Saturday, January 26, 2008

Book is here

Well, I can finally slack off freely. All the books arrived and I've begun to distribute the pre-paid ones. All sides involved showed great understanding of the imortance of the project. The Stinehour Press did great job printing the edition and Acme binding made their part as good as possible. All of my subscribers - thank all of you for your patience. Book will arrive to you soon.

Oleg Lipchenko.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Freedom and Limits: how to illustrate Carroll's stories



      Lewis Carroll doesn’t always describe details of a scene: personalities, objects and settings. But when he does, he doesn’t do so right away. As I have already explained the Duchess, in order to be able to imagine her, one has to read examine the second scene in which she’s acting. But how are we supposed to view her in the first scene? It’s good that she was called “Duchess” what gives us a hint that she’s wearing a duchess’ costume. That is why one of the main jobs of an illustrator is to show what Carroll will describe later or will not describe at all.
      Let’s talk first about the surrounding in which the action is taking place. For example: everything that’s happening to Alice, Gryphon, and Mock Turtle, is usually drawn on seashore. Why? Carroll only gives two details to describe the surrounding, but not a single word about any seashore. Whoops! Sir John Tenniel used the ‘Lobster Quadrille’ poem’s circumstances for this scene, and almost every Illustrator then followed his way. I too, followed his tradition in my first black and white series of Illustrations. I even drew the Mock Turtle in a seaman costume. However, the more logical setup would be a place that is near to the Wonderful Garden, and where the Queen can walk freely without guards and courtiers, therefore it would probably take place somewhere in the Royal Palace. Gryphon is sleeping “in the sun” and this doesn’t explain the setting to us. It could be anywhere: on a ship’s deck, in a microscopic English garden, on the seashore (why not?). Or, maybe it is on the ledge of the royal chapel? Where else can you find Chimeras, Gryphons and Gargoyles? What about the rock on which the Mock Turtle was sitting? Why wouldn’t we consider the Japanese Garden of Stones, somewhere in the Royal Palace (a gift from the Emperor of Japan, for example)? Also, we have to notice that all these places: the Wonderful Garden, the place where the Griffon lay, and the rock on which the Mock Turtle sat, have to be near each other. In the time it took Alice to get from one place to another, she was only able to exchange a couple of sentences with the Queen and then the Gryphon. Even the way back, isn’t too long – the way to Royal Courtroom (which has to be also located in the Royal Palace).
      When I say that Carroll didn’t point out or explained details, it doesn’t undermine the quality of Carroll’s texts, because the main value of the story is in the character’s interactions and dialogues. The rest (details, circumstances, settings, and descriptions) is made up by our imagination. Illustrators’s job is to illustrate the story in their own image, but at the same time to not contradict even a single detail given by Carroll.

Oleg Lipchenko

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ugly Duchess character understanding


Quentin Massys                             John Tenniel

      Ugly Duchess has quite a history in illustration. Sir John Tenniel created her image based on the portrait 'A Grotesque Old Woman' (1513), by the Flemish artist Quentin Massys. Not exactly the same, but the influence was very obvious.

      Lets look at how the Ugly Duchess is described by Carroll; in the first scene there isn't even a hint of her appearance, she is full of pretence and we can only imagine what her true character is like by looking at her actions, analyzing her dialogues and speech. Such an ignorant and unfriendly person, she is a persistent fighter - she doesn't pay attention to the pepper in the air, or the dishes thrown at her. She makes her remarks with a "sudden violence". This is all that is said about her in the first scene. Plus, of course, an absolutely cynical attitude towards the baby.

Leonardo Da Vinci "Grotesque old woman"

      Another scene where the Duchess is acting - "Queen's Qroquet-Ground". Here, her behavior is quite different, her speech when addressing Alice has now become rather somewhat sweet. We see an experienced court-lady, who can speak very sweetly if she feels an importance of the person that she speaks to (we know that Alice was invited to the Queen's Qroquet-Ground, and that means something). We remember how she treated Alice when she (Alice) was just a stranger to her. As a matter of fact, she is trying to be so sweet that she is ready to hug Alice around her waist (which she doesn't do being aware of the flamingo in Alice's hands). Here is the first time we get a few words regarding her appearance. First of all, she's very "ugly". Secondly, she has an "uncomfortably sharp chin", and lastly, "she was exactly the right height to rest her chin upon Alice's shoulder"- so she wasn't taller than Alice. And that is all that is said about her appearance.

      I wish to point out, that Sir John Tenniel's Duchess is undoubtedly ugly, but her chin is quite far from being sharp. Many illustrators followed the tradition of Tenniel's illustrations. Ugliness of the Duchess (in this tradition), is straightforward - it is an ugliness of old age; an old, wrinkly, male-shaped face. I think that this way is too cliche. From my observations, the human face's attractiveness is quite a tricky subject. It is very often that beauty and ugliness differ due to the existence of a small feature(s). The perfect example to me would be the famous movie star Ms.*, who is beautiful because of the camera, makeup, and a properly set up light. But every now and then these conditions (or one of them), fail to perform their function. It is at these moments where you look at her and realize "Oh my God, she's plain ugly!"

      Generally, when drawing my version of the Duchess, I didn't invent anything. My Duchess is taken from real life; this type of face, nose, etc... That kind of person everybody has met. By the way, the personality of this type of people is usually the same. So I'm guessing whether Lewis Carroll would have approved my version of this character. At least, Carroll didn't mean the image of the Quentin Messis's portrait when he wrote his Duchess.


      The Ugly Duchess personality was carried out into the second book, but into a different character; the Red Queen. They have a lot in common, evidentially the same prototype was used for both the characters. This is meaningless to most readers up until they start reading the second book, however to an illustrator who wants to understand the character more deeply, this relation is quite evident. They are both addicted to using hyperboles: when Alice said "... I can't quite follow it as you say it", the Duchess replied "That's nothing to what I could say if I chose", compared to Looking Glass; when Alice said "...I thought I'd try and find my way to the top of that hill", the Red Queen answered "When you say hill, I could show you hills, in comparison with which you'd call that a valley." Both of them also like to teach Alice, and seek out the moral in every situation, conversation or anything at all.

Oleg Lipchenko