Book of Portraits Part 14: The Romanovs V

The latest set of Romanov drawings, like the previous, features a mixture of ink and pencil sketches and once again I think the combination of the two works best out of all these images. The top two images are my favourite of the set and this is the first time I’ve included any sort of scenery or objects within these portrait drawings and I’m happy with the result.

I also like the image above of Alexei with a drum, particularly the more expressive and quick mark making, the same can be said for the drawing of Nicholas and Alexei together. However the seperate portraits of them I’m not too happy with, particularly the on of Nicholas as I think the proportions are incorrect.


Alice Development Part 5

I’ve been continuing to compose my images for the Alice project and have drawn a number of thumbnails so that I can plan out what goes where in what image. I have taken inspiration from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and my research into the Romanov family and the Russian Revolution in order to draw these compositions and the final result will hopefully be a reflection upon both of these subjects. Some of the images are more relevant to Alice, such as Alice’s rapid growing, while others like the Faberge egg and the house surrounded by soldiers are more applicable to the Romanovs. Despite this, I do think that overall they are all very relevant to all that I have been researching and this is once of the main aims of the project.

I’ve also included other images I have worked very quickly on as they also show the development of my composition ideas as well as the development of my character studies. As well as this, below are very rough composition ideas which I cam up with and am currently in the middle of developing for my final illustrations.


Book of Portraits Part 13: The Romanovs IV

Another set of Romanov drawings including images of Olga, Tatiana, Alexandra and Alexei, Rasptuin and Nicholas. As with the previous post, I think the combination of ink with pencil has worked very well and I really love the final outcome of the two images above. The watered down ink really helps to illustrated movement within the clothing and this is a technique I am using for my Alice project and the depiction of my verision of the Alice character.

As well as the illustrations above, I have been continuing to draw with a blue pencil and I think that these two images are succesful and I am happy with them. Unfortunately, I’m not that happy with the regular pencil sketch below or the ink drawing I attempted of Alexei, however it’s all just a part of my continuing development and it just displays things that I need to develop more if I want to improve them for the future.

Alice Development Part 4

While researching the Ronmanovs and Russia I came across an image of a family sitting around a table outside and having tea which immediately reminded me of the Hatter and March Hare’s tea party from Alice. In the centre of the table was a Russian samovar which is used to boil the water and the look rather unusual and decoartive at the same time and so I thought it would be a good idea to include one in my illustration of the mad tea party. Above are a few sketches I did of samovars in order to get an idea of the kind of image I would want to use.

After sketching the characters of Alice I found characterising the mock turtle and gryphon very difficult as I did not want to simply replicate the look of them from the original illustrations. I eventually decided to use some of the reseach I had done on the Romanovs to help me and ended up basing the characters on people who were involved in the lives of the Romanov children, one of their tutors Pierre Gilliard and the sailors from the Imperial yacht the Standart with whom the children were friendly. I thought this would fit nicely in my illustration as the scene takes place by the sea and a lot of lessons are depicted.

Finally, I have been playing around with the idea of using Russian symbols and imagery to help emphasise the setting and meaning behind my project, one example being the use of Faberge Eggs. I came up with the idea of Alice being trapped within a Faberge egg and thus representing Imperial Russia and the confinement of the Romanov children in their palace; a gilded cage. I’ve also recrated the Romanov double headed eagle crest with a Wonderlan spin, using a flamingo and crowned heart in order to emphasise this.

Book of Portraits Part 12: The Romanovs III

This is a continuation of the Romanov portraits I have been working on and again I have been using similar materials and also combining them. I really like the combination of the ink and the pencil and think that this is workign the best out of all the portraits that I have ben working on. The contrast between the detial of the pencil and the bleeding of the ink used for clothes is quite striking in my opioion and I enjoy working in this way. The set includes illustrations of the Tsar’s two middle daughters Tatiana and Maria, a group image of all the sisters, the Tsar’s son Alexei and finally the infamous Grigori Rasptuin who played a big role in the life of the family.

As well as these images I have also continued working with blue pencil as well as regular pencil. I don;t like these images as much but I did find them more difficult to draw and for the group images I think I would need to work bigger in order to acheieve the desired result. I do however quite like the quick and rough pencil sketches below and also enjoy working rather quickly with the pencil and so this is something I could develop more.

Book of Portraits Part 11: The Romanovs II

I’ve been continuing to research and draw the Romanov family as part of the development for my Alice project and here is the first set that I did during the Easter break. Most of the images have been drawn from the various books I have been reading as part of my research and this set includes images of Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and eldest and youngest daughters Olga and Anastasia.

With the portraits I have been using different materials as seen in the images, from graphite or brown pencils to a combination of pencil and ink. I really like how most of these portraits are turning out and I’m particularly fond of the one of Olga and the one of Nicholas in 1917. There will be more of these portraits to come featuring other members of the family.

Book of Portraits Part 10: Family Members I

As well as continuing my projects, I have carried on drawing in my portrait book as it is something i really enjoyed doing and I think it helps greatly with the development of my drawing skill. This time I decided to focus on old family photographs starting with an image of my grandparents wedding day which is a penicl drawing mixed with quink ink. I have also drawn some other family memembers however I do not know who they are so I think I would have to do some more digging and questioning to find out who they are. I would also like to continue drawing more family members when I have more time as i find the old photographs very interesting to look at and draw.

Alice Character Sketches

In order to bring more life to my characters, I have been continuing to just sketch them out so that I can capture them completely and not struggle to draw the for my final illustrations. All of these images are rough and showcase quick sketches I did in order to achieve this before I moved on to composing my illustrations.

As I’ve continued my research into the Russian Revolution and the Romanov family I have continued to make connections between them and Alice in order to tell the story, most notably with the characters. The Hatter for example is inspired by Rasputin as discussed previously, but I have also now developed the character of the March Hare and have decided to portray my version of the character as a representation of Prince Felix Yuspaov who was involved in the assassination of Rasputin. Their tea party is also inspired by the events of Rasputin’s murder and this is something that I will hunt at in my depiction of that scene as well as the reputation of Rasptuin with the nobility.

I have also been questioning whether or not to have the caterpillar inspired by Lenin. I made this connection because of the research I have done into the symbolism of Alice and the phallic shape of the caterpillar representing a sexual threat. I thought that this threat could be more representational of the doom surrounding the lives of the Romanovs and the questioning of “who are you” representing the question of what side Alice is on, the monarchists or revolutionaries.

The Duchess also gives the impressiong of a predatory sexual threat and so I decided to base her on the nobility at the time leading up to the revolution who were hoping to make marriage alliances with the Romanov duaghters, thus reflecting greed which I thought would be suitable to the advances of the Duchess. Orignally I did not want to base the King and Queen of Hearts on Nicholas and Alexandra, however I came to the conclusion of them being a characterization of the view the public had of the royal couple, particularly when Alexandra was thought to be domineering over her husband. Finally, the White Rabbit I really stuggled to characterize  but I thought he could be an embodiment of traiditonal Russia, or just Russia itself as the Romanov girls were very naive about the world and did not know much about life outside their palace and their curiosity can therefore be reflected within Alice’s when she follows the rabbit down the rabbit hole.

Finding Anastasia

After watching Russia’s Lost Princesses, I wanted to explore more documentaries on the Romanovs for my research and came across a National Geographic one titled Finding Anastasia ON YouTube. The documentary followed a group of scientists as they worked towards the DNA testing of two Romanov remains which had been missing until 2007. Due to the remains being missing for nearly a century, there was a lot of confusion with what actually happened the night of the Romanov’s murders and there has been speculation about a survivor throughout the 20th century, most notable with Anastasia who became a myth or legend due to the speculation.

Making more connections between the Romanovs and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, I began to think of Alice and Anastasia as similar in some ways in that they both had a big part on popular culture and fiction. Alice is a household name and iconic figure and Anastasia arguably became something similar due to the constant rumours of her survival as well as famous imposters who claimed to be her. Despite the rumours, all of the Romanovs have been accounted for and are now martyrs after being canonized. Like the previous documentary, I wrote notes as well as drew a few quick rough images based on images from the documentary, though not as much as last time and I have included them in this post.

Romanov Research and Sketches

I have been continuing my research into the Romanov family and the Russian Revolution and this post summarises some of the key aspects of my research as well as some of the ideas I have in relation to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I have recently finished reading Four Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses (2014) by Helen Rappaport and have written a lot of notes on the book but I think there are too many notes to write a whole post about them. Fortunately, the author Helen Rappaport was involved in the BBC2 documentary Russia’s Lost Princesses which aired last summer and which I managed to re-watch this week and make written and visual notes of.

The book and the documentary both primarily focus on the Romanov Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia and their lives before and during the revolution and therefore cover a lot of the same ground. As the documentary was only in two parts it is a lot more condensed, as are my notes, and so I will use them as a basis for this post and a lot of the information from the documentary was featured in Rappaport’s book as well. As well as this I have previously read the following books, Ekaterinburg: The Last Days of the Romanovs (2009) by Helen Rappaport, Nicholas and Alexandra (2000) by Robert K. Massie and The Romanovs: The Final Chapter (1996) also by Robert K. Massie, and so some of the information was familiar to me whole a of it was new.

I wanted to note only work with written notes but visual as well as I think that these rough image could eventually really help with my illustrations later on. All of the images are quite rough as I was drawing them very quickly while watching the documentary and I occasionally paused it in order to draw the image a bit more clearly. The sketches therefore have al been inspired by the imagery that was included in the documentary, from photos and videos of the Romanov’s themselves to images of Russia, the peasantry of the time and the war.

Some of the key discussions from the documentary included the idea of Russia essentially being a very medieval country due to the massive population of peasantry compared to nobility despite the time period being in the late 1800s to early 1900s. The world of the monarchy however disappeared forever during the revolution. Nicholas II was very unprepared for his role as Tsar of all Russia and the imperial regime could not keep up with the industrialisation of Europe already creating conflict as well as ruling the vastness of Russia being a very intimidating prospect. The Romanov line lasted just over 300 years and Russia had not changed that much at all during the lengthy time period. The Russian court was also considered to be the grandest in all of Europe, with everything being greatly exaggerated and having strict rules, making the environment very uncomfortable to the inexperienced Alexandra when she came to Russian to become Nicholas’s wife. Alexandra was often mocked at the Russian court and could not do anything right in their eyes and so she retreated to the family palace at Tsarkoe Selo, which was considered modest without any of the grandeur of the court, and does not fulfil her role as empress and becomes unpopular due to this.

The four sisters however were often perceived as fairy tale like princesses or sorts associated with innocence and naivety. They had very modest, simple upbringings and weren’t spoilt, often sharing hand me downs from each other and Alexandra was determined raise her children herself, something which was not practiced by the other nobility let alone Empresses. The girls were also often seen as a group or in pairs, referred to as the big pair and the little pair and so not much individuality was clear from them, despite this all four of them had quite different personalities. The often referred to themselves as OTMA, an acronym of their first names, and Olga the eldest was considered to be the most sensitive of the four as we as independent, shy, strong minded but also temperamental. Tatiana was often considered the most beautiful, mysterious, reserved and dutiful as well as the best at organisation and was often considered bossy by her sisters or the eider of the four. Maria is often perceived as the most friendly and talkative with a generous spirit and considered perfect by her family. The youngest Anastasia on the other hand was mischievous, a prankster and regarded as a tom boy of sorts.

Despite their individual personalities, the sisters often came second to their younger brother Alexei due to him being the heir to the throne as well as the protection of his haemophilia, which became a secret within the family. With their parents, the girls did their best to protect and care for their brother and he was considered spoilt in comparison to them. With the secret of Alexei’s condition becoming a big part of family life, the girl’s lives become even more private and secluded as a result. During this time massive movements leading to the revolution were happening, an example being the bloody Sunday where many people were killed and others began to lose faith in the oblivious and secluded Tsar. With a rise in revolutionary activity, the security of the family was increased making the lives of the children more secluded and confined than ever as they lived within their enclosed world.

The mystic Grigory Rasputin became a big part of the children’s lives due to his ability to relieve Alexei’s suffering though prayer when he was experiencing pain from a haemophiliac attack. Alexandra came to greatly depend on Rasputin and his seemingly miracle like ways to help relieve the suffering of her child but he already had a reputation in St Petersburg and so his visits to the family became another secret. There was concern from other family members regarding Rasputin’s relationship with these four innocent young girls however the documentary stated that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing on Rasputin’s part and Alexandra herself fought to maintain the innocence of her daughters. Despite their protected and enclosed life, the children did get to some of the outside world, most notably during their visit to England to visit their royal relatives and the part in the Tercentenary celebrations of 1913 which mark 300 years of Romanov rule while Nicholas and Alexandra continued to be oblivious to the drift towards revolution.

The second part of the documentary discussed the elders girls eligibility for marriage and how this conflicted with their interests in officers from the imperial guard and sailors from their family yacht the Shtandart, with whom they spent a lot of time. Despite this their mother often infantilised them and they were essentially kept locked away in their palace, rarely going out leaving them inexperienced to the world and younger than their years. The were also inexperienced with the ways of the imperial court and had no interest with men of their own station, preferring the men of the guard and Shtandart. Ironically, it was the war that ultimately gave the girls the bit of freedom that they craved when all four of the became involved with volunteering at hospitals for the wounded, the even opened up their own with Olga and Tatiana become red cross nurses with their mothers and taking part in lots of medical activity such as amputations. They became very close to a lot of the wounded soldiers and constantly badgered them with questions about their lifes and the world that they did not know.

Rasputin’s influence over Alexandra began to draw concern from members of the Romanov family, particularly when Nicholas away for war leaving Alexandra in charge and following Rasputin’s advise. Rasputin was eventually murdered by Prince Felix Yusapov and Dmitri Pavlovich when his influence had become to dangerous, leaving the family distraught. Olga however did see the intent behind the removal of Rasputin and in some ways saw it as a good thing. The Romanovs wanted to be rid of Alexandra but it was the death of Rasputin that ironically made the family withdraw even more, regarding some of their family as traitors and murderers. Eventually Nicholas abdicated leaving a provisional government to take over and the family were placed under house arrest, the girls becoming prisoners for real this time. The were moved to a governor’s mansion in Tobolsk before being taken to the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg where the were murdered by the Bolsheviks. won’t include too much detail at this point as I feel I have written enough in this post, however I my research has given a lot to think about and I have been making connections between this and Alice and will discuss this in more detail at a later time.