within my work and try more expressive mark making with using new dry materials as well as thinking about contrast, particularly with colour.

As well as these points, when making my work I need to start thinking about what I want my work to say, what I want it to tell and how it speaks and relates to people. I also need to become more confident with my work, something which I have always struggled with, and need to start taking risks with my work in order to help my work to become more expressive. These tutorials have been a great help and have given me a lot of things to consider and think about as I have been doubting myself with this project and have been finding it very difficult and tricky to approach it. Despite this, I have continued working on the project and continued reading and researching into the subject matter and have been coming up with ideas and resolutions to how I can tell these stories within the one project and feel as though I am coming very close to solving the problems I’ve faced.

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.

The Selfish Giant: Colour Development

For the colouring process of my Selfish Giant project, i tried out a few different things inspired by the research I had done. Firstly, I drew some images of medieval patterns, arches and pillars using a dip pen and sepia ink, a process which I used in my original Selfish Giant project. I did this in order to get any idea of what the work may possibly look like if it were outlined with sepia ink, something which I don’t think I would use for the entire illustration and may just use for the detailing of certain areas such as the faces and hands of the characters.

I then began working on possible colour ideas for the illustration, focusing mainly on the plants of the Giant’s garden as I believe they would have the most variety of colour. I looked at a number of different images in order to achieve a certain colour palette, including, the artwork of William Morris, Persian manuscripts I had seen at an exhibition in Oxford, European folk art and medieval art. I used the colours as well as the style of these different influences in order to achieve the desired look.

At this point, I had begun looking at the work of Fra Angelico and was very inspired by the way he had painted the scenery in many of his paintings and wanted to explore this way of working myself. I started with a dark blue, green colour for the background before painting on top of it with yellows, greens and oranges to create the look of grass, flowers and plants. I think this look is my favourite of all the colour experiments I had done, however I think in order for it to be more effective the base colour needs to very flat and not streaky like how some of them turned out. The very first image in this post I my favourite and is closest to the look I would like to achieve, however, I think I could also try combining some of the other ideas with this one in order to create a more luscious, enchanted garden for the Giant.

Alice: Initial Composition Ideas

Here are the initial images I came up with for my Alice project after finishing the look for the characters. There are certain motifs I wanted to express within these images that represented both the story of Alice and the research and reading I have done into the Romanov family, as well as themes that arose within my dissertation. Firstly with the image of Alice and the roses, I wanted the image of the painted roses to symbolise a number of things and emphasised this with the blood red paint dripping onto Alice’s hand. Firstly, I wanted the roses to symbolise the blood thirsty nature of the Queen of Hearts and her constant demand for beheading and the roses ultimately becoming a representation of the possible severed heads.
In relation to the Russian revolution, I thought that the roses could serve as a representation of the many lives that were lost during the civil war as well as WWI, and finally, connecting Alice back to my dissertation research, the white roses, painted blood red, could symbolises Alice entering maturity and the dripping of the paint representing menstruation as well as the blood shed of war. Finally, the roses also serve as a reminder of the fabrication of Wonderland as they are not really red, but have been painted that way and ultimately becoming a disappointment of sorts to Alice, who has wanted to find the enchanted looking garden for most of the story only to find that everything is not as she expected.

Above are two more scenes I quickly came up with which illustrate the caucus race and the Queen’s court. For these two scenes I really wanted to incorporate the Russian revolution and mirror the two scenes and found this easier to achieve in these images. For the caucus race scene, I imagined the animals as a representation of the peasants in Russia during the revolution, who were starving and dying with not much was being done about it. The animals in Alice on the other hand, attempt to dry themselves by telling dry stories to each other and taking part in a race, neither of which dries them. I thought that the nonsensical ways the animals try to dry themselves could become a representation of the repression of the Russian people, the failure of the animals to dry themselves becoming an allegory of the starving people.
By comparison, the court of the Queen of Hearts I envisioned to be a representation of some of the nobility from the Russian revolution, who would regularly hold balls and parties, seemingly oblivious to the oncoming revolution. The Queen and her court use animals as equipment in the croquet games and leisurely activities, while other the caucus animals fail to keep themselves dry, creating a possible division of class society, something which is very relatable to the revolution.

These are the images which I showed during my mock viva in front of my three tutors and received very helpful feedback from them. I went overboard with the use of ink and eventually drowned the image out and talking this into consideration must be more decisive with my decision making in the future in terms of what works and what doesn’t in my own work. I think the strongest point of these images is their compositions, especially in the illustration of the caucus race with the movement of the animals as the surround a frustrated Alice. However they are still very early development work. I think the other two images possibly need new compositions, particularly the illustration of the Queen’s court as I feel it’s rather still looking and needs more movement.

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.

Life Drawing Part 4

Today I took part in another life drawing session and once again really enjoyed it. We started with some quick two minutes poses, which were challenging but enjoyable and I experimented with overlapping the two different coloured pencils with the separate drawings on one of them. After this, we drew a few ten minute poses which were also enjoyable and very useful as they give me time to roughly draw out the figure before going back into it with more detail.


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.