Book of Portraits Part 15: Lewis Carroll

After hearing that Lewis Carroll took a trip to Russia during his lifetime I decided to look into this to see if I could find anything that could potentially become very relevant to my project. I looked at the book ‘Lewis Carroll: An Illustrated Biography’ (1976) by Derek Hudson, and an article in the Telegraph titled ‘Lewis Carroll in a Russian wonderland of surprises’, but other than that I couldn’t find much information about his time in Russia. From these I read descriptions of St Petersburg by Carroll being a giant, glittery city but not much else so unfortunately there’s not much I can incorporate into my project. Despite this, I still have a lot of research on the Romanov family which is correlates more directly to my work and what I want to achieve and so I have plently to work with anyway.


Romanov Research and Sketches Continued

I have been continuing my research on the Romanov family and the Russian Revolution and had kept visual notes as I have been researching. A lot of the images from this post are quick sketches inspired by images from the book ‘Twilight of the Romanovs: A Photographic Odessey Across Imperial Russia’ (2013) by Philipp Blom and Veronica Buckley which was very informative as it included images of people from all over Russia during the Romanovs reign as well as the Romanov family themselves.

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.

Radio 4: Lewis Carroll and the Story of Alice

Recently one of my lecturers highly recommended me to listen to Radio 4 as there was a broadcast about Lewis Carroll and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The shows contributors included Andrew Marr, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Gillian Beer, Katherine Rundell and Damien Kempf. The show was very interesting and insightful and give me lots of things to think about, most of which I wrote down and will try my best to repeat on here. Firstly, the discussion of the unsettling undertones of the novel was brought to light and the notion of how far removed the Victorian society was from our own. Lewis Carroll’s life was discussed in detail and give some insight to the way he worked and how he invented Wonderland. and the story that is still so well known today worldwide.

It was said that as a child Carroll would often collect and weave together fragments of writing, cartoons and sketches in order to create a narrative for him to tell. He was also very interested in miniature worlds, as evident from his and his siblings childhood toys, such as toy theatres and dolls house. His interest in the worlds is also very clear and importance in Alice as she makes her way through Wonderland and constantly changes size. One speaker also compared Carroll’s collecting of writing to create new narratives to Alice, which he stated as an anthology of stories trying to be a novel, which then creates a new way to look at Alice as a series of stories rather than one long one. The Victorian setting of the novel was also consider as well as the satirical tones featured. It was revealed that so much of Carroll’s Victorian world has been lost to us and how the novel is viewed differently over time this was talked about. This was then compared to Alice trying desperately to get through the tiny door into the garden and how we only have a small view of the Victorian world ourselves. In terms of satire, the idea of rules and the breaking of them was considered in relation to Oxford during Carroll’s lifetime which feature a lot of rule of hierarchy, something which is questioned and parodied in Alice. An interesting example of the Victorian Oxford rules was a story about a public park that was nearly privatised and therefore not available to everyone, not unlike Alice’s attempts to get into the desired garden.

The scary atmosphere of the story was talked about, how it captures a child’s view of the world and how it is full of surprises, wonder and terror. As well as this, because the novel is written by an adult we therefore get a combination of the perspectives of a child and adult within the story. Leading on from this, the importance of scariness in children’s stories was debated and the unhinged and unpredictable adults of Wonderland were used as an example of this and the childs view of the world. This reminded me of some of the things I had read about when researching my dissertation, particularly with the topic of innocent children and unhinged adults in fairy tales.

The role of mathematics in Alice was discussed, something which I had not known before, as well as the seemingly double role of Carroll, firstly as the mathematician, upright and uptight Charles Dodgson and then the completely opposite Lewis Carroll. This duel role is also therefore represented within Wonderland, a world of nonsense which contradicts the Victorian world of rules and logic. Alice as a character and the real life influence was a topic of discussion, beginning with the character Alice as not only national known and treasured but also internationally and her countless adaptations on interpretations over time. Alice’s nature as a bold, inquisitive, curious and often angry child was also brought up and how Alice Liddell could sometimes be seen as bossy with a sense of the absurd and nonsensical about her. As a child, she would have been brought up in a traditional, rigid and controlled Victorian household and it was stated that she ultimately returned to this lifestyle as an adulthood. Interestingly, the group discussed Alice Liddell’s travel to America with her son and her role as a reluctant celebrity of sorts who was ‘exhibited’ by her son and never escaped the image of her fictional counterpart. It was also surprisingly stated that the public were disappointed by Alice growing up and no longer being a child, showcasing the powerful effect an iconic fictional character can have on the world.

The relationship between Carroll and Liddell is something which I have heard about before but do not know much about. I do know from my research that there is some controversy surrounding it but when brought up in this broadcast, it was said that there is not really and evidence of wrong doing and that we simply do not know much about the subject. The changing definition of children and the age of consent was taken into account as this was something that was changing during the Victorian era as well of the idea of Carroll teasing the notion of innocence within his work. One of the speakers was also quick to reminder us that Alice as a character is never objectified and we experience the story of Wonderland with her through her sensible nature as well as her terror. The scariness of the novel was once again brought up, this time in comparison to Through the Looking Glass, and Wonderland was deemed scarier due to Alice’s constant changing body.

As I am looking at history within my project, it was interesting to hear of possible historical events that could have influenced Carroll when writing Alice, Darwin’s evolution theory being a notably example. It was suggested that due to Darwin’s definition of species ultimately throwing previous knowledge up in the air, Carroll like Darwin was questioning what can evolve a baby into a pig for example, and what is what? Carroll was therefore mocking classification as Alice is always looking for rules and guides within Wonderland but there aren’t any. The biggest thing however that stood not to me personally in this broadcast was when Russia was mentioned in relation to the Red Queen and the mention of Carroll visiting Russia before writing Through the Looking Glass, something which I had not known before and will definitely be doing some research into as it may well give me more ideas to think about within my work.

Lastly, one of the last topic discussed about Alice was how the story always manages to surprise readers despite how well known it is as well as how children see it compared to adults. The words and poems in the story blur the boundaries and challenge and question normal logic. For children, the story creates and escape from the adult world to a place where they can make their own rules because the rules of adults are no logical to children. In Alice the rules are always broken, but Alice herself had to go to a special place to break them. It was stated the Wonderland is ultimately a state of mind and perspective and reflects how we look upon the world. There is constant danger in Wonderland and its is often dark and confusing leaving Alice to make her own decisions as she her no guide or helper, actually most of the characters in Wonderland are quite horrible and offer her no comfort. The group agreed that Alice represents children who are alone that can make up their own worlds of wonder.

Constellation: PDP 2015

Thinking about writing a dissertation was a very daunting experience, especially since I am not particularly academic or used to writing as much anymore. Inspired by the rise in recent fairy tale adaptations in film, I decided to focus my research on this but wasn’t sure on what aspect of this I wanted to focus on in particular. The proposal which I handed in at the end of my second year was very broad at first, however as I began my research and attended the tutorials, the subject matter began to narrow down and I eventually settled on the representation of women within fairy tales, using Snow White as an example.

At first, I thought I would struggle immensely with writing a dissertation, but even though the experience has been stressful and intimidating, overall it has been a surprisingly enjoyable experience. I often struggle with time management and this is something with I believed would hinder my progress, however I believe I have managed to balance this during the dissertation time period due to a number of factors. Firstly, we were introduced to the dissertation in second year and therefore we had roughly a year to work on it, which helped me greatly as it give me plenty of time to properly decide what subject matter I wanted to research and write about.

Secondly, knowing roughly what I wanted to write about for my dissertation early on meant that I could start reading and researching the subject matter as soon as possible, which I mostly did during the summer. By doing this, I then had more time to write my dissertation throughout the end of the summer and autumn term, and could really define the keys aspects I wanted to focus on as there was a lot of information to take in at first and a lot of potential avenues to explore. While I was doing this, I really worked on my organisation skills, something which like time management I have also struggled with in the past. As I was reading, I made a lot of notes and typed up important quotes from academics; referencing them properly as I was going in order to save time at the end of the dissertation. By doing this, it also made it easier for me to insert or paraphrase academic theories into my own analysis of my chosen case studies, which I had typed up in a separate document to begin with.

Another aspect of the dissertation which I found extremely helpful towards the development of my research and writing was the regular tutorials I had throughout the year. With the advise and direction of my tutor, I viewed the tutorials as miniature deadlines and aimed to achieve something by each one so I could then show my tutor who helped me greatly with the progress overall. I managed to keep this up for most of my tutorials which meant that I could keep myself organised and maintain my time keeping without becoming to stressed or bogged down with work. These deadlines also helped me to roughly write the majority of my analysis up before the Christmas holidays meaning I only had to add the theory, which I had typed up separately.

I choose to focus on fairy tales in my dissertation because it is a subject matter I have always been interested in and am familiar with. I was also very familiar with the case studies I used in my dissertation and had an idea of certain scenes I could talk about, however my research into academic studies of fairy tales highlighted themes and motifs I had never even considered before in these adaptations. In terms of relevance to my practice, fairy tales had been illustrated and adapted into film countless times and so I thought it would be interesting to see how one story can be adapted differently, showing me how I could interpret this into my own work when illustrating a well known story that has been illustrated before. I was quite surprised that I ended up just focusing on films as case studies as I originally planned to analyse illustrations of fairy tales as well. Despite this, I think the dissertation worked better with just the four films as case studies and reflected not only the different ways a story can be retold, but also a sort of journey of fairy tales within film and the current trend. As well as my current projects, I am working towards illustrating Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and have been quite apprehensive due to how well known it is and how many different times is has been illustrated and adapted. However, writing my dissertation has shown me how a story can be retold differently by focusing on different themes and using symbolism, and I can easily apply this knowledge not only to this project, but future ones as well.

The most difficult parts of the dissertation for me included the layout, cutting down the word count and the title. I kept the layout rather simple at first, mainly because I had a lot of information and got confused at times at what would go where, but the layout developed as I continued to write and edit, and I believed I still managed to have a continuous flow throughout the writing. I also found finding the right title for my dissertation quite tricky, however I did leave this till I had finished writing the entire paper before choosing a title which reflected exactly what I had been researching and writing about. As well as this, cutting information from my dissertation was difficult at first as I thought all of my analysis would be relevant to my research, nevertheless, I managed to chose what information was relevant to the dissertation and my research and edit the paper accordingly.

Despite some difficulties, overall I didn’t find the dissertation as difficult as I was initially expecting and I think this is due to me keeping on top of my time management and organisation. Also, I enjoyed researching and writing my analysis which I think really helped to keep me going. I believe that if I didnt enjoy the dissertation overall that would mean I hadn’t picked a topic I was that interested in, but I did not face this issue.

Dissertation Overview: The Portrayal of Women in Film Adaptations of Snow White

As my dissertation is now finished and handed in, I thought I would write a post about what I have researched and written about in my dissertation and how this is connected with my studio practice. For my dissertation, I looked at the portrayal of women and the representation of femininity in relation to the two female characters of the fairy tale ‘Snow White’, using for film adaptations of the story as case studies for this. The films include Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997), Mirror Mirror (2012) and Snow White and the Huntsman (2012).

The first chapter of my dissertation featured academic perspectives on the tale of Snow White and highlighted some of the key themes and motifs that were present in many interpretations of the story. Some of the notable academics included Bruno Bettelheim, Marina Warner, Jack Zipes and Barbara Creed. Chapter two included an analysis of all four depictions of Snow White and the Evil Queen in the case studies in relation to the themes of vanity, beauty and passivity and a comparison of how these different themes have been portrayed over time. Chapter three continued this analysis, this time focussing on the monstrosity of the Queen, the innocence of Snow White and the role of mothers and nature within the story, and once again concluded with a comparison of the different interpretations.

From my research and analysis, I found that the story of Snow White has been interpreted and retold in my different ways, despite how well know it is. When I first started my dissertation, I didn’t make an instant connection between my research and my studio practice, however the more I researched and wrote, the more I began to make a connection with my practice. I concluded that this dissertation has shown my has a famous story can be retold differently and made fresh, something with I believe is very important in illustration as we are likely to face a similar situation in our work. As well as my continuing projects, I am currently working towards a live brief to illustrate Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) in celebration of its 150th anniversary. This dissertation therefore has shown me that I myself can find a new way to illustrate a famous story by focusing on particular themes of motifs within the story and highlighting this in my illustrations.

Dissertation Proposal

Here are a few notes from my dissertation proposal which I handed in at the end of my second year, but quite a few things changed from the proposal to the final dissertation. Originally, for my dissertation, I decided to focus my research on the adaptation of fairy tales within film after noticing the amount of fairy tales films that have been released within the last few years. I choose to write a 8000 to 10,000 word thesis for this and began with the working title, ‘How has the portrayal of fairy tales in visual culture changed and developed over time?’. I originally wanted to explore the portrayal of different themes and representations within fairy tales and their adaptations over time, themes such as gender, masculinity and femininity, good and evil, monstrosity and the monstrous feminine, relationships between parents and children and the relevance and popularity of fairy tales.

As well as this, I wanted to explore why fairy tales are still current and relevant, especially with the current interest in retelling fairy tales. This exploration would also look at why there is a sudden rise in film adaptions of fairy tales and how these films compare not only to the original stories but also to previous adaptations of them, exploring the themes and ideas that are present or not in the various adaptations. Finally, in terms of relevance to my practice, fairy tales have always been popular to illustrate and so it’s interesting to see the various different perspectives on the narratives and how they have been illustrated. I thought that by focusing on how other artists have tackled the narrative can help me make decisions on what themes and narrative ideas that I could choose to illustrate in my work.

Despite this rather broad proposal, as I began my research into my dissertation, the subject matter narrowed down massively and I decided to focus on the portrayal of women with in fairy tales, focusing on ‘Snow White’ as an example. I decided to pick four film adaptations of the classic fairy tale and compare and contrast how they have been interpreted differently in relation to the portrayal of the two female characters, Snow White and her stepmother the Evil Queen. The films I chose for the study were Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Snow White: A Tale of Terror directed by Michael Cohn, Mirror Mirror (2012) directed by Tarsem Singh and Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) directed by Rupert Sanders.


This year has been a very strange one but overall I believe it has been a lot more successful than the first year. For me personally, it has been a year full of experimentation with new techniques and processes in my work as well as the beginning of exploring new themes and concepts to use within my work. The first term of subject was filled with a variety of different illustration project briefs which gave me the opportunity to really explore different ways of working and finding a process that worked for that particular brief, this also continued into the second term during our field projects. Even though I worked in a variety of ways, I think now is the time for me to really decide which way of working I like best and which way produces the best results, even if that means combining different techniques and processes together.

Constellation this year has been very successful and helpful to me. I chose Cath Davies’ constellation on Goddesses and Monsters because the subject matter really appealed to me and I believed that the themes and concepts within the lectures would translate well into the area of illustration. We explored many different themes within our lectures such as the portrayal of glamour and femininity in visual culture, surrealism and Freudian concepts on gender, monstrosity, abjection, the grotesque and the monstrous feminine. Even though these themes haven’t been applied to my subject work as of yet, the concepts that were brought up in these lectures are very useful to my dissertation research and so I plan to explore them further. As well as these concepts, we studied many academic theories relating to the subject matter and learned how to properly apply academic perspectives to our research and case studies in preparation for our dissertations.

The first week involved studying the representations of glamour and femininity within the Art Deco movement and Hollywood stars of the 1920s and 30s. We analysed images from these time periods, such as Vogue covers and publicity shots of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, and described the characteristics of the images before analysing the meanings and connotations within these characteristics. Finally we applied academic perspectives and debates to our analysis to use as theoretical underpinning, using L, Fischer’s Designing Women, Cinema, Art Deco and the Female Form, (2003). One of the main concepts of this particular lecture was the construction of women in order for them to be considered ‘glamorous’  whether in an illustrated form or a photograph.

In the next session, we began to study Freud’s psychoanalytic perspectives on gender which involved theories such as castration fear, phallocentrism in visual culture, surrealism in relation to gender and liminality. We also discussed how the ideal of the ‘Goddess’ is somewhat similar to a mannequin or doll, particularly with the construction of the female body and how the boundaries between human bodies and mannequins are blurred, using a sculpture a Salvador Dali as a case study.

Our third session brought the theories and concepts of monstrosity and abjection, particularly how it applies to horror films and literature such as Frankenstein and Dracula. This session also began our contrast with the glamour of the Goddesses, specifically within the work of Alexander McQueen, a fashion designer who broke the typical rules of fashion and combined the grotesque with glamour in his work. The contrast with our earlier sessions also continued in our fourth lecture where we studied the concept of the monstrous feminine and the femme fatale, using the studies of Barbara Creed as theoretical underpinning.  Throughout theses sessions we continued to use a column system to break up our analysis of case studies, a technique which has been very helpful in my dissertation research.

The final week of our constellation sessions consisted of us coming up with ideas for our dissertation and how to start the preparation for them. For mydDissertation,  I have decided to focus on the portrayal of folk lore and fairy tales in visual culture and how it has changed over time. The constellation sessions have been a great and helpful start to how I should begin my research and preparation for my dissertation and I shall be using the techniques learned in them to help me with my own work. Goddesses and Monsters has given me a lot of themes and concepts that I can take forward into my own research into fairy tales, such as femininity and masculinity, gender roles, monstrosity, monstrous females, glamour and good and evil.

My next step from here is to begin to relate my dissertation research into my own practice. I could explore these many different and interesting themes within my work, exploring the meanings within them and possibly weaving a narrative around them, bringing my theory and practice together. As I continue my research many questions are surely to be raised and I could explore and possibly answer these within my illustration work as well as my theory based study. I will be looking at illustrations of fairy tales over time for my dissertation, as well as film adaptions,  and will be able to analyse how these themes and concepts have been explored by other artists giving me possible inspiration to explore them within my own work.



Constellation Week 5 with Cath Davies: Dissertation Preperation

November 8th 2013

The final week of our constellation sessions consisted of us coming up with ideas for our dissertation and how to start the preparation for them. We began by taking notes on how to start out preparation using the column system that Cath taught us. In the column system, we take a case study, for example an image, and then describe the characteristics of it, followed by an analysis of the meanings/connotations of the image and finally researching academic theory on the topic to back up our statements.

We keep adding to the columns as we go along, showing skill in our ability to research and quote academic debates on the subject field. We won’t be the first or only person to write about a certain subject so we have to explain how our research is similar but also how it differs from previous examples.

Cath used examples her own research and interests to help us get an idea of how to go about starting our own. Her research consiteted of the desgins of Alexander McQueen, Japanese designers Kawakubo and Yamamoto and dress defining body shape. We made notes on the extracts about these subjects, again to help us practice for when we need to analyse our own research notes.
We discussed deconstruction, breaking or changing the rules and trashing ideologies within our creative practices and used the Japanese designers as an example of this. Yamamoto created an evening dress made of felt as oppose to silk which moves with your body, felt does not. It’s all about body shape and how clothes can redefine and create new body shapes as well as the different connotations of different fabrics.

For my dissertation, I have decided to focus it on folk lore and fairy tales, something I have been interested in since a young age. I made a few notes on the different areas I could look into such as how they have been told and retold, portrayed and refashioned over time, using reworking’s and retellings from literature and film as examples.
The representation of gender is also something I would look into as well as how it has changed over time, comparing and contrasting it. The different themes in these tales would also be interesting to research such as, good and evil, dark and light, monstrosity and glamour, life and death, children and parents and the hidden meanings and connotations to name a few.
I would also like to examine the sudden rise of popularity of the film adaptions of these tales and how they compare to the film adaptions in the past. Walt Disney’s animation films would play a great part in this and it would be interesting to see how they became the foundation and example for how fairy tales should be adapted into film.
In terms of academic and theoretical research, I would start by reading The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Betteleheim and From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and their Tellers by Marina Warner. I would also look into literary retellings of popular tales, Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber being an example, as well as the original stories themselves by The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson.

The five constellation sessions have been a great and helpful start to how I should begin my research and preparation for my dissertation and I shall be using the techniques learned in them to help me with my own work.