'The place where inspiration hits the page running... A sketchbook to fail and reflect on my work and my process'

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Alice in Wonderland and how it changed her life.

Some of my old children's books. Well used!

I am currently waiting for stories to come in so I'm working out my next creative movements. I'm fooling myself into thinking that because I have worked solidly for months, with a few weekends and evenings of working too, that I can have a slow day today, hoping that one story will arrive later today. So although I'm tempted to go for a long walk and have coffee in the sun, I feel inclined to work out my next project.

I am hoping to do a residency locally and although yet to confirm dates, my space has been agreed and I'm very excited to have the opportunity to work somewhere other than my current studio at home. While also being in a hub of creativity, inspiration and support.

I have decided to create a book and an exhibition of the work from the residency and want it to be using all the bits of my work that don't get used in anything because they are the odd ones out. The work that I really like but doesn't fit in. The misfits...

Using Alice in Wonderland as inspiration, I want to nod to my love of children's books and how the books I read as a child have a huge influence on my work today as a children's book illustrator, while also acknowledging how they are important to us as a nation.

I revisited a new copy of Alice, along with  The Looking Glass. The intros are by Will Self and Zadie Smith and are really interestingly. They talk about how important the books they read as children helped mould their belief systems and how they interact with the world and all in it today.

The last part of Zadies Smith's intro gave me goose bumps and it reiterated how important my childhood was to who I am now. Something that seems to be more and more apparent as my practice evolves and how important the books and stories of our childhood are and they influence us as adults.

She explains how the first ever and original copy of Alice, written and illustrated by Carroll himself, was auctioned off by 'Alice' when she hit hard times. The book changed hands numerous times and eventually was decided that it should return to England. The home of it's creation. A variety of wealthy benefactors were convinced to buy the book back, and the book was hand delivered as a 'gesture of thanks' for the British people's gallantry in the Second World War. In 1948 it went on a boat with the Librarian of Congress to England. He kept it under his pillow for safety. It was accepted by the Archbishop of Canterbury on 'behalf of the nation'. He accepted it and called the gift an 'unsullied and innocent act in a distracted and sinful world'. The bit that made my goosies rise was this...

Zadie Smith: 'Now, this is a children's book we are talking about. And in 1948, it wasn't even eighty years in existence in the public domain. But my God, how we treasure the things we read and loved as a children; how we despise the critic or naysayer who would dare take one shred of honour from Aslan, or Bilbo, or the BFG or Harry Potter or Alice! Most precious Alice. We have kept her this long, and we will not lose her yet'
Zadie Smith (pg 182-3. Through the Looking Glass -Lewis Carroll & Mervin Peake. Bloomsbury London. 2001)

I would love to write something of a thesis, or a theory based document about children's books and their place within illustration, along with their impact on the world (and society), from the first story told to contemporary story books sold today. One day maybe? There is a new theory based journal focused on illustration only, called the Journal of Illustration and looks very interesting. This is one of the papers which looks interesting...here...'The folklore interpreted through illustration'.

We are also hoping to go to some illustration forums abroad in October with college, so it may be sooner than I think? For now I will concentrate on creating my own stories.

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