Storybook: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

For my main story book project, I chose Alice in Wonderland in the hope of capturing the absurdity and unexpected qualities of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s original 28,000 word story whilst attempting to discard the familiar nostalgia of the more commonly known Disney version.

I first collected ideas of the original story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, detecting the essential elements and interesting quotes to include in my book. I wanted it to be interesting and visually vibrant, whilst also telling the story. I discovered quotes from the original manuscript that I found particularly interesting, humorous and wacky that I knew I wanted to incorporate somehow. I also visualised imagery from the novel, trying to disregard disney’s interpretations however agreeing that some were probably as Dodgson imagined. The use of red became important to me as I read into the importance of its colour to the queen of hearts, and also the connotations of red which tied in well with the manipulative, dark, destructive habits of some of the characters in Wonderland. I decided that my book would be created in black and white, with drops of red to add colour and atmosphere.

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I then considered the layout of the book itself as a whole and the pages individually. I contemplated cutting a circular book, reflective of the rabbit hole in which Alice falls down. I wanted it to be created so that, when opened in full, the pages resembled a long, dark hole, in which the reader can fall into whilst reading the story as Alice did. However, upon experimenting with a circle book, this became difficult. The limits of folding the paper meant that a circular book could never achieve the illusion I was hoping for, and so I discarded this option.

I sketched some designs for the cover of the novel, as this was important to me for instantly igniting the tone and atmosphere of the book. In terms of creating a dark atmosphere- as I feel is intended for Dodgson’s novel- I considered drawing a tiny door to Wonderland on my front cover, surrounded by words written sloppily in red ink. For these words, I toyed with ‘We’re All Mad Here’ and ‘Welcome to Wonderland’, also experimenting with the idea of a scroll containing the Queen of Heart’s rules for Wonderland in an attempt to create a sense of some dark humour. I decided to create my book covers using the technique Sarah Edmonds taught us in her workshop, using book fabric and mount board. This would mean that drawing a book cover onto the very front of the book would be more difficult, as the ink from the pen would either bleed or possess a slightly different colour to its intended colour. I decided that I would draw a composition of different important elements of the traditional Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland novel and place in on the inside cover double page.

I considered the shape of the pages in my book. After the failure of my spherical book idea, I looked into the idea of pages shaped like potion bottles, similar to those drank and eaten from by Alice in the novel. I researched different sized and shaped potion bottles and decided that this idea would give each page its own individual shape, as well as allowing enough joining paper on the folds of the concertina form so that the paper was less likely to tear and break between the potion bottles.

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Using extracts of Dodgson’s novel on the internet, I collated the title names of the chapters and important content in each of them. I then created simple designs to present the titles and the chapters events in interesting and aesthetically pleasing ways.

I am extremely and happy and proud of the final outcome of my book. I feel the colour scheme chosen was fitting with the story and effective in delivering the dark tones of the novel. I believe the black outlined drawings and graphics on the pages are clear and deliver the content of the chapters well, guiding even a first time reader through the basics of the chaotic classic.

UPDATE: After handing in my book for review, I was chosen to have my book exhibited in the Artist’s Book Conference however, prior to this I wanted to make some changes to improve my book. I decided to add illustrations of potion bottle labels to the reverse side of each page. To do this, I needed to create many original graphic creations for the bottle labels that fit with the time period of the book. I researched old potion and medicine bottle labels of the 19th and 20th Century and attempted to replicate some of the different label shapes and patterns. I found some medical language and created some of my own and began playing with designs for the bottles. I didn’t want them to make sense, and I didn’t want the labels to be medically correct. The more abstract and bizarre the better! I enjoyed creating the bottle labels and drawing them onto my book and I feel they turned out well.

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I am very proud of the final outcome of my artist book and the creative processes which I applied from the workshops I intended in order to create it. I felt comfortable creating something with my hands after studying a fine art degree last year, and it was almost relaxing to not be worried about my technical abilities on computer software, and how this might affect the outcome of my project. I chose Alice in Wonderland because of the imaginative ideas and vivid imagery that makes up the world of wonderland as I felt that I could include this in my book, making it interesting and exciting to look at. I think this was a good choice as it gave me the freedom to test the limits of a book, as everything in wonderland in the novel is slightly insane and from another world. I enjoyed creating a concertina book and feel it served the purpose well, however I feel that it is a shame that other ideas which I experimented with, to make the book and pages itself resemble the rabbit hole, didn’t work out. I like the differentiation in the pages of the book and I enjoyed researching potion bottle shapes and bottle labels for my book. Many hours and many craft knife injuries later, I think it looks quite good!

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