We’re All Mad in Monochrome
The first time I watched Disney’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, I couldn’t stop thinking about Alice falling down the rabbit hole into the strange, fantastic world of Wonderland and how badly I wanted to experience her journey. I took out a book of Lewis Carroll’s writing, including his books and prose, and fell in love with the worlds he created. Since then, Alice in Wonderland has become one of my literary and film favorites. I’ve encountered numerous adaptations of the novel in a wide variety of mediums - I’ve watched most of the film adaptations from the silent, black and white 1903 to Tim Burton’s imaginative 2010 adaptation. Most recently, I read Christina Henry’s Alice, a dark, adult fantasy based on Lewis Carroll’s stories.
Encountering Carroll at such a young age, I was most definitely influenced by his work and traces of his influence can be seen in a range of my work. I have been drawing since I could pick up a pencil and pursued art and design as my undergraduate degree. Writing and illustration have a unique bond in how they enhance the power of each other when paired well. loved reading aloud Carroll’s stories, but I was also enamored with the full-color illustrations throughout the book. I think my love for certain art movements like surrealism and magic realism can be traced back to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I’ve started to collect illustrated copies of Alice and so far, I have four beautiful editions dating back to the 1930s. While I’m at college, I only keep one of them - a 1946 Random House set of both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass with Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations. Whenever I am in a creative slump, I go back to these books and always feel recharged and inspired.
'I can't explain MYSELF, I'm afraid, sir' said Alice, 'because I'm not myself, you see.'
Lewis Carroll plays with logic in his witty, satirical, and sometimes nonsensical writing style. As an artist, I tend to interpret writing in a similar way that I would interpret a painting. With Carroll’s writing, I feel vibrancy, saturation, and non-linear composition. Reading Alice sometimes feels like staring at a swirling spiral, in the best way possible. It’s mesmorizing, which is one of the reasons why Carroll has such a devoted following and how artists of all mediums continue to draw inspiratio from his work. For my series, I wanted to create illustrated portraits of my favorite Alice character using my illustrative style and paste-up graphic design style while staying true to the nature of a Carrollian work.
The Cassady Collection contains incredible artwork from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and I was able to use the archives as inspiration and to gain a deeper understanding of how the original artwork was created. Being able to look at images of the printing plates used in one of the first editions of Alice with my copy of the book next to me containing those same illustrations was a very special experience as both a Lewis Carroll fan and as an artist. I’d never seen the colored lantern slides before, nor the Nursey Alice, and I really enjoyed getting to explore versions of the original artwork.
After browsing the Cassady Collection and re-reading my copy of Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland, I made a list of all the characters in the book and picked five which I was most interested in and who always resonated with me - Alice, The Mad Hatter, The White Rabbit, The Caterpillar, and The Cheshire Cat. I drew inspiration from all the adaptations I have encountered and worked to capture the essence of the characters in my own drawing style, which tends to combine fantasy elements with a darker illustration style. I sketched out ideas for my characters on paper then re-drew them digitally. Once the illustrations were complete, I picked my favorite quotes from the characters that I felt embodied their roles in the stories and added typography to the drawings. I put the work through a series of digital processes that created the ink bleeds and vintage textures to allude to Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations. The prints are in monochrome, using shades of a single color, and each color is meant to represent the nature of it’s respective character. The Mad Hatter is a hot pink, alluding to his fervor, anger, and chaotic nature. The White Rabbit is a gold color, like the pocketwatch he carries around. The bright shade of yellow seems to buzz with energy in the same way the Rabbit anxiously darts around throughout the story. Alice is a cool teal, which I have always associated her with due to the classic blue dress, but teal is also symbolic of faith. Alice’s imagination and belief in Wonderland is what allows her story to exist. The Caterpillar’s blue is represntative of his spiritual, omniscient presence. Lastly, the purple of the Cheshire Cat emphasizes his mystery and magic with a hint of power. Together, the series works as a rainbow of illustrations portraying the unique and playful cast of character of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Lewis Carroll’s writing allows the reader so much room to create vivid images of the whimsical world of Wonderland in their mind, and I am excited to share my adaptation of his inspiring and iconic work.